The timely birth of his child has allowed Tana Umaga to avert an All Black midfield injury crisis, while Victor Matfield’s retention in the Springbok squad sees his ‘Bok career set for rebirth.
The timely birth of his child has allowed Tana Umaga to avert an All Black midfield injury crisis while Victor Matfield’s selection in the Springbok offers him a chance for re-birth.
The All Blacks had expected to be without Umaga for this crucial Tri Nations test. Without replacement Sam Tuitupou (broken rib) and with a slight doubt over Daniel Carter (ankle), Aaron Mauger had been called up as cover. But with his wife Rochelle giving birth to a healthy daughter (Lily Kate Umaga) on Sunday, the All Black captain has been cleared to join the squad.
Rico Gear has also been called up as cover for Doug Howlett, who suffered nerve damage to his shoulder and is considered doubtful.
Meanwhile the Springboks have retained Victor Matfield in their squad in Johannesburg. It would now be a major surprise if he doesn’t feature in the matchday 22.
Matfield’s recent history has something of the riddle wrapped in an enigma about it. He was sent home from Australia, ostensibly because he was injured. Yet he turned out for the Blue Bulls the following Saturday, having been given a clean bill of health by a specialist. South Africa coach Jake White still maintained that injury was the only reason Matfield had been sent home. The speculation held, however, that he had been sent home for unspecified ‘attitude’ reasons.
He was then dropped by the Bulls, coming on only in the last 20 minutes in their match last Saturday, but playing very well in that 20. Earlier in the week he had had ‘clear the air’ discussions with White, which both parties pronounced very beneficial.
With the Springboks suffering badly in the lineout against the Australians, it will now be a big surprise if they do not resort to their best lineout operator.