Report: Sam Whitelock a possibility to return for Springboks matches
Veteran lock Sam Whitelock is reportedly the likeliest of the frontline New Zealand-based All Blacks to return to Ian Foster’s squad for the upcoming Springboks tests.
Whitelock joined Aaron Smith and Richie Mo’unga as the trio of leading All Blacks who remained in New Zealand to attend the births of their respective children while the rest of the squad travelled to Australia last week to resume the Rugby Championship.
According to Stuff, Whitelock has since welcomed the newest addition to his family and could be the first of three aforementioned players to link back up with the squad in Australia.
That could enable the 32-year-old, who acted as interim All Blacks captain for the domestic-based tests throughout July and August in the absence of full-time skipper Sam Cane, to become available to face the Springboks in Townsville on September 25.
However, there remain difficulties surrounding the likelihood of Whitelock’s selection chances for that test, the 100th between New Zealand and South Africa, given the quarantining requirements he will face upon entry into Australia.
After this weekend’s Bledisloe Cup test in Perth, the All Blacks will relocate to Queensland on Thursday for the remainder of the Rugby Championship.
With the trans-Tasman travel bubble between New Zealand and Australia paused, Whitelock will need to undergo a two-week quarantine once he arrives in Queensland.
That poses questions around whether he will be free for selection by September 25, as even if he left for the Sunshine State this weekend, he would only emerge from his quarantine on September 19 or 20, giving him less than a week to prepare for South Africa.
The added layer of complication in that he has already endured New Zealand’s nationwide lockdown in recent weeks could leave the 127-test star physically compromised.
According to Stuff, Foster said earlier this week that the All Blacks are waiting to hear whether the ‘soft’ seven-day quarantine the squad are currently undergoing in Western Australia would be applicable to Whitelock once he crosses the Tasman Sea.
“We’re just weighing up the MIQ situation in Australia, and see whether it’s going to change or not change, or loosen or not loosen,” Foster said, as per Stuff.
“You’ve got to remember that we’ve had people in lockdown for two weeks in New Zealand, then no contact, and then to have to go into two weeks of hard quarantine in Australia, and then to come out and within five or six days play a test match against South Africa. That’s part of the challenge.”
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now