Botha may miss Wales clash

Veteran Bakkies Botha is a doubt for South Africa’s World Cup opener against Wales in Wellington on Sunday.

Veteran Bakkies Botha is a doubt for South Africa’s World Cup opener against Wales in Wellington on Sunday.

The big lock has an Achilles injury and should he be ruled out of the Pool D clash Danie Rossouw is expected to slot in alongside Victor Matfield.

Number eight Pierre Spies believes Botha’s absence would not cause too much disruption for the Springboks or change the way the forwards approach the game.

“Bakkies is a person you always miss in his special way,” he said.

“For us, it’s just important to keep the routine of the team going. We’ll have Danie Rossouw coming in if Bakkies is not ready and Danie is also an exceptional player.

“He is very similar to Bakkies, which is great for us. We will just stick to the way we play and keep going with it. We won’t change our plans.”

There has been plenty of talk about the need for discipline at the breakdown, however, particularly given that International Rugby Board referees boss Paddy O’Brien has highlighted it as an area the officials need to enforce more stringently during the tournament.

“We can speak about it as much as we want but it’s how the ref interprets it on the day,” said Spies. “In the end you just want consistency from both sides and from the ref.”

England’s Wayne Barnes is in charge of Sunday’s game.

“He lets the breakdown go a bit more,” said Spies. “It all depends on how you adapt to it. We haven’t had Wayne in our build-up to the World Cup but we have played with him (in charge before). We’ll just see how it goes on the weekend.”

Blood clots in his lungs meant Spies missed out on the Springboks’ World Cup-winning campaign in 2007 and he said the reality that he was finally going to make his World Cup debut in New Zealand had not sunk in until he had touched down in Wellington.

“It’s almost unreal until you step off the plane and you’re finally here,” said the 26-year-old, who has 42 Test caps to his name.

“It’s wonderful to be part of a World Cup set-up and to represent your country on the world stage with all the countries involved.

“It’s wonderful – the atmosphere, the vibe, everything going into the World Cup. It’s much different to the tournaments we’re used to. It’s exciting and we’re looking forward to it.”

Veteran Butch James, who only recently returned to South Africa following a four-year career with English premiership side Bath, said the mood within the squad was very similar to that of four years ago in France.

’The guys are excited and have got that quiet belief deep inside of going all the way, just like we did in 2007,“ he said.

Perhaps not surprisingly the players now just want to get their campaign under way.

“I think we’ve had that feeling for about a month now,” James admitted. “We’ve just wanted this tournament to come around and get this first game going. We just can’t wait for kick off.”

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