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Another Springboks back gets concussed tackling Caleb Clarke

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images)

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The depth of the Springboks bench containing just two replacement backs was put to the test for the second successive Rugby Championship Saturday when Jesse Kriel mirrored last weekend’s early exit by Faf de Klerk when he tackled Caleb Clarke of the All Blacks.

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Scrum-half de Klerk was a first-minute casualty at Mbombela in round one, needing upwards of seven minutes of treatment on the pitch before getting taken away on a motorised medical cart. His injury happened when he flew across to tackle Clarke and he got his technique wrong, his head going in on the wrong side and clattering into the New Zealander’s left knee.

The collision knocked out de Klerk and resulted in South Africa having to make a first-minute replacement, Jaden Hendrikse coming on much earlier than expected. This change placed an early focus on the Springboks bench split of six forwards and two backs and whether that lopsided balance might backfire on them.

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It didn’t, as the Springboks went on to win the opening round match 26-10, but they were to find themselves with the exact same first-half worry seven days later after another back – Kriel on this occasion – was concussed when tackling Clarke in the opening moments.

The round two game in Johannesburg was in its eighth minute when Kriel groggily staggered back to his feet near the halfway line after getting bashed on the head when going in low to tackle Clarke.

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Play continued with Pieter-Steph du Toit grabbing an intercept and nearly scoring for South Africa but when the whistle was blown with the forward held up over the line, it presented the chance for Willie le Roux to quickly come on and replace the brain-injured Kriel.

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The winger, who was included in the starting XV at the expense of the suspended Kurt-Lee Arendse, reportedly underwent a dressing room head injury assessment which he failed, making his replacement by le Roux a permanent switch in a match that remained scoreless for 25 minutes before a two-try scoring burst put the All Blacks 15-0 ahead. The Springboks, though, hit back to cut the margin to five points – 15-10 – by the interval.

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