Cape Town - Eben Etzebeth will only be ready to play in three to four weeks’ time, according to Stormers coach Allister Coetzee, who doubts that the big man will feature for the Springboks next month.
Etzebeth has been taking his first steps back from an ankle injury over the last few weeks, and he was again running a few laps in Bellville on Monday.
He was included in the 36-man Bok training squad by coach Heyneke Meyer on Monday, but Coetzee said that the Stormers medical team cannot be overruled by the Bok doctors to determine whether Etzebeth can play against the World XV, Wales and Scotland.
The other locks named for a four-day camp in Durban from Sunday include Victor Matfield, Flip van der Merwe and Cheetahs youngster Lood de Jager. So there could a shortage of second-row options, although Bakkies Botha can always be called up.
“Eben will definitely not play before the (Test) break. I don’t know what the Boks are going to do - it’s something that our and the Bok medical teams will have to discuss. Our medical team is convinced that it won’t happen before the break,” Coetzee said on Monday.
“I’ll say it’s another three to four weeks before he is ready to play, so I doubt he’ll be able to play in the World XV game. You can get him really ready for Super Rugby in the next four weeks, at a push.
“(The Bok medics) can’t just say that he’s ready as we own him. It’s highly unlikely that he will play. And I don’t think that Heyneke would risk him as Eben is too valuable.”
Players based in France, England and Ireland were not considered for the camp. Meyer rewarded a number of stand-outs from Super Rugby - Damian de Allende, Jacques du Plessis, Marnitz Boshoff, S’bura Sithole and Cornal Hendricks.
But he made a couple of surprising calls, with Cheetahs flank Oupa Mohoje, Bulls prop Marcel van der Merwe, Stormers flank Siya Kolisi and Bulls centre JJ Engelbrecht all picked.
Others who had performed more consistently are Lions props Schalk van der Merwe and Julian Redelinghuys, Stormers flank Nizaam Carr and Cheetahs centres Rayno Benjamin and Johann Sadie.
Schalk Burger makes his return from illness and injury, while Heinrich Brüssow did enough to make the cut too. “Victor and Schalk have been out of rugby for a long time. They’ve really been in great form recently and the fact that they have not been with the Boks for more than two years has made them hungry for Test rugby yet again,” Meyer said.
“I’m also looking forward to working with Heinrich for the first time. He’s been playing very well for the Cheetahs and brings a lot of experience.”
However, Meyer’s plans suffered a major blow as centre Jaque Fourie could be out for six months with an ankle injury. Fourie’s agent Hilton Houghton told the Cape Times on Monday that Fourie had felt the injury while playing for Japanese club Kobe. “It was treated as a sprain and was nothing too serious. But he started training for the Boks and it was feeling loose and wasn’t as stable. The guys advised that it could get a lot worse, so the best thing now is to sort it out now, especially with the World Cup coming up,” Houghton said.
“And one has to bear in mind that his club pay him and want him fixed for their season. It could be up to six months, but we’re hoping it’s three or four. The operation is (today).”
Coetzee was pleased about De Allende’s call-up. “It’s a great story from where he started at Varsity Cup. It shows that versatility is a massive thing. Hopefully he can keep on performing and make the final squad.”
De Allende said he didn’t want to get ahead of himself. “Being named is a huge honour for me, but I will continue to take things one step at a time and keep my feet on the ground,” the 22-year-old said.
The final squad for the June Tests will be named on May 31.
Forwards (20): Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, Marcel van der Merwe, Jannie du Plessis, Frans Malherbe, Coenie Oosthuizen, Bismarck du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, Victor Matfield, Flip van der Merwe, Heinrich Brüssow, Marcell Coetzee, Siya Kolisi, Willem Alberts, Jacques du Plessis, Oupa Mohoje, Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger.
Backs (16): Fourie du Preez, Francois Hougaard, Johan Goosen, Marnitz Boshoff, Jean de Villiers, Damian de Allende, Jan Serfontein, Juan de Jongh, JJ Engelbrecht, S’bura Sithole, Frans Steyn, Lwazi Mvovo, Bjorn Basson, JP Pietersen, Cornal Hendricks, Willie le Roux.