Durban - The Springbok training camp concluded in Durban on Wednesday, and probably the busiest participants were the medical team who treated a slew of players battered and bruised by Super Rugby.
By the end of it, there was more bad news for lock Eben Etzebeth and confirmation that Francois Steyn has a chronic knee condition.
Etzebeth, who has not played since injuring his foot in November, is to undergo three more weeks of rehabilitation before he can be considered for selection, while Steyn has been released to play for the Sharks this weekend against the Stormers, but could then sit out the June Tests.
“Eben’s situation is a major setback as he’s been one of our best players in the past two seasons,” said coach Heyneke Meyer.
“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 of him, and his welfare is most important to us.”
Etzebeth and Steyn were among the 10 players who did not train at the camp.
“We evaluated Eben’s injury at the camp, and he did not take part in any of the field sessions as we are managing the process of his return to the field,” said Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts.
“We’ve been in discussions with his franchise, his rehab specialist and the foot specialist who operated on him last year. We’re happy with his progress, and will work closely with Western Province to ensure he gets back on the field without any risk of further aggravating the injury.”
Other players who sat out were Frans Malherbe (prop), Schalk Burger (loose forward), Willem Alberts (loose forward), S’bura Sithole (centre/wing), Juan de Jongh (centre), Johan Goosen (flyhalf), Bismarck du Plessis (hooker) and Duane Vermeulen (No 8).
Tighthead Malherbe, who made his debut for the Boks in November, has not overcome a concussion he sustained in a Super Rugby match a few weeks ago.
Burger suffered a knock to the neck playing for the Stormers against the Cheetahs and is still experiencing stiffness, but could recover to play against the Sharks.
Alberts and Sithole both picked up grade one hamstring strains while playing for the Sharks against the Blues last weekend, but are expected to play this weekend.
For most of the Super Rugby season, Steyn has been suffering from a chronic knee dysfunction. On a request from his franchise, the load on his knee was limited by keeping him out of training.
De Jongh was sidelined with flu, Goosen had some stiffness in his neck, while the workloads of Du Plessis and Vermeulen were managed during the training camp.
Twelve players who were involved with the Springboks last year are already out of contention for the June series:
Springbok 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).