SCHALK BURGER and Duane Vermeulen are unlikely to feature for the Springboks in the opening stages of the Rugby Championship.
Bok coach Heyneke Meyer will name his squad on Saturday afternoon, in Worcester of all places – it will follow Boland’s Currie Cup first division clash against the Valke at Boland Park. Jean de Villiers’s team will gather in Cape Town on Sunday and prepare in the Mother City next week in the build-up to the first Rugby Championship clash against Argentina at Newlands on August 18.
Sharks players involved in the Super Rugby final against the Chiefs on Saturday who are included in the Bok squad will join up with the camp on Tuesday. But yesterday, Stormers and Western Province coach Allister Coetzee announced on the WP website that Burger and Vermeulen are set to play for Province in the Currie Cup first before being ready for Test rugby.
Burger has missed the entire Super Rugby season after sustaining a knee ligament injury in the opening game against the Hurricanes, while Vermeulen hurt his knee against the Reds in Brisbane in April.
Vermeulen was close to being ready for last weekend’s semi-final against the Sharks, but Coetzee said at the time that he was only “60 to 70 percent” fit.
“I spoke to Heyneke Meyer earlier this week, and he says both Schalk and Duane are in his plans, but I imagine they’d have to play some Currie Cup rugby first to prove themselves,” the WP coach said on the website yesterday.
“It’s safe to assume that we’ll definitely lose Eben (Etzebeth), Andries (Bekker), Bryan (Habana) and Jean (de Villiers) to the national team, so it would be great to have Schalk and Duane available at some point.
“Duane is not that far from taking a full part in training, whereas Schalk could be a bit longer, but we will be monitoring them both and, with a bit of luck, could have them in WP colours during the Currie Cup.”
After the Stormers had their title hopes blown away by the Sharks in a 26-19 semi-final defeat last week at Newlands, Province will hope to make up for it somewhat by winning the Currie Cup. And it’s the Sharks who will again fly to Cape Town to take on WP at Newlands next Saturday.
The Sharks will probably be more affected by Bok call-ups than Province, as only captain De Villiers, Habana, Bekker and Etzebeth are certainties in the national squad.
“We have to move on now (from Super Rugby),” Coetzee said. “The Currie Cup is a great opportunity for us to change our focus and get back on the bike, so to speak.
“We want to deliver our best on the field at all times, but we also want to ensure that we continue to give our younger players an opportunity to get gametime at Currie Cup level.
“It’s a great breeding ground, as we saw last year with players like Steven Kitshoff, Nizaam Carr and Siya Kolisi – all of whom stepped up at Super Rugby level in 2012. I’m expecting guys like Skara Ntubeni, Nic (Groom), Marcel (Brache) and JP du Plessis to get the chance in the Currie Cup to show what they can do.”