SBW set to face Boks
NEWS: Injury-ravaged All Blacks midfielder Sonny Bill Williams looks set to make his first international appearance of the year this weekend after reportedly overcoming a hamstring niggle.
The leg injury, which he picked up at a training camp in Auckland a fortnight ago, ruled him out of action for the All Blacks’ tight 20-16 victory over Argentina at Buenos Aires last Saturday, but assistant coach Ian Foster said the 33-year-old will be available for selection ahead of this weekend’s test against South Africa in Wellington.
“He’s travelled well, trained fully, so again it’s a matter of making sure he’s come through that with no ill effects tomorrow [Wednesday] and Thursday morning, and see what unfolds,” Foster told reporters.
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In his absence from the matchday 23 in the Argentine capital, Ngani Laumape started at inside centre alongside Anton Lienert-Brown, with the duo proving to be rock solid defensively as they completed all 26 of their combined tackle attempts.
After being one of eight rested Crusaders players that were left at home for last week’s trip to South America, Jack Goodhue has also joined the squad to give head coach Steve Hansen a full complement of midfielders for Saturday’s clash.
That excludes injured veteran Ryan Crotty, whose fractured thumb has ruled him out for the entirety of the Rugby Championship and will give Williams a decent chance to start at Westpac Stadium.
Foster said that with the 51-test star nearing full recovery, he was keen to get back on the field.
“He’s a bit nervous. He wants to know what’s happening and he’s like every other player now. There are that apprehension and excitement, but at the end of the day we’ve got to get him focused on learning and doing what he needs to do then we’ll make the selections that we see as right.”
Despite his positive recovery, Foster suggested Williams could still be rested given his horror run of injuries over the past three years.
“There’s no doubt at this stage you end up balancing at selection the need for us to give people opportunity to make final decisions for World Cup, versus the need for us to be growing our game, versus the need to win a test that’s pretty special to us,” he said.
“It’s a bit of a tightrope you walk. We just need to make sure when we put a player out there it’s the right thing for them and also that they’re at the right place to help advance our game.”
The All Blacks side to face the Springboks will be named on Thursday.
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