Durban - The possibility of Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha re-establishing their legendary Bok second-row combination during the internationals next month has gained further traction with the confirmation on Wednesday that Stormers lock Eben Etzebeth requires another three weeks’ rehabilitation for a foot injury.
Etzebeth has limped through a lengthy recovery process since sustaining the injury at the end of last season, and it now appears that he will only come back into selection contention towards the end of next month.
With Pieter-Steph du Toit and Franco van der Merwe also sidelined with injury, Matfield and Flip van der Merwe were the only two senior locks involved in the recent training camp, while overseas-based Botha is set to be included in the final squad to be named on Saturday.
Van der Merwe can play at No 5 or No 4, but Matfield is expected to reprise his long-held position as the Boks’ lineout kingpin, leaving Botha and Van der Merwe to battle it out for the role of “enforcer”.
Nevertheless, Meyer admitted the loss of Etzebeth was another major setback ahead of matches against a World XV, Wales and Scotland.
“We’re continually monitoring his injury, because he really wants to play for the Springboks next month. However, he is still young and has a highly promising career ahead, and his welfare is most important to us.”
The other players who missed training sessions at the camp, predominantly as a precautionary measure, were Frans Malherbe, Schalk Burger, Willem Alberts, S’bura Sithole, Frans Steyn, Juan de Jongh, Johan Goosen, Bismarck du Plessis and Duane Vermeulen.
In particular, there has been some uncertainty over the exact nature of Steyn’s “injury”, but a Bok medical release described it as “a chronic knee dysfunction which has been managed by the Sharks”.
Upon a request from the Durban franchise, the load on his knee was limited by keeping him out of training, and it now remains to be seen whether consideration will be given to resting Steyn during the international window next month.
Otherwise, from a Sharks perspective, the Bok medical report read that Alberts and Sithole had picked up grade one hamstring strains against the Blues last weekend, with these injuries being treated and managed at the training camp.
Meyer said a final decision on the involvement of all the injured players would be taken this week.
Twelve players who were involved with the Springboks last year are already out of contention for the series next month, namely Bok captain Jean de Villiers (knee), Scarra Ntubeni (foot), Chiliboy Ralepelle (knee), Frik Kirsten (neck), Pieter-Steph du Toit (knee), Franco van der Merwe (ankle), Arno Botha (knee), Pierre Spies (bicep), Louis Schreuder (hand), Pat Lambie (bicep), Gio Aplon (elbow) and Jaque Fourie (ankle).