Retallick out of Springboks clash

Brodie Retallick damaged his shoulder in the first minute of the clash against the Pumas in...
Brodie Retallick damaged his shoulder in the first minute of the clash against the Pumas in Nelson. Photo: Getty Images

Brodie Retallick's spectacular return to test rugby after a year out has been put on hold for at least a week, but possibly more depending on the findings of a scan.

The big lock, who was quite brilliant in the two Bledisloe Cup tests, damaged his shoulder in the first minute of the clash against the Pumas in Nelson and the damage to his rotator cuff is significant enough to ensure he definitely won't play against the Springboks in Wellington on Saturday.

It will take further exploration of his injury to determine how quickly he'll recover with All Blacks coach Steve Hansen suggesting the worst case is scenario is a six week layoff, which is why Blues lock Patrick Tuipulotu has been called up to join the squad.

The rising force that is Scott Barrett, who had another strong game in Nelson, will ensure the All Blacks can cope against South Africa without Retallick.

The bigger issue will be how well Retallick copes. The world's best lock didn't enjoy being out of test football for a year and having just made his way back to full fitness after breaking a bone his chest on the eve of the series against France, his mood might be a little dark if he's forced into another lengthy stint not playing.

If he is consigned to a six-week break, Retallick will miss the remainder of the Rugby Championship and be targeting a return for the third Bledisloe against Australia in Yokohama on October 27.

The prognosis for Ngani Laumape was more upbeat. He has a low grade strain in his knee and should be back within two or three weeks.

There won't be any need for midfield reinforcements as Ryan Crotty will be available this week and as long as an X-Ray confirms that the medics are right to believe Sonny Bill Williams has fully recovered from a shoulder injury he sustained against France back in June, then he too will be available to play South Africa.

Rieko Ioane, who damaged a hamstring in Sydney, is also back in the frame and the All Blacks, other than Retallick, are likely to unleash what most would consider to their top team against the Springboks.

"There will be some changes obviously because we didn't pick our number one side last night if there is such a thing," said Hansen.

"I would imagine there will be changes. Some guys played well last night and put their hands up but it will just be a matter of when we do our selections that we have the right horses for the right courses."

As for what sort of course the Springboks represent, Hansen is in no doubt about that.

Despite the fact they slumped to a second consecutive loss against the Wallabies in Brisbane and have been well beaten in their last two visits to New Zealand, the Boks will tighten up and find a new level in Wellington.

That's always the way when they play the All Blacks - they put previous form behind them and deliver a performance that is at odds with their regular form.

There's that, and the fact that the All Blacks set out this year with the stated goal of driving their game to a higher standard.

A year out from the World Cup, they want to start embedding the gameplan to the extent that much of it flows unconsciously to enable the accuracy and intensity to increase.

There is the final incentive of knowing that a bonus point victory will seal a third consecutive Rugby Championship.

If they do, it will also be the third consecutive year they have been crowned champions with two games left to play, but Hansen was eager to play all that down and to reiterate that South Africa, with a touch of desperation about them, will demand the best out of the All Blacks.

"They will be a big challenge," he said. "They pride themselves on lifting their performance especially when they play us. They have lost two now so they will be pretty desperate and we will have to match that and be pretty desperate ourselves."

- By Gregor Paul

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