The Springboks will be without tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis and flanker Francois Louw when they face Argentina’s Los Pumas in Durban next Saturday, but the Springboks could have Jean de Villiers, Fourie du Preez and Willem Alberts back while at this stage their medical team is optimistic of delivering a fully fit squad to the selectors for the Rugby World Cup, it was announced on Tuesday.
De Villiers, Du Preez and Alberts are 3 of 7 players whose fitness will be assessed on Monday as they complete the final phase of rehabilitation while players such as Duane Vermeulen and Coenie Oosthuizen are progressing well with their rehabilitation.
Although Du Plessis (knee) and Louw (rotator cuff), along with Victor Matfield and JP Pietersen (both hamstring injuries) will miss the Tests against the Pumas, none of these injuries will put their Rugby World Cup participation at risk. Saturday’s other injury victims, Vincent Koch and Warren Whiteley (rib cartilages) should be fit and available for selection next weekend.
Jan Serfontein (hip and knee), Marcell Coetzee (knee), Pieter-Steph du Toit (knee) and Steven Kitshoff (knee) will also be assessed on Monday with a view to being available to selection against the Pumas.
Frans Steyn is recovering well from a pectoral muscle injury and could be ready to play Los Pumas in Buenos Aires. Frans Malherbe has a bone bruise in the hip, which he picked up in the Brisbane Test. He will consult a specialist in Cape Town and will also be re-assessed next week in Durban.
“All of these players have worked hard during their rehabilitation and although we still have to put them through a final assessment on Monday after we’ve re-assembled in Durban, I’m hopeful that they should be fit to face Argentina in at least 1 of the 2 forthcoming Tests,” said Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts.
“We’re continuing to work very hard with Duane Vermeulen and Coenie Oosthuizen and at this stage it’s looking very likely that we will have a full complement of players available for selection when the final squad for the Rugby World Cup is named at the end of August.”
Meyer said that the national selectors may have to consider possible cover at tighthead prop if Koch and Malherbe are both ruled out of the Tests against Argentina.
“We’ll have a look at Vincent and Frans in Durban and if they are not fit, we may have to bring someone in,” said Meyer.
“It’s wonderful to see a number of players returning from injury and all of them will be considered if they are passed fit by our medical team.
“I’m also very glad Pieter-Steph is back. He was in the selection frame last week but after consultation between our medical team and that of the Cell C Sharks, we decided to stick to the original plan regarding his return to play, which is that he will turn out for his province in an ABSA Currie Cup warm-up match on Friday.
“While it’s never ideal to lose experienced players to injury, it provides others with opportunities. We wanted to mix things up a bit in the 2 Tests against Argentina and the next players in line will now have to show they can perform at the highest level before we finalise the Rugby World Cup squad.”
Francois Louw, Springbok flanker, who left the field with a popped shoulder, arrived at captain Jean de Villiers’ tribute dinner on Monday night with his arm in a sling, but at least smiling as the medical prognosis was fairly good.
“It’s a small tear, nothing too serious,” Louw said, “Hopefully I should be back sooner than later.”
The bad part of the news is that Louw isn’t likely to play in either of the 2 games against Los Pumas in the next fortnight.
The medical diagnosis is that he needs at least a 3-week layoff to repair the shoulder, which he injured against the All Blacks.
Springbok captain Jean de Villiers may still have a bit to go before he is back to his best, but he is making great leaps.
De Villiers, who played a full 80 minutes for Western Province in the 21 / 18 win over the EP Kings at the weekend, looks set to make his 1st Test appearance in more than 8 months when South Africa play Argentina in Durban on 8 August.
This follows his knee reconstruction surgery in the wake of the horrific injury against Wales in Cardiff last November.
De Villiers, after his 20-minute cameo in a non-cap international against the World XV at Newlands earlier this month, continued his comeback with 2 appearances for DHL Western Province in Currie Cup pre-season friendlies.
After playing 60 minutes against the Steval Pumas, he got an invaluable 80-minute run in the nailbiting win over the EP Kings this past weekend.
WP coach John Dobson said that De Villiers, by his own admission, still has “a bit to go” before being back to his best.
“To be brutally honest, if you looked at that game, you wouldn’t say he is a world class centre,” Dobson told a media briefing in Cape Town on Monday.
“However, every week the progression is such that next week he could be there.
“From where he was against the World XV, the World XV to the Pumas and the Pumas to this, was a great leap every time.
“What isn’t in doubt is his appetite, his energy and his bravery.”
Dobson also revealed that in his drive to get back to his best form, De Villiers insisted on playing the full 80 minutes against the EP Kings.
“He said he would play flank if he had to,” the WP mentor said, adding: “So he went to wing at about the 60-minute mark.
“What he was really chuffed about was that he could accelerate – he is definitely sharper this week.”
Dobson confirmed that De Villiers has left DHL Western Province to rejoin the Springboks – ahead of the final Round in The Rugby Championship.
“The plan was always that he would play against Argentina,” Dobson said, adding: “I presume he is in the frame for that.”