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Francois Louw

Jannie du Plessis

Jannie du Plessis

Francois Louw

Francois Louw

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.

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SpringboksExamination of The Rugby Championship table with just 1 Round to go hardly suggests the Springboks may be inching spiritedly toward a prosperous new era.

South Africa lie 3rd, winless, and already out of the running: when they tackle Argentina in Durban in just under a fortnight it will simply be a battle to avoid the wooden spoon as the Wallabies and All Blacks slug it out for title glory a few hours earlier in Sydney.

Fortunately it had been widely accepted by the most astute of rugby observers before the 2015 tournament even began that its bragging rights are of secondary importance this year, given the scheduling just a few weeks shy of the 8th World Cup in the United Kingdom.

Local enthusiasts prepared to prioritise the bigger picture will also be fully aware that the Springboks could so easily be lying at the top of The Rugby Championship pile right now, as they bossed the Wallabies for 50 minutes in Brisbane and then the All Blacks for considerably closer to 70 minutes in Johannesburg on Saturday.

If rugby is a game of inches, then Tevita Kuridrani’s debated, last-gasp try made the critical difference 2 weeks back and Lood de Jager not being able to stretch his lunging arm just a couple of centimetres further against the All Blacks for a 55th-minute Springbok touchdown possibly denied them in the latest instance.

In the final analysis, lack of composure and 1 or 2 errors in tactical decision-making at vital times by a rookie-laden team thwarted them more than anything else on Saturday – it was not as though the Springboks looked light years behind for pure competence and skill in either instance, and that is a firm plus to bank in the run-up to the Rugby World Cup.

Perhaps also, a cranked-up emphasis on conditioning and durability will work wonders over the next couple of months as Heyneke Meyer’s charges get progressively used to the new ball-in-hand culture they are embracing with some gusto and swelling promise.

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer will announce an interim captain for South Africa on Tuesday.

Even though there’s been no formal confirmation, the fact that a media briefing has been scheduled to name an ‘interim’ captain confirms that current stand-in captain Victor Matfield will not play against New Zealand at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday.

Matfield, who suffered a hamstring injury in the 1st half of last week’s 20 / 24 loss to Australia’s Wallabies in Brisbane, was standing in for the injured captain Jean de Villiers.

And Meyer has made it very clear that De Villiers won’t be considered this week.

So who are the candidates in the current Springbok squad?

The front-runners, surely, are Francois Louw, Schalk Burger, Ruan Pienaar, Bismarck du Plessis and Adriaan Strauss – with Bryan Habana, Patrick Lambie and Warren Whiteley at long-odds.

If you really want to stir the pot, why not throw Flip van der Merwe’s name in there – seeing as he is now ‘available’ again.

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Flip van der Merwe

Flip van der Merwe

The Springboks have called Flip van der Merwe into their squad but are sweating over the fitness of Victor Matfield and Marcell Coetzee for Saturday’s clash with New Zealand.

Both players were forced to leave the field last Saturday against Australia – Matfield with a hamstring strain and Coetzee with a knock to his knee. According to Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts a call on the players’ availability in Johannesburg will only be made later in the week.

“Both are doubtful to play this weekend, but luckily neither of them are in doubt to miss the Rugby World Cup,” said Roberts on Monday.

“Jannie du Plessis and Schalk Burger also picked up knocks in Brisbane on Saturday and we will reassess them at our 1st training session of the week, on Tuesday. Apart from a lot of bumps and bruises, the rest of the squad should be fit for selection.”

The other injured players in the Springbok squad, Jean de Villiers, Fourie du Preez, Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts and Frans Steyn are not yet ready to be considered this weekend, Roberts added.

Pieter-Steph du Toit joined the squad in Johannesburg later on Monday and his progress will also be reassessed. With only 3 fit locks left in the squad, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has decided to call up the experienced Van der Merwe.

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Francois Louw

Francois Louw

Francois Louw is determined to keep hold of his Springbok jersey despite being based overseas in Bath.

Louw is 1 of the overseas-based players expected to make the Springbok squad to be announced later this week. However other contenders for the openside role are the likes of Heinrich Brussow, Marcell Coetzee, Siya Kolisi and Jaco Kriel who have all been in the Super Rugby spotlight this year.

Louw is the incumbent Springbok flank and has been Heyneke Meyer’s 1st choice for some time though he acknowledges the challenge of cracking the Springbok squad from the northern hemisphere.

“When I 1st signed for Bath, I knew it would be more challenging making the Springbok squad. But it was a move I needed to make at that stage of my career as I needed a fresh challenge, on and off the field,” Louw said.

“So when Heyneke Meyer gave me my opportunity in 2012, I was delighted and made the most of it. I’m glad that I’ve been able to play an extended role for South Africa over the years, and I want to continue giving my best to the team.”

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Sam Burgess

Sam Burgess

Springbok loose forward Francois Louw is backing his Bath teammate Sam Burgess to make his debut for England on the flank.

Rugby League convert Burgess has impressed since moving to the back row from the centres, and is widely tipped to be included in England’s pre-World Cup training squad – which will be named on Wednesday.

“I don’t think Sam will struggle at international level,” said Louw. “He will hold his own.”

“Stuart Lancaster has his hands full with loose forwards, but it’s not going to be too long before Sam makes his international debut on the flank.”

“Maybe it will be at this year’s World Cup and I’ll see him there.”

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Francois Louw

Francois Louw

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer will be pleased to see two of his stalwarts returning to the rugby field in the European Cup this weekend.

Bath’s Francois Louw is set to make his comeback after a ten-week stint on the sideline following surgery on his neck for nerve damage.

The flank last played for the Springboks in their Rugby Championship Test against the All Blacks in Wellington on 13 September.

Bath assistant coach Toby Booth has indicated that Louw may be thrown straight into the action and could start for the English team when they face Montpellier at home on Friday.

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Francois Louw

Francois Louw

Francois Louw says he had been carrying “for years” an underlying neck problem that forced him to have surgery in September.

A pinched nerve caused by a slipped disk resulted in the 34-cap Springbok having an operation on 22 September.

The injury has forced the flank to miss the year-end internationals and Louw is still unable to put a firm date on his return for club side Bath, although he says a December “would be fantastic”.

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South AfricaIt is unlikely that the Springboks will rest a few key forwards for their year-end tour to Europe.

According to reports on Sunday, there will be no respite for stalwarts like Jannie du Plessis, Beast Mtawarira, Adriaan Strauss, Bismarck du Plessis and Duane Vermeulen as Boks aim to pick their best possible team for the tour.

The Boks play four Tests back-to-back against Ireland (Dublin, 8 November), England (London, 15 November), Italy (Padova, 22 November) and Wales (Cardiff, 29 November).

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Francois Louw

Six weeks out: Francois Louw

Springbok flanker Francois Louw underwent surgery on Monday after he injured his neck in the Rugby Championship Test against New Zealand in Wellington.

Team doctor Craig Roberts told reporters in Cape Town on Monday that Louw had suffered a pinched nerve in his neck, and would be sidelined for about six weeks.

“Francois initially took a knock to his head, and the scans showed damage to a nerve in his neck. He has had surgery today on the (affected) disc and that should relieve the pressure (on the nerve),” said Roberts.

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Francois Louw

Francois Louw injury: massive loss for the Springboks

Springbok flank Francois Louw has been ruled out of the remainder of the Rugby Championship with a pinched nerve in his neck.

He picked up the injury during last Saturday’s Test against New Zealand in Wellington and the extent of the injury was confirmed after Louw went for scans and saw a specialist in Durban on Tuesday.

According to Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts, Louw will be out of action for approximately eight weeks and may be fit for South Africa’s November tour to Europe.

A decision on a replacement for Louw in the 30-man Springbok squad will be made in the coming day or two.

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Ruan Pienaar

Ruan Pienaar

Springbok scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar will miss the rest of the Rugby Championship after suffering a knee ligament injury in the 14-10 defeat to the All Blacks in Wellington.

Pienaar was carried from the field in the 36th minute after a swinging leg from team-mate Duane Vermeulen connected with his leg.

Team doctor Craig Roberts confirmed the 80-Test veteran is likely to face several months on the sidelines.

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Lood de Jager

Lood de Jager

Lood de Jager, the ‘next big thing’ in the Springbok second row, has been ‘missing in action’ of late.

De Jager, after a series of stand-out performances for the Cheetahs in this year’s Super Rugby tournament, made his debut in the Green and Gold against Wales in Durban during the Incoming Series and currently has five Test caps to his name.

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Heyneke Meyer emotional and animated in the game between Wallabies vs Springboks, The Rugby Championship, Brisbane, 7 September 013

Heyneke Meyer emotional and animated in the game between Wallabies vs Springboks, The Rugby Championship, Brisbane, 7 September 2013

The June Internationals are close at hand and Heyneke Meyer has already showed his hand to a certain extent by selecting a Springbok Training Group, which currently excludes players plying their trade in the UK and Europe.

The recent injury to Springbok captain, Jean de Villiers, now determines that a  “Stand-in” Springbok captain will have to be selected and coupled to this the Springbok midfield positions are bound to be re-constituted.

Injuries to key players, specially flyhalf, as well as the 3-match suspension of Adriaan Strauss at hooker will see some juggling around of the match-day 23 and some very clear thinking will be required by Heyneke Meyer to address these issues.

We take a look at the Springbok Captaincy candidates as well as midfield combination and look at hooker options to function as back-up to Bismarck du Plessis.

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Francois Louw

Francois Louw

Ruan Pienaar

Ruan Pienaar

Overseas-based Springboks Francois Louw and Ruan Pienaar will be ready for action by the time the Boks play their first game this year.

Flanker Louw, who plays for Bath in England, has recovered from an ankle injury which ruled him out for the last nine weeks. He is expected to play for Bath in their Amlin Challenge Cup final against Northampton Saints at Cardiff Arms Park on Friday.

Scrumhalf Pienaar has also returned to action for his Irish club, Ulster, after being sidelined for four weeks.

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South AfricaOne more Test match remains for the South African Springboks of Heyneke Meyer on the End Of Year Tour, probably the biggest of the 3 Tests, against the unpredictable team of France. Nick Mallett was still Springboks coach when last the Springboks won IN France, against France.

On the injury front, Francois Louw looks likely to be good to go on the weekend, with the injury he suffered not so bad and recovery going well.

France is always difficult to curb when their backline gets going, so Jaque Fourie at outside centre is under pressure to play well, both on defence and attack, where he has not really impressed on tour so far since he has re-joined from his stint in Japan.

Heyneke Meyer’s biggest quandry is probably who to pick as his starting tighthead prop for the weekend. Will it be Coenie Oosthuizen who has been the bench tighthead option in the last 2 Test or will Lourens Adriaanse supercede Coenie because Lourens is a recognised tighthead?

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Bismarck du PlessisEben EtzebethFrancois LouwJean de VilliersWillie le RouxRugby fans can start voting for their own International Player of the Year and World XV of the Year following the release of a 45-strong shortlist of contenders.

Part of the inaugural Ultimate Rugby IRPA Awards, the Fans’ Player of the Year, and World XV of the Year will be decided by votes cast on Ultimate Rugby’s mobile app, and announced in conjunction with other category winners on November 26.

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Francois LouwLouis SchreuderNews from the Springbok camp in Hazyview is that Francois Louw has been released early this week, to concentrate on his wedding, which takes place on Sunday. He will rejoin the Springbok camp again on Monday.

Meanwhile Francois Hougaard, who was sent to Pretoria to see a specialist following a knee cartlidge injury flare-up, and told to sit out for 2 weeks till re-evaluation, will be replaced by Louis Screuder, the Stormers scrumhalf.

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avivalogo2As pointed out by Scrumdown, one of our knowledgeable contributors,  yesterday Saracens played their first Premiership game at their new home ground, the Allianz Park, in Barnet Copthall.  The match was played on an artificial surface and although it is the second game that has been played there it was the first one that they played in front of ten thousand people which is a capacity crowd for the stadium.

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When the Springbok squad of 31 (one more player to be added) was announced on Sunday, my first impression was that there was a squad of fully fit players, bar maybe some niggles after the Currie Cup Final of the day before.

It now appears that there were indeed real injuries to be considered, specifically the injuries of Adriaan Strauss (knee) and Francois Louw (neck) as well as Springbok Captain Jean de Villiers (hamstring).

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The tournament organizers couldn’t have wished for a better start to the season with an action packed game between London Wasps and Harlequins at Twickenham. Harlequins secured a narrow victory after being more than twenty points behind with twenty minutes left to play. Ten tries were scored in total in this match.

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DHL Western Province No 8 Duane Vermeulen and Toyota Free State Cheetahs flyhalf Johan Goosen are the two uncapped players that have been added to the Springbok squad for the Australasian leg of The Castle Rugby Championship.

The squad of 28 for Tests against Australia in Perth (September 8) and New Zealand in Dunedin (September 15), was finalised on Wednesday.

Apart from the inclusion of Vermeulen and Goosen, there were recalls for DHL Western Province midfielder Juan de Jongh as well as loose forward Francois Louw, who has captained Bath in England.

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