The Australian Rugby Union have reacted angrily to South Africa’s proposed squad selection for the start of the Tri Nations.
The Lions' next opponents face the Springboks in the tournament’s opening fixture in Sydney on July 23 and the ARU are far from happy with yesterday’s announcement that 21 South African stars won’t travel Down Under.
World greats Victor Matfield, Bryan Habana, Bakkies Botha and Fourie du Preez are among those ruled out through injury, with the South African Rugby Union stating that a whole host of big names ‘need rehabilitation now to avoid the risk of the breaking down with longer term injuries in the near future’.
That stance has not gone down well with the Wallabies who are not only frustrated at the prospect of playing of a South African B team in a fortnight’s time but also unimpressed with having to sell tickets for what will now be a far less appealing fixture.
''A couple of weeks ago we had rumours coming out of the Republic that they may be sending an under-strength team,” said ARU chief John O’Neill.
''We received assurances at the time that the only players not included would be genuinely injured.
''We have a joint venture agreement and a broadcasting agreement and it is important that the three countries don't just comply with the black letter of the law, but also the spirit of the contract. Joint ventures rely on people acting honourably and consistently.
''We're not in a position to second-guess the Springboks, and we also have our share of injured players, but it is nowhere near 21. The sheer size of the number of players who are injured is unusual.
''Regardless of what South Africa does, our preparation for the World Cup starts now, and the integrity of the Tri Nations series is critically important. We want our players to have as much game time as possible, and we also have a list of injured players. But they're clearly on crutches, or ankles in a boot, or knees in a brace.''
O’Neill and the ARU asked SANZAR to investigate the issue but the governing body’s chief executive Greg Peters insists it has no reason to question the validity of the Springbok injuries.
"We have sought and received assurances from South Africa that they will field their best available team in the Tri-Nations," Peters told Rugby 365.
"The list is longer than we had hoped for, but there are clear and unambiguous injuries in that team."
For a full list of players ruled out through injury please see our Springbok selection story by clicking here.
Lionsrugby.com will feature match previews, match reports and player analysis from the 2011 Tri Nations as we continue our build up to the Lions tour of Australia in two summers’ time.