CAPE TOWN – Just like that, the Springboks’ lock stocks are suddenly looking rosier, according to new head coach Jacques Nienaber.
After weeks of uncertainty surrounding Lood de Jager and RG Snyman, there has been real progress made in both big men’s rehabilitation from their long-term injuries, and they could well be ready for the first Test against Georgia on July 2.
De Jager was the first-choice No 5 during the triumphant 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign, and is the key to the South Africans achieving lineout dominance, as well as providing true physicality with ball-in-hand and as a defender.
The 28-year-old former Cheetahs and Bulls star sustained a freak accident during training at English club Sale Sharks in early April, when he caught a ball in the air and landed awkwardly, which resulted in a broken leg and knee ligament issues.
It seemed like he was not going to be ready for the Georgia Tests at least, and there were doubts about facing the British and Irish Lions a few weeks later too.
But Nienaber, speaking from the Bok camp in Bloemfontein during an online press on Wednesday, sounded optimistic that De Jager could be back on the pitch soon.
“Lood is going well, and Lood’s current projection – the last feedback I’ve got – is that his rehab is on track, and he’s actually doing well. I think he’s a little bit ahead of where they thought he would’ve been,” the former defence coach said.
“As I understand it, if everything goes well with Lood’s rehab and he continues on to play… As a physio, one week you hit all your markers and the next week, the moment you go to more explosive stuff and a little bit more power, there might be a little bit of a setback, and then you have to pull back a bit on the rehab.
“But if you hit the marker and you progress, and there are no complications, if Sale makes the final of the Premiership, he might be up for selection to play. Again, Alex (Sanderson, Sale coach) must be happy with his form and he must tick all the conditioning boxes, and he must be medically fit.
“As I understand, his progression currently is spot-on, and if he continues like he is doing currently, he might be in a position to participate in a semi-final and final (for Sale). Lood is going along very well.”
The English Premiership semi-finals are on the weekend of June 19, and the final a week later.
Snyman’s fire-pit incident in Munster – along with Damian de Allende and their club teammates CJ Stander and Mike Haley – has been well documented over the last 48 hours, and his visit to a specialist on Friday will determine when he can fly to South Africa to have his burns assessed further.
But of course, Snyman was still busy with his ACL knee rehab, and on that front, Nienaber said things were improving to the extent that the former Bulls giant may be ready to play in a few weeks.
“From a RG knee perspective, obviously there are a lot of things that we will have to assess, in terms of when he gets here. Our selection protocols are always mindset, physical readiness – and there are a few boxes that need to be ticked there. If he ticks all of those boxes, then we go and look at his form – if his rugby is good and he plays well, he’ll be in the mix,” the Bok mentor said.
“RG was going fantastic (with his knee). I saw his GPS stats from last week before the burns, and unfortunately, an accident happened and it is what it is.
“He’s now got a little bit of a setback, and we will just wait for the wounds to heal and then we will assess him when he gets over here.”