Rassie Erasmus’ first Springbok team announcement for a home Test on Thursday was overshadowed by the continued question marks over the withdrawals of Frans Steyn and Bismarck du Plessis.
The exprienced duo, who play for French club Montpellier, were expected to be two trump cards for the national side in the series against England, which starts at Ellis Park on Saturday.
However, their respective absences were confirmed late on Wednesday after a vague media release from SA Rugby stated they were “injured”.
“They’ve got small niggles, which require scans for the full story on its severity,” said Erasmus.
“We wanted to get them into the team to add some experience, to rub some shoulders with the youngsters and maybe for them to learn something from us too.
“With the World Cup in mind, that’s important but with the time it’s taking for them to get here and be fit, it’s kind of now pointless. If they only came next week, we’re in the second Test already. It’s better now to back the boys who are here. Those clubs pay them a lot of money and they want to be sure they’re fit for next season.”
Steyn has had his run-ins with Springbok rugby in the past, having quite publicly walked out of the national side in 2013 following a contractual dispute with the SA Rugby.
His loyalty has been questioned since then but he did feature in last year’s series against France.
Erasmus, however, rubbished such suspicions.
“I don’t question their commitment. They were very keen to play for us,” he said.
“I went over to Europe and talked to every overseas based player I might’ve considered. Those who were uncertain, we simply didn’t contact again. We made peace that they’ve moved on. But Bismarck and Frans said they were desperate to play for us. It was one of the things outside of our control.”
Springboks: Willie le Roux, Sbu Nkosi, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk, Duane Vermeulen, Jean-Luc du Preez, Siya Kolisi (c), Franco Mostert, RG Snyman, Trevor Nyakane/Wilco Louw, Bongi Mbonambi, Beast Mtawarira. Bench: Akker van der Merwe, Steven Kitshoff, Thomas du Toit, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Ivan van Zyl, Elton Jantjies, Warrick Gelant.