Jurie Roux rubbishes reports of Springboks 'secret training'

The South African rugby boss has denied his injured players are secretly training for the World Cup.

Patrick Lambie got a first start for South Africa.
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Jurie Roux, the South African rugby boss, has stepped into the row over claims of a secret training camp for key Springbok players, confirming they were together but saying it was for rehabilitation.

Reports from South Africa had claimed 21 players listed as "injured" and not available for the Tri Nations Tests in Australasia were attending a World Cup training camp in Rustenburg with the Springboks' technical director, Rassie Erasmus.

The group were said to be the basis of the squad tasked with winning a third World Cup for South Africa.

The vastly inexperienced touring South African side which took the field against Australia last weekend was trounced 39-20, and a team with an even greener look has been named to play the All Blacks in Wellington tomorrow.

The missing stars include Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Fourie du Preez and Bryan Habana, but Roux, the South Africa Rugby Union chief executive, rubbished claims they were fit and in a secret World Cup training camp.

"I'm not denying they're in Rustenburg," he said. "I'm denying that they're at a secret training camp. I've got my players in a single, high-performance entity being rehabilitated, that's it.

"What do you do with an injured player? You don't send them off to Bali or Mauritius to have a holiday. You put them into a high-performance centre, you put them with the best doctor you can find, and you put them on a programme to rehabilitate them to get to the World Cup. What more would you expect?"

Roux expressed surprise at what he labelled a "conspiracy" of media reports emanating from South Africa.

"I don't understand the conspiracy, I don't understand the confusion," he said. "I run a multi-million corporation where my biggest assets are my players. They're injured, so I need to do something to get them ready for the World Cup, and get them in an environment."

In New Zealand, Peter de Villiers, the South African coach, described the depleted side that will face the All Blacks as having "a chance to do something special ... The team we will have on the park is the team we think is the best to do the job."

The Springboks gave a debut to Gerhard Mostert and a first start for Patrick Lambie as part of four changes from the side that were beaten by Australia. Mostert comes in at lock for Flip van der Merwe, and Lambie, who has come on as a substitute five times previously, will play at full-back instead of the injured Gio Aplon.

In other news, the former Springbok captain and Rugby World Cup-winning scrum-half Joost van der Westhuizen has been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. Doctors have suspected since May that the 40 year old suffered from the motor neuron disease. After visiting Erik Pioro, a neuromuscular specialist in Cleveland, Ohio, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease, The Beeld newspaper said.

"Dr Pioro confirmed that Joost does indeed suffer from ALS, which gives him an 80 per cent chance to live between two and five years," Van der Westhuizen's South African doctor, Jody Pearl, said.