Rogers sent home for knee surgery
By Greg Growden in Cape Town, Chief Rugby Correspondent
Thursday, July 21, 2005
Mat Rogers's exasperating run with injuries continued on Wednesday when he was forced to return to Sydney for knee surgery which will cost him a month on the sidelines and a spot in the 22-man squad to play South Africa in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Rogers had been named on the reserves' bench for the Nelson Mandela Challenge international, with Chris Latham winning the contentious Test fullback spot.
But at training, held at Bishops - Dan Vickerman's former school in Cape Town - Rogers was severely hampered by a knee strain and was omitted from the squad, with Wallabies officials frantically organising flights for his return to Sydney for surgery.
While Rogers was heading to Cape Town airport after training, the officials were attempting to contact Elton Flatley in Australia to take the Waratahs fullback's spot for the rest of the two-Test visit. Following Saturday's Ellis Park international, the Wallabies will play South Africa in Pretoria on July 30.
Since moving from rugby league in 2002, Rogers has been cursed with injuries which have meant he has missed at least 15 Tests for the Wallabies and sidelined him for long periods of Super 12 seasons.
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"Obviously our bodies weren't meant to do this sort of thing, and they get beat up a bit," Rogers said before heading for the airport.
"My body just seems to get beat up more than others.
"This is devastating ... and it's best that I get home and get my knee fixed. The injury is pretty minor, and will only require day surgery ... so hopefully I'll be back in a few weeks, for either Southern Districts or the Wallabies. I'll just have to wait and see. Still, I'm getting pretty fed up with it all."
Rogers said the injury occurred during a defensive drill while the team was in Stellenbosch last week, when Nathan Sharpe accidentally hit the side of his knee.
Against the Springboks in Sydney, Rogers supported Wallabies five-eighth Stephen Larkham with important midfield kicks, forcing South Africa to play from deep within their own half and, for most of the Test, well away from their destructive forward pack.
Larkham was the prime architect of the Springboks' collapse, but Rogers wasn't that far behind.
The most difficult selection dilemma Wallabies coach Eddie Jones faced in determining his line-up for the Ellis Park international was who out of Latham or Rogers would wear the No.15 jersey.
Latham stamped himself last season as Australia's No.1 fullback, but this year the Queensland No.15 picked the wrong time to get hamstring problems which forced him out of the first of four Australia-South Africa Tests this season.
Latham had done nothing wrong before his enforced break, backing up his surprise win as the 2005 Australian Super 12 player of the tournament with tries against Samoa and France this year.
Centre Stirling Mortlock also is returning from injury, forcing Morgan Turinui to the reserves' bench, alongside second-rower Dan Vickerman, who makes his first appearance for the Wallabies this year.
Phil Waugh will be another biding his time in the dressing gown, after Jones showed faith in the Australian pack which held up against the Springbok forwards in Sydney.
It seems that for the time being Jones has given up on the policy of picking two flyers in his back row. He has the uncomfortable dilemma of having to choose between two world-class openside breakaways in George Smith and Waugh.
Last season, after starting Radike Samo as his blindside breakaway, alongside mainly Waugh on the openside and Smith working off the bench, against South Africa in Perth almost 12 months ago Jones opted to omit Samo and play Waugh and Smith as his breakaways.
A loss of lineout height was compensated by increased speed, and greater effectiveness at the breakdown.
While Jones went for the Waugh-Smith option for seven Tests in a row, he repeatedly made a point that he was looking for an Owen Finegan-like character to take hold of the blindside spot.
Stephen Hoiles was looked upon as the big hope, but injury at the end of the Super 12 season instead threw up Rocky Elsom, who this year has made the No.6 jersey his.