Strange as it may seem considering the hype beforehand over “emotional Springbok swansongs” in the bronze playoff match at Rugby World Cup 2015, only 1 member of the squad at the tournament, captain Jean de Villiers, has officially confirmed his Test retirement.
Several younger Springboks spoke beforehand of their desire to beat Argentina – a task duly achieved – as a fitting send-off for senior players bidding farewell to the green-and-gold cause.
Almost 2 weeks on from the end of the Rugby World Cup, however, it is still only the luckless Jean de Villiers, injured again in just the 2nd Rugby World Cup match against Samoa, who has definitely bowed out after 109 appearances since 2002.
Perhaps influenced by the state of flux surrounding embattled coach Heyneke Meyer, the likes of Victor Matfield, Fourie du Preez, Schalk Burger and Bryan Habana intriguingly haven’t yet pulled the plug publicly on their illustrious Springbok careers.
The majority of “older” Springboks who took part in their hot-and-cold Rugby World Cup 2015 campaign are now exclusively foreign-based and there have been some pleas back home for only locally-stationed players to be chosen for South Africa henceforth – a tricky matter considering the ever-shrinking strength of the Rand against other currencies, which hardly helps keeps the best players rooted here.
It is said that time is a great healer, but in Heyneke Meyer’s case it will also be a great revealer.
The Springbok coach has decided to delay his team announcement by 7 hours on Wednesday as he needs more time to resolve the all-important matter of who will wear the captain’s armband in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup clash against Pool B pace-setters Scotland at St James’ Park, Newcastle.
Instead of an 11:00 SA Time (10:00 UK Time) announcement, Meyer will now name his matchday-23 at 19:00 SA Time (18:00 UK Time) on Wednesday evening.
At the heart of the delay is a plethora of injuries which have a direct bearing on the captaincy appointment. Victor Matfield is the obvious choice to replace the injured Jean de Villiers as the captain at world rugby’s showpiece, but the 38-year-old lock has a hamstring strain which he suffered in the 2nd half against Samoa last weekend.
As a result of the lengthy injury list, the Springboks forfeited Monday’s training session as several players were nursing an assortment of niggles. Matfield will have to prove his fitness at Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s training before the Springboks’ medical staff make a call on his availability.
Victor Matfield will captain the Springboks against Los Pumas on Saturday, with Zane Kirchner, Lwazi Mvovo, Pat Lambie, Willem Alberts, Marcel van der Merwe, Adriaan Strauss and Trevor Nyakane all getting their 1st starts of the season.
Jan Serfontein and Schalk Brits have also been included in the match-23 for the 1st time this season.
A total of 28 players will travel to South America on Wednesday to play the Pumas at the Vélez Sarsfield on Saturday evening (SA Time). The match-23 shows numerous changes from the side that lost to Argentina last weekend, many of them injury-enforced.
Kirchner takes over at fullback from the injured Willie le Roux, Jesse Kriel moves from wing to centre for Jean de Villiers, with Lwazi Mvovo getting his 3rd run of the season, in the No 14-jersey. Willem Alberts replaces the injured Marcell Coetzee in what will be his 1st Test in more than a year.
Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts was beaming, and for good reason, when he addressed his weekly injury report media conference in Umhlanga Rocks on Monday.
Although a clutch of players are still out injured and there are a few that are unlikely to play before the start of the Rugby World Cup, the experienced duo of skipper Jean de Villiers and scrumhalf Fourie du Preez were joined by the equally influential Willem Alberts in getting safely through what Roberts described as “a great training session” on Monday morning.
“As you know, Jean is a player who took a back seat a bit so that he could get some game time, and the news is good on that front as he looked good in training and should be available for selection for this week’s game,” said Roberts.
“It was also a good work-out for Fourie du Preez. We will obviously monitor how he responds to the training, as we will with Jean, before making a final decision, but he is potentially ready to play against the Pumas this week.
“Willem is also looking good. We’ve been building him up for a while now, and if gets through the training week then he will be ready to play.”
The Springboks face Los Pumas from Argentinia in their final match in this year’s truncated Rugby Championship in Durban on Saturday before travelling to Argentina to play a Rugby World Cup warm-up Test in Buenos Aires. Roberts appears confident that if the aforementioned players can start in Durban.
And the group of available players coming back from injury should be further swollen by young lock Pieter-Steph du Toit.
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.
Jean de Villiers will make an inspirational comeback to top-level rugby from the bench for the Springboks, almost 8 months after suffering a horrific knee injury, when they take on the World XV at DHL Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday.
Victor Matfield will captain the Springboks, with Warren Whiteley making his 1st start in the Green and Gold at No 8, while 2 uncapped players, Jesse Kriel and Vincent Koch, have been included in the match-23.
If De Villiers makes an appearance it will be his 1st rugby since suffering a dislocated knee and ligament damage in the final match of 2014, against Wales in Cardiff.
De Villiers has gone through more than 7 months of rigorous rehabilitation and is now completing a remarkable recovery.
“Jean is a massive asset to South African rugby and it’s wonderful to know his return to play is progressing so well that we can give him some game time from the bench on Saturday,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“The mere fact that he is back in shape and ready to play is testament to his incredible work-ethic and his professional approach to the game. Jean has really put in hours and hours of extra work to get here and he is a great example for any player on how to put yourself in the best possible position to recover.
“We will still manage how he is used against the World XV and afterwards we’d like him to return to Western Province, where he will be available for their ABSA Currie Cup warm-ups.”
Meyer said the decision to hand the captaincy to Victor Matfield for the time being was not a difficult one. Ruan Pienaar has been given the Vice-captaincy.
Springbok No 8 and South Africa’s Rugby Player of the Year in 2014, Duane Vermeulen, is in a race against time to be fit for the Rugby World Cup after it was revealed that he has to undergo surgery on a neck injury, but national skipper Jean de Villiers has been cleared to return to the game this weekend.
De Villiers, who had a full knee reconstruction towards the end of 2014, is 1 of 6 injured players who were given the all clear from the Springbok medical team to be considered for selection against the World XV at DHL Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday. The others are Pat Lambie, Cobus Reinach, Lionel Mapoe, Schalk Burger and Lood de Jager.
Although Jan Serfontein (hip and knee) is recovering well from his injury, he will not be considered for selection this week. Furthermore, Scarra Ntubeni and Faf de Klerk are over their ankle niggles from late last week and took full part in training on Monday, while Heinrich Brüssow (broken arm) has recovered well, but is still a week or 2 away from playing.
“Our medical team worked very hard on the injured players and it’s a great positive to see the guys return,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer on Monday.
Two injured players in the Springbok training squad, Frans Steyn and Pieter-Steph du Toit, have been temporarily released from the squad to continue their rehabilitation in Durban for the next few weeks.
Neither of them are expected to be fit for the Springboks’ 1st 2 matches of the season, next Saturday against the World XV in Cape Town and a week later against Australia in Brisbane. Steyn has a pectoral muscle tear, while Du Toit is recovering from a knee injury.
According to Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer the decision to send Steyn and Du Toit home was taken with the best interests of the players in mind.
“We’ve discussed the way forward with the players, and all of us agreed that the best way forward at this stage is for them to get full-time rehabilitation at their home province, while our own medical team will keep very close tabs on their progress,” said Meyer.
“Both of them are still firmly in our plans going forward for the season and I really hope they can get back onto the field sooner rather than later. I’m confident the individual attention they will receive in Durban will be a massive benefit to them in the long run.
“We won’t be taking Frans or Pieter-Steph with us to Australia and will reassess their situation when we return from Brisbane.”
With the International Test window just around the corner (11 July), the Rugby news in South Africa is being dominated by Springbok preparations for what lies ahead in 2015… The World XV game, the abbreviated Rugby Championship and 1 further match against Los Pumas and of course the Rugby World Cup from 18 September to 31 October 2015.
Of course, it could also be argued that we do not have anything else to talk about, because South African sides have all been done and dusted with Super Rugby for a couple of weeks already, whilst 2 New Zealand sides are still contesting it… on their ownsome lonesome!
Maybe it is a blessing in disguise though, for overall Springbok preparations, as they now have much more time to get their ducks in a row for the international scene, and to re-introduce the injured and rehabilitating players…
BUT, and it’s a big BUT… the injury list seems almost as long as the list of fighting fit candidates and that is a big concern.
In this article, we focus on what Heyneke Meyer says and feels about his chosen Springbok squad, and we have a good look at the fitness and injury update from the Springbok camp.
Although it may not be the last time we see the likes of Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis at Growthpoint KINGS PARK, Saturday’s match against the Stormers may well be their last in the colours of the Cell C Sharks.
Whilst hinting that ‘you never know what might happen in the future’, Bismarck du Plessis has paid a tribute to the team where he has played all his professional rugby, and will, on Saturday, run out together with brother Jannie and their Sharks’ brother Beast Mtawarira in their final hurrah as one of world rugby’s most formidable front rows.
It will also be the last time to see ‘The Bone Collector’ – Willem Alberts – who will also feature in his last match for the Durban side.
Loathe to make this match about himself, Bismarck this week spoke of avoiding the limelight, explaining, “I don’t play for any accolades, I just play for my teammates and the respect I have for the guys who play with me.
“This is going to be a very sad day to be leaving The Sharks, I guess I never thought this day would arrive. I’m a Sharks boy through and through, I love the Sharks with all my heart.”
The Cell C Sharks officially confirm the departure of Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis as well as Willem Alberts, who will be playing their final match for the Cell C Sharks this Saturday.
Bismarck’s career at the Cell C Sharks is now in its 11th year, having made his senior rugby debut when he joined the Durban franchise in 2005. To date he is the most capped Sharks player ever at Super Rugby level, with 129 appearances. He has also accumulated 39 ABSA Currie Cup caps, the number reflective of his Springbok duties where he has represented South Africa 70 times.
Jannie joined The Sharks in 2008 after representing the Cheetahs between 2004 and 2007. He has appeared 117 times for the Cell C Sharks at Super Rugby level and has 62 Test match appearances behind him.
They both played in 2 Rugby World Cups – in 2007 and 2011 – and together share the record (42) for most Springbok Tests as brothers.
Willem made his debut for the Cell C Sharks in 2010 after moving to Durban from the Lions and has accumulated a total of 91 appearances (72 in Super Rugby and 19 in the ABSA Currie Cup competition) as well as 32 Springbok caps.
These 3 players have been an influential and valued part of the Cell C Sharks set-up and despite Management’s best efforts; we have been unable to re-secure their services moving forward.
The Cell C Sharks have paid a dear price for snapping a 6-match losing streak with a hard-fought a 21 / 14 over the Reds last Friday.
Stephan Lewies, Willem Alberts, Francois Steyn, Stefan Ungerer and Dale Chadwick were the latest additions to an injury list that already includes names like Cobus Reinach (fractured hand), Pieter-Steph du Toit (knee) and Pat Lambie (neck vertebrae).
The Sharks started training in Durban on Monday – after a tour that saw them lose to the Highlanders, Hurricanes and Waratahs, before beating the Reds.
With games against the Melbourne Rebels (this coming Friday 29 May) and the Stormers on 13 June to come, with a BYE sandwiched in between, the last thing they needed was more injuries.
Lewies, who missed the 1st half of the season through injury, looks set to miss the remaining matches after he dislocated his knee cap in Brisbane at the weekend.
The Cell C Sharks appear resigned to the fact that loose forward Willem Alberts will be leaving them after the 2015 Rugby World Cup to play in France, judging by comments coach Gary Gold made when quizzed about their latest signing, Waratahs loose forward Jacques Potgieter.
Potgieter, a similarly abrasive forward to Alberts, will join the Sharks in early 2016 ahead of next year’s expanded Super Rugby tournament.
“We think 1 or 2 of our players are going to move after the World Cup and Jacques is a big character, a strong ball carrier and hard-hitting defender. We hope he has the same impact for us as he has had for the Waratahs. His aspiration is to play more for the Springboks and he’s not going to achieve that if he’s not based in South Africa,” Gold said.
Cell C Sharks boss Gary Gold admitted the pressure is mounting for his team, currently on a record 6-match losing streak.
The Durban-based franchise, who take on the Reds in Brisbane on Saturday, have only once before lost 6 straight matches – in 2000.
Director of Rugby, Gold, is adamant his charges can avoid the ignominy of a 7th straight defeat.
He said it is “critically important” that they finish off their Australasian tour with a win.
“We had a shocking 1st week against the Highlanders, then 2 good performances against the Hurricanes and Waratahs, where we weren’t on the right side of the scoreboard,” Gold said from the team’s base in Brisbane.
The Reds, who are 4 places (14th) and 5 points (16 to 21) below the Sharks, bounced back from their own horror run with a 46 / 29 win over the Melbourne Rebels last week.
Cell C Sharks Director of Rugby Gary Gold has made a number of changes to his team to take on the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg this Saturday, welcoming back 2 players from injury to bolster his side.
Etienne Oosthuizen and Willem Alberts have both returned from injury lay-offs and the pair will start their return to rugby making an impact off the bench.
Odwa Ndungane has been named at fullback, replacing SP Marias who gets a rest after starting all 8 matches to date. This sees the return of S’bura Sithole on the wing, with Fred Zeilinga replacing the injured Pat Lambie at flyhalf in the final change to the backline.
Upfront, there is an overhaul with Lourens Adriaanse, Franco Marais and Dale Chadwick packing down in the front row, after Jannie du Plessis and Beast Mtawarira were rested, while Renaldo Bothma replaces Jean Deysel at blindside flank in the final change.
Marco Wentzel has been named Captain.
The Cell C Sharks have been boosted by the news that Springbok loose forward Willem Alberts has returned to training and will be available for selection this weekend.
Alberts missed the 1st few matches of the Super Rugby season with injury and returned to action in the game against the DHL Stormers on 7 March. He then suffered another injury setback in the game at Newlands which saw him spend more time on the sidelines.
However, according to the Sharks’ official website, Alberts has now recovered sufficiently and will be available to face the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg this weekend.
Cell C Sharks lock Pieter-Steph du Toit has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury sustained in his side’s win over the Toyota Cheetahs on Saturday.
Du Toit’s injury is a huge blow to the Sharks and the Springboks as it means he is almost certainly ruled out of the World Cup in England later this year.
Du Toit left the field during the first half after he twisted his knee during a tackle. The 22-year-old tore his anterior cruciate ligament on the same knee where a similary injury kept him on the sidelines for most of the 2014 season.
He hopped on a plane to Cape Town to see a surgeon while there were mixed emotions among his team-mates, who headed to Durban after their 29-10 victory over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
After enduring a disappointing start to the season, Sharks coach Gary Gold has called on his side to ‘man-up’ and pull together.
Much is expected of a squad loaded with Springboks, but they have yet to realise their potential this season, with just 1 win from their first 4 games.
Gold said that the key to turning things around will be to remain united and take a hard look at which areas of their game are letting them down.
“This is certainly not the start we wanted in Super Rugby but it is important now to man-up and carry on with the fight.
“It is a long competition and we have got some work to do, no question of a doubt.
The Cell C Sharks can count on 3 Springboks who return to the side to take on the Stormers at Newlands on Saturday evening in what is shaping up to be a massive South African Conference derby.
JP Pietersen and Frans Steyn have returned from Japan and no time has been wasted introducing them to the starting line-up, while Willem Alberts has been given the all-clear to play after spending time rehabbing an injury.
JP Pietersen and Frans Steyn have also proven themselves at training and they form a new centre partnership.
Ryan Kankowski will join the elite group of Vodacom Super Rugby centurions when he plays in his 100th game for the Cell C Sharks, in a loose-forward bolstered by the return of Albert, especially in light of the kind of talent that lurks at the back of the Stormers scrum in the shape of SA Rugby Player of the Year in 2014, Duane Vermeulen.
The Cell C Sharks have been boosted by the return of Springboks Frans Steyn and JP Pietersen from Japan, as well as flank Willem Alberts from a hamstring injury.
Both Japanese-based backs were spotted training with the Sharks on Monday after their respective teams were eliminated from the league in Japan.
Meanwhile, barn-storming loose forward Alberts has been training with the squad for sometime now and is finally in contention for selection as the Sharks prepare to travel to Cape Town to take on the undefeated Stormers.
Good news appears to suddenly be coming in clusters for the Cell C Sharks, who have followed on from their opening Vodacom Super Rugby win against the Emirates Lions with what for director of rugby Gary Gold will be a pleasing wave of important players returning to the mix.
On Sunday morning, the day after his team scored what he called a “relieving” win over the Lions, Gold received the news that the 2 Japanese clubs that backline kingpins JP Pietersen and Frans Steyn play for were both knocked out of their competition this past weekend. That means they will be back sooner rather than later, and will probably be available for the crucial game against the Stormers in Cape Town the week after next.
“I suppose it’s not nice for those players to lose but it is good news for us,” grinned Gold.
Then on Monday a man that Gold would really like to see in action as soon as possible as he is such an important cog in the forward machine, Willem Alberts, took part in full training for the first time. He could also be ready for the Stormers game.
Also at the 2-hour middle of the day training session on a Kings Park outerfield was Ryan Kankowski. The former Springbok No 8 is now into his 2nd week back from Japan and will be available for Saturday’s clash with the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus.
It is still unsure as to when Springbok Willem Alberts will return from injury as the Sharks prepare to face the Cheetahs in Round One of Super Rugby this weekend.
Alberts, who damaged a hamstring while on duty with the Springboks, has been out of action since before the Rugby Championship in August last year.
The flank went down with the injury right before the Boks first game against Argentina at a soggy Loftus Versfeld, this allowed Warren Whitely to make his debut.
Alberts also missed the next game against in Salta.
Springboks Pieter-Steph du Toit and Willem Alberts are back training with the Sharks after long injury layoffs.
Lock Du Toit missed much of last season with a serious knee injury, while loose forward Alberts was laid low after a back operation last July.
The duo are back in training as the Sharks start their preparations for this year’s Super Rugby competition. Both have been training well and showed no discomfort from the injuries.
There was however less good news for lock Stephan Lewies, who will reportedly remain sidelined with injury for an extended period.
It 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).
Willem Alberts has been ruled out of the Springboks’ Rugby Championship tour to Australia and New Zealand and will be replaced in the 30-man squad by Warren Whiteley.
Alberts missed both Test victories against Argentina because of a hamstring injury and he underwent a fitness test on Thursday afternoon.
Although his hamstring is recovering well, he experienced some nerve irritation in his lower back and was sent for scans.
Willem Alberts says he’ll be ready to play for the Springboks in their Rugby Championship encounter against Australia in Perth on 6 September.
Loose forward Alberts and lock Victor Matfield were on Monday recalled to the Springbok squad for the trip Down Under. Both missed the home and away Tests against Argentina because of injury.
Matfield suffered a knee injury during a cleaning drill, while Alberts withdrew shortly before the game in Pretoria as he picked up a hamstring tear during the captain’s training run.
The Cell C Sharks will field a team resting Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis and Willem Alberts (all on the bench)… and also still without Patrick Lambie, but with Jean Deysel captaining the side and Frans Steyn back in his favoured position of Inside Centre.
This of course means that Tim Swiel starts at Flyhalf, Dale Chadwick at loosehead prop, Kyle Cooper as starting hooker and Lourens Adriaanse as starting tighthead prop.
S’Bura Sithole is back at Outside centre and JP Pietersen moves back to Right wing, with SP Marais protecting the last vestage.
3 Other returning Springboks get starting positions, namely Marcell Coetzee, Stephan Lewies and Lwazi Mvovo.
Jake White has hinted at a bold strategy to rest his returning Springboks with the Sharks having sewn up the South African conference and guaranteed some play-off rugby already.
The Sharks have an unassailable hold on the South African Conference and cannot finish the tournament any lower than third.
However, the plan is to finish in the top two and earn a direct route to a home semifinal without having to play a qualifying knock-out match.
White has indicated that if they are to really be competitive when it matters, it may require some tactical selection policies.
As the announcement of the Springbok squad is awaited on Wednesday, speculation as to the possible composition of the side is gathering momentum.
At this stage it would appear that Johan Goosen is not over his injury worries and that Handré Pollard would leapfrog into the starting berth at flyhalf.
At lock Lood de Jager should get the nod and a 1st start at No 4 lock, in the absense of Flip van der Merwe, who is out with a longer term injury.
Cell C Sharks backline star Frans Steyn is unlikely to feature for the Springboks in the June Internationals.
Steyn was one of 10 players who took no or little part in the field sessions at the Springbok training camp in Durban, which concluded on Wednesday.
Steyn has been suffering from a chronic knee dysfunction which has been managed by Sharks and upon a request from his franchise, the load on his knee was limited by keeping him out of training.
While the severity of the injury will only be confirmed later in the week, Steyn is expected to miss the June internationals. It is also possible that Steyn could miss the latter stages of Super Rugby, which would be a body blow to the Sharks.
Jake White has sprung a few surprises for the Cell C Sharks clash against the ever improving Crusaders in Christchurch, this coming weekend.
This is the fourth article in the series of Cell C Sharks Squad Contenders for Super Rugby 2014. We do 2 articles per week per South African Super Rugby participating franchise.
We discuss the players IN the Super Rugby Group, and not all the options beyond that.
In this Article we look at the contenders for LOOSE FORWARDS in the Cell C Sharks 2014 Super Rugby group, and whether they could force their way into Bok contention.
The South African Rugby Union (SARU) on Monday confirmed the names of 10 Springboks who were awarded long-term national contracts in August this year, which will see them remain in South Africa until the end of 2015.
As we approach the final of the Currie Cup this weekend, all is not well in the Sharks camp.
There is the possibility that Bismarck du Plessis will miss the final due to a citing for stamping and in addition there is a couple of injuries to key players, which does not make things any easier.
Uncapped loose forward Arno Botha has been called into the Springbok starting team in the place of the injured Willem Alberts for Saturday’s Castle Lager Incoming Series opener against Italy at Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban.