Boks bemused by Flip’s comments

Date published: July 11 2015

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Confusion continues to reign over the situation regarding lock Flip van der Merwe's availability for the Springboks.

The 30-year-old lock, who has played in 35 Tests for South Africa, was not named in South Africa's 49-man training squad for the Rugby Championship and came off the bench for the World XV in Saturday's clash against the Boks at Newlands.

Van der Merwe was a notable absentee when South Africa announced their squad, with the official press release stating that he had "decided to rule himself out of Springbok contention."

But the veteran second rower, who will join French club Clermont Auvergne later this year, insisted on Thursday that he is in fact available and that there had been "a bit of a communication misunderstanding somewhere".

On Saturday, Springbok team manager Ian Schwartz confirmed that Van der Merwe had indeed told coach Heyneke Meyer to not consider him for selection, having already withdrawn from the first Bok training camp of the year amid reports of a contractual dispute with SARU. 

"I was surprised to read Flip's comments," Schwartz told Planet Rugby.

"We phoned him shortly before naming the squad to ask whether he could be considered and he said 'no'. We are confused by his comments. When I see him, I will ask him to explain because that is not what he told us."

In the absence of a specialist lock on the bench, the Springboks used Cheetahs flanker Oupa Mohoje to to cover the second row in the win over the World XV.

At the post-match press conference, Meyer admitted that number 5 lock was the position that worried him most as an injury to Victor Matfield would severely dent their chances at the World Cup.

Van der Merwe has worn both number 4 and 5 for his country in the past and had a very strong game for the World XV, taking his first lineout in front of Matfield. 

On Friday, Matfield suggested that his former Bulls team-mate might well join the group in coming weeks, suggesting that he believes Van der Merwe still has value to add.

Those sentiments were echoed by retiring Bok legend Bakkies Botha, who said after the match in Cape Town he believed Van der Merwe could contribute to the South African cause.

"I think Flip definitely has got a role to play," said Botha.

"He must just sort out his issues or whatever is going on. I don't know what the story is there.

"He showed it last year when Victor was not available – he played very well at 4 and 5 – he played a big role in the lineouts. I think there is definitely a role for Flip to play. But I don't know what's going on behind the scenes, it's not my decision to make."

By Ross Hastie at Newlands

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