The Bulls were dealt a cruel blow just days into their pre-season, with confirmation that Springbok Flip van der Merwe is set to miss the start of the 2015 season.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke, confirmed that Van der Merwe will undergo surgery next Tuesday after damaging his pectoral muscle.
“It was a freak accident,” Ludeke said, when asked about the burly lock that was ruled out for the latter half of 2014 after suffering a serious knee injury during the second Springbok Test against Wales in June.
Head coach Vern Cotter has made four injury-enforced changes to the starting Scotland team that will play Tonga in this Saturday’s historic viagogo Autumn Test match at Rugby Park, Kilmarnock (kick-off 14:30 BST & GMT, 16:30 SA Time).
The national team are continuing their trend of taking international rugby to pastures new in a globally ground-breaking fixture, as an international involving a Tier One country is held on an entirely artificial pitch for the first time.
The team’s alterations are split evenly between the forwards and backs, with tight-head prop Geoff Cross and number 8 Johnnie Beattie stepping into the pack for Euan Murray and Adam Ashe, who miss out through thigh and neck injuries respectively.
In the backs, 90-cap Glasgow Warrior Sean Lamont, who came on in the 13th minute against New Zealand as an injury replacement for club-mate Mark Bennett (hamstring), retains his place in midfield.
The final change sees Edinburgh Rugby’s free-scoring winger Tim Visser set to make his first appearance since the summer tour in place of injured Warrior Sean Maitland (hamstring).
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”.
The Warriors have confirmed that Mark Bennett will be out for in the region of 12 weeks with a hamstring injury.
The centre, who was injured during Scotland’s defeat to New Zealand on Saturday, was assessed at Ross Hall Hospital in Glasgow.
He does not require surgery and will now undergo a period of rehabiitation.
The Springboks on Monday received welcome news with fullback Willie le Roux cleared of any fractures after undergoing a scan.
Le Roux picked up a cheekbone injury in last Saturday’s 31-28 win over England at Twickenham.
His participation for this Saturday’s Test against Italy in Padova was still in doubt when he went for a scan on Monday.
Ireland’s Chris Henry missed the recent win over South Africa with a brain injury, rather than a migraine, the Irish Rugby Football Union announced Monday.
Team medical staff initially diagnosed a virus on the morning of the 8 November match, against the Springboks, before suspecting a severe migraine.
However, specialists have since determined that “a temporary blockage of a small blood vessel in his brain” forced 30-year-old Ulster flank Henry to miss Ireland’s surprise 29-15 victory over the Springboks.
“Chris Henry suffered some weakness on the morning of the South Africa game and a viral illness was suspected, he recovered quickly and the initial diagnosis was of severe migraine,” read the IRFU statement.
The Springboks have two main injury concerns following their bruising 31-28 victory over England at Twickenham on Saturday.
Prop Jannie Du Plessis hobbled off in the 64th minute of the game after he went down awkwardly at the breakdown, which team doctor Craig Roberts is currently investigating.
“Jannie hyper-extended his knee in a ruck and was caught quite awkwardly. His foot got stuck in the ground and couldn’t bend his knee which ended up overstretching his hamstring and hyper-extending his knee.
New Zealand will be without forward Victor Vito for the final match of their Northern Hemisphere tour after he returned home through injury.
The loose forwatd suffered a calf problem before half-time against Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday, and was forced to watch the second period from the sidelines as the All Blacks ran out 24-16 winners.
Vito had started the match well, crossing in the ninth minute to register his third international try.
Prop forwards Quintin Esterhuyzen and Shaun de Preez have been called up as replacements to join the Namibian team in Carcavelos, Portugal, ahead of Namibia’s final match of their Northern Hemisphere tour.
The pair will join the team later this week as cover after loosehead Jaco Engels injured a hamstring in the match against the French Barbarians.
Engels is undergoing medical treatment and his recovery will be monitored, while the other regular Namibian props Johnnie Redelinghuys and Andrè Schlechter returned home due to personal commitments.
Golden Lions prop Ruan Dreyer has been called up to the Springbok squad as injury cover for Jannie du Plessis.
Dreyer will join the squad in Italy as soon as his travel arrangements have been made.
Du Plessis left the field during the Springboks’ 31-28 victory over England at Twickenham on Saturday.
Semesa Rokoduguni is out of England’s international against South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday, with Marland Yarde replacing the Bath wing in the squad, head coach Stuart Lancaster announced on Tuesday.
Rokoduguni, who made his debut in last week’s 24-21 defeat by New Zealand, injured his thigh and Lancaster believes there is not enough time for him to recover to face the Springboks.
That is the only change to the 23 players selected to face the All Blacks, although James Haskell is added to the squad as cover for Tom Wood, who was unable to take a full part in Tuesday’s training.
Argentina will be without their captain Agustín Creevy for the clash with Italy after the hooker sustained a thigh injury.
After leaving the field after just 20 minutes in the Pumas 31-41 loss to Scotland on the weekend, it now looks set that the hooker will not recover in time.
Creevy, who took over the Argentinean captaincy this year, underwent medical tests where it was revealed that he had suffered a grade one tear of his thigh.
Gloucester flyhalf James Hook was called into Wales’s squad for their remaining November internationals on Sunday after fellow No 10 Dan Biggar suffered a groin strain in the 33-28 defeat by Australia.
The 29-year-old Hook has won 76 caps but has rarely enjoyed the full confidence of Wales coach Warren Gatland, with the New Zealander seemingly mistrustful of the playmaker’s talent.
Meanwhile Hook’s versatility – he has also played Test rugby at fullback and centre – has proved as much a hindrance as a help in establishing himself as a first-choice plyer while Gatland has been in charge of Wales.
However, Biggar’s injury means Hook could be called upon for the Millennium Stadium clash with Fiji on Saturday.
“Hook will link up with the squad tomorrow (Monday) when they gather to prepare for Saturday’s clash against Fiji,” said a Welsh Rugby Union statement issued Sunday.
“No players have been released from the squad.”
All Blacks centre Conrad Smith will skip Saturday’s Test against Scotland so he can return home to deal with a family matter, reports said Monday.
Coach Steve Hansen said “the 33-year-old Smith, who played his 84th test on Saturday and became a father for the first time in August, would miss the Test in Edinburgh.
However, he will again return in time for the Test against Wales on 22 November.
“It’s not overly serious but it’s serious enough for him to have to go home,” Hansen told reporters.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt woke up to headlines singing his praises after he masterminded a superb 29-15 victory over Southern Hemisphere heavyweights South Africa at the weekend.
The 49-year-old New Zealander – who in his maiden Six Nations campaign guided the Irish to the title earlier this year – has proved a master at preparing the team for different challenges, wrote former Ireland lock turned journalist Neil Francis in the Sunday Independent.
“He may have the air of a headmaster but with the conscience of a rattlesnake his team was a personification of their head coach’s mindset,” wrote the 50-year-old Francis, who was capped 36 times.
Western Province hooker Siyabonga “Scarra” Ntubeni has been called up to the South African touring squad in place of the injured Robbie Coetzee.
It will be Ntubeni’s second stint withy the natiobnal team, as he was a Springbok tourist in November last year – without getting a cap.
Ntubeni, who is currently in London with Province, will join the Bok squad in the English capital after their match against Saracens on Sunday.
Coetzee will return to South Africa in the coming days.
New Zealand’s build-up to their Test encounter with England on Saturday has not gone as smoothly as they would have hoped.
Flank Sam Cane has become the latest injury concern in a camp already scrambling to cover some setbacks.
Cane took a heavy knock in a body on body collision at training on Tuesday and received assistance on what looked to be his back or shoulder.
Cane started in last Saturday’s 74-6 win over the United States, but is unlikely to feature in the match against England this weekend.
Wyatt Crockett and Jerome Kaino, who are recovering from shin and foot injuries respectively, both came through training unscathed.
The latest setback comes after both wing Cory Jane and hooker Nathan Harris were ruled out of the tour after being injured against the US Eagles.
Ruan Pienaar has been ruled out of the year-end tour because of a knee ligament injury and he will be replaced by Jano Vermaak.
Pienaar picked up the injury in the Springboks’ Test against New Zealand in Wellington in September and has been out of action since then.
“Ruan was re-assessed on Tuesday following the on-field fitness tests from Monday, and unfortunately he has developed some swelling and puffiness around the knee, indicating that he is not yet ready to partake in full training and playing in a match,” said Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts.
“He needs a few more weeks of rehabilitation before he’ll be ready to return to play and hence we’ve taken the decision to rule him out of the tour.”
A bright sunshiny but chilly day greeted the Springboks when they arrived in Dublin on Sunday, where they kick off the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour against Ireland this weekend.
The South Africans left Johannesburg last night and travelled via London Heathrow to the Irish capital for their first visit to this part of the world in two years.
Eben Etzebeth stayed behind in South Africa and will join the squad on Tuesday following a family bereavement, while there will be more clarity on Ruan Pienaar’s fitness situation in the week.
As England’s injuries continue to stack up ahead of Saturday’s game with world champions New Zealand, coach Stuart Lancaster says his side have been the victims of “bad luck” after the loss of several forwards.
With regular forwards Alex Corbisiero, Mako Vunipola, Tom Youngs, Dan Cole and Geoff Parling already out of this month’s Test matches, second row Joe Launchbury has become the latest to withdraw due to a neck problem.
Northampton backs Luther Burrell and Stephen Myler have also been ruled out of the Twickenham match against the All Blacks.
Irish flyhalf Johnny Sexton looks set to make a full recovery in time to face the Springboks in Dublin on Saturday, after suffering a thigh injury in Racing Metro’s match against Oyonnax last weekend.
Sexton was forced from the field in the Top 14 game, with Metro’s coach Laurent Labit describing his injury as a ‘tweak’.
However, Ireland team manager Mick Kearney dismissed concerns and said the playmaker would be available on Saturday.
“It was intended that Johnny Sexton would only play a portion of the game for Racing on Saturday so he played 40 minutes and he came off,” said Kearney.
Western Province hooker Tiaan Liebenberg has been forced to retire after being plagued by back injuries for some time now.
The 32-year-old will be returning to Bloemfontein to join up with his family and to get involved with the business.
The hooker was a mere spectator during Western Province’s 19-16 Currie Cup victory over the Lions on Saturday and although the veteran has reached some lofty heights in rugby, he was still sad not to be a part of it.
Edinburgh Rugby secured their second successive victory in the European Rugby Challenge Cup, beating Lyon 25-17 at BT Murrayfield, after numerous injury setbacks and losing five players in the opening quarter.
Coach Alan Solomons afterwards praised the character of his Edinburgh side, who came through adversity to record a morale-boosting victory.
“This actually tops it [last week’s win at Bordeaux]. To lose five players like that – in 37 years, I’ve never seen anything like it – speaks volumes for the strength of character of this side.”
DHL Western Province’s injury concerns have improved ahead of their Currie Cup Final against the Xerox Golden Lions at Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday.
Eighthman Nizaam Carr, who cried off with a hip injury midway through the first half of the Semi-Final clash against the Vodacom Blue Bulls last Saturday was walking comfortably on Monday afternoon.
Centre / fullback Jaco Taute was running without discomfort after he was forced to miss the Semi-Final because of a rib injury and was tested in a contact session on Tuesday.
Western Province coach Allister Coetzee said it was pleasing to read the team’s latest medical report because the wider training squad had been given a clean bill of health.
“Nemo (Carr) is feeling much better and is walking with ease,” Coetzee said.
The Springboks were dealt a double blow on Monday, when first Saracens hooker Schalk Brits and then Blue Bulls tighthead prop Marcel van der Merwe was ruled out of the End Of Year Tour (November Internationals) with a knee injury.
Van der Merwe was supposed to join up with the Bok training camp this week but hurt himself in the dying minutes of the Vodacom Blue Bulls loss in the ABSA Currie Cup semifinal against DHL Western Province on Saturday, and will miss the next four to six weeks of rugby with a medial knee ligament injury.
“He fell awkwardly in the last few minutes of the game,” Blue Bulls doctor Org Strauss said, “He has a grade 2 medial ligament tear, luckily not the same knee that has given him problems in the past, I expect him to be out for anywhere between four and six weeks.”
The Vodacom Bulls are likely to lose the services of hooker Callie Visagie for the first few weeks of the 2015 season as he underwent shoulder surgery Tuesday in Pretoria.
With the 2014 season having come to an end, Visagie and lock Grant Hattingh are the two medical headaches for the Bulls. The surgery, in both cases is to rectify injuries that have plagued them the entire season.
England centre Manu Tuilagi will miss the End Of Year Tours (November Internationals) after suffering a groin injury during Leicester Tigers’ first match in the new European Champions Cup, the Premiership club said on Tuesday.
The Samoa-born player hobbled off the field after 15 minutes of the 25-18 win over Ulster on Saturday.
Tuilagi was making only his second start after three weeks out with a groin problem but Leicester said it was not a recurrence of the same injury.
Fuelled by the enjoyment factor having returned to his game, Springbok flank Siya Kolisi has listed regaining his Stormers starting berth as first target for 2015.
This was among the 23-year-old’s revelations.
The current year has been an awkward one for Kolisi, marked first by a loss of form in the Super Rugby season and then a new injury midway through the Currie Cup just as he was regaining his zest and best form.
The Bulls suffered a serious injury blow in the first half of their 46-12 victory over the Griquas with inside centre Burger Odendaal – possibly the find of the season for the Bulls – leaving the field clutching his arm.
Ludeke said Odendaal possibly suffered a fracture which would rule him out for the playoffs and leave a dent in the midfield.
The Blue Bulls may have made a stuttering start to their season, but they finished the Currie Cup round-robin stage with a flourish against the Griquas in their at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.
Their performance may suggest the Light Blues were peaking at the right time, though they still had two more hurdles to overcome to claim the coveted title for the first time in four years starting with their semifinal clash against Western Province in Cape Town next Saturday.
“We feel things are starting to come together, and we would like to make sure that we put everything together next week with a good performance there,” Ludke said.
New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen has confirmed that Tawera Kerr-Barlow faces a six to nine month recovery period.
Kerr-Barlow suffered a nasty injury in the second half after coming against the Springboks at Ellis Park.
The Chiefs scrum-half may possibly need two surgeries to correct the injuries to his leg.
“He’s done his ACL,” Hansen said.
The formidable presence of No 8 Duane Vermeulen could be missing from the Springbok arsenal when they play their final Rugby Championship match of the year against the All Blacks at Ellis Park next Saturday.
Vermeulen left the field late in the second half with a rib injury, and with Schalk Burger having already come onto the field for Teboho Mohoje, that meant that a lock, Victor Matfield, had to take up position on the side of the scrum.
The good news for DHL Western Province fans is that explosive winger Seabelo Senatla, who has been missed by the Cape side during his injury enforced absence, will be back for the play-off rounds of the Absa Currie Cup.
Senatla has linked up with the Springboks during their build-up to Saturday’s test match against Australia at Newlands for the purpose of picking up experience that could come in useful later in his career.
He has been unable to train, but according to Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts he is being monitored by the Bok Sevens medical team. He is in the final stages of rehabilitation from his ankle injury and will soon be back on the field.
Eastern Province Kings:
The captaincy curse has struck the winless Eastern Province Kings again, with another skipper sidelined.
Steven Sykes will join Luke Watson in the sickbay and will not be on duty the against the Sharks in Durban on Saturday, according to the Kings medical team.
Sykes will be missing the upcoming game due to a knee injury that he sustained during the loss to the Free State Cheetahs last Saturday.
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.