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Boks injured, All Blacks back near full strength

September 29, 2014

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa has injury concerns over wing Bryan Habana and No. 8 Duane Vermeulen as it attempts to stop newly crowned Rugby Championship winner New Zealand from going three seasons unbeaten in the tournament.

New Zealand is back near full strength for Saturday’s final-round game in Johannesburg after center Ryan Crotty and hooker Dane Coles were recalled to the squad.

The Springboks said Monday that their record try-scorer Habana had concussion symptoms and Vermeulen a rib cartilage injury after the 28-10 win over Australia.

Both will need more time to prove their fitness before being considered for Saturday’s test at Ellis Park, the South African Rugby Union said. If they are unavailable, 2007 World Cup winners JP Pietersen and Schalk Burger are in line to start.

New Zealand’s title-clinching 34-13 victory in Argentina this weekend took the world champion All Blacks to 16 wins and a draw and three titles in the last three southern hemisphere championships.

The All Blacks were further boosted for the last round by the availability of Coles, who returned home last week for the birth of his first child and missed the Argentina game. Crotty has recovered from a broken cheekbone. The pair will join the squad in South Africa this week.

Top-ranked New Zealand has won five straight games against No. 2 South Africa and Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer has yet to beat the All Blacks.

New Zealand’s last loss was to England on an end-of-year tour to Britain in 2012.

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