Willem Alberts remains a doubtful starter for Saturday’s final test against England but the Springbok training session at Grey’s High on Monday brought some much needed tidings of joy for coach Heyneke Meyer.
Lock Juandre Kruger was assumed to be in doubt for the Nelson Mandela Stadium game here in Port Elizabeth after being carried off the field during the second test in Johannesburg with what was assumed to be a serious neck injury.
This would have left the Boks in a hole, particularly with Alberts also not a certain starter, but Kruger took full part in the training session which was conducted under heavy, leaden skies in front of an appreciative Eastern Cape crowd that, in turning up in their droves to the open practice, demonstrated just how starved of top rugby this region is.
“We took all the precautions with Juandre when he came off in Johannesburg,” said team doctor Craig Roberts at the media briefing afterwards.
“He suffered whiplash but we took him straight to hospital where all the necessary scans were conducted. After a thorough assessment it was found that he is alright and as you saw he participated in training today.”
Patrick Lambie and Alberts were not so lucky, with Roberts confirming that Meyer will give both players until Wednesday to prove their fitness.
“I can’t say at this stage what their chances of playing are. Patrick is quite sore at the moment but with a bit of rest he might improve. If they are not ready by Wednesday they will not play.”
Gio Aplon trained at fullback in the shadow team with Jacques Potgieter working on the flank in the place of Alberts. With Frans Steyn unavailable for the game because he is getting married on Saturday, Meyer looks set to start with Wynand Olivier at inside centre.
Although Joe Pietersen has been called in to join the squad, there was no indication on Monday whether Meyer might do the same for Pietersen’s Stormers teammate Juan de Jongh, with Olivier running the entire training session as the partner to skipper Jean de Villiers. Both will be relied upon heavily by defence coach John McFarland against England as De Villiers is his defence organiser at the back and Olivier was the back who made the most tackles once he came onto the field halfway through the game.
Roberts confirmed that Zane Kirchner, who started at fullback in the first test in Durban, will definitely not be returning to the squad before the end of the series.
“We made a decision last week already that we wouldn’t use him this week,” said the doctor.
“The prognosis was that he would be able to return to the field 10 days from now, which means he just misses out.”
Theavailability of Kruger means that the Bok team to play in Port Elizabeth should show a maximum of three changes from the one that won 36-27 in Johannesburg to clinch the three test series, and if Lambie and Alberts are both ruled out the starting team should look like this: Gio Aplon, JP Pietersen, Jean de Villiers (captain), Wynand Olivier, Bryan Habana, Morne Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Pierre Spies, Jacques Potgieter, Marcell Coetzee, Juandre Kruger, Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Beast Mtawarira.