Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus says both Frans Steyn and Bismarck du Plessis are keen to play for the Springboks and that there is nothing sinister about their 'injury-enforced' withdrawal from the squad.
SA Rugby released a statement on Thursday night saying both Steyn and Du Plessis picked up injuries while playing for Montpellier in the French Top 14 final last weekend and won't be available for the three-match Test series against England.
"I have made contact with the players, and there are definite injury problems. Of course, they are getting paid by their clubs, who want their players to be fully fit for the next season, but there is no doubt about their commitment," Erasmus said during the Springboks' team announcement for Saturday's first Test against at Ellis Park.
"They are both desperate to play for the Boks, but unfortunately this situation is what it is. We have to do what is to the benefit of the players, club and to us.
"Unfortunately, with a lack of clarity over the injuries and their arrivals set to be delayed, it was becoming beyond the point to keep waiting for them."
Versatile backline player Steyn and influential hooker Du Plessis are likely to into the reckoning again for the Rugby Championship, which starts in August. Erasmus is keen to have the duo in the team, as he hopes that their experience will help some of the new faces in the Bok to grow ahead of the next year's Rugby World Cup in Japan.
"Of course, we wanted them to join up with the squad as we hoped to add their experience to the group, and for them to be able to rub shoulders with some of the youngsters," Erasmus said.
"However, the information we've received is that they have got small niggles, and still have to wait for the full results of the scans they've gone for.
'The aim is to also build our squad and leadership group, while hopefully winning while doing it. There's always pressure to win, but we never want to stop trying things or we will never catch up. It's important to strike that balance between winning and evolving."
Erasmus says they probably won't replace Steyn and Du Plessis for the last two Test matches in the series in Bloemfontein and Cape Town. The Bok coach is set to cut his squad on Sunday from 41 to players to about 30 after the first Test at Ellis Park.
Erasmus picked 13 debutants in last week's match against Wales, and this week he included three new faces for Saturday's Test.
Wings S'busiso Nkosi and Aphiwe Dyantyi and lock RG Snyman will start in a Bok jersey for the first time, while centre Lukhanyo Am will play his second Test after coming on as a late substitute against Wales in November.
"Looking at this season, I think it is massively important to make brave calls, and to not just be in crisis management mode. We don't want to make conservation selections or just go back to the older generation. We want to keep evolving, and trying and testing new guys under pressure," Erasmus said.
"We'll see how we go this weekend, and whether there are any injuries. Last Saturday, we saw how some guys struggled, and some really performed well.
"So we'll take things like injuries and form into consideration, and will make a definite call later on [if we want to call up any replacements], but at this stage, I don't think so."