Lock Eben Etzebeth, centre, needs three more weeks of rehabilitation for a foot injury before he can be considered for selection. Photo: Franck Fife

Johannesburg – Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth will need three more weeks of rehabilitation before he can be considered for selection after injuring his foot at the end of last season.

“Eben’s situation is a major setback as he’s been one of our best players in the last two seasons,” said Springbok 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 and his welfare is the most important to us.”

Etzebeth was one of 10 players who took no or little part in the field sessions at the Springbok training camp in Durban, which ended on Wednesday.

“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.

Roberts said he had spoken to Etzebeth’s rehabilitation and foot specialists, 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.”

The other players who missed the training sessions were Frans Malherbe (prop), Schalk Burger (loose forward), Willem Alberts (loose forward), S’bura Sithole (centre/wing), Frans Steyn (utility back), Juan de Jongh (centre), Johan Goosen (flyhalf), Bismarck du Plessis (hooker), and Duane Vermeulen (number eight).

Malherbe has a concussion he picked up in a Super Rugby match a few weeks ago. As he did not meet the criteria for safely returning to playing, he did not participate in any of the training sessions.

Burger took a knock to the neck in the Stormers’s last match, against the Cheetahs. He was still experiencing some stiffness in the neck and was withdrawn from training as a precaution.

Alberts and Sithole both picked up grade one hamstring strains while playing for the Sharks against the Blues last weekend. These injuries were treated and managed at the training camp.

Steyn has a chronic knee dysfunction, which has been managed by the Sharks, and at the request of his franchise the load on his knee has been limited by keeping him out of training.

De Jongh did not train on Monday as he had flu, Goosen had some stiffness in his neck on Tuesday, and the workloads of Du Plessis and Vermeulen were managed during the training camp.

“Player welfare is incredibly important to us,” said Meyer.

“Our medical team worked very hard at the camp, performing medical assessments on all the players and ensuring they get the best possible treatment on behalf of the franchises, as four of them are still playing Vodacom Super Rugby this weekend.”

Meyer said a final decision on the involvement of all injured players would be made later in the week.

“The final squad for the Castle Lager Incoming Series will be announced on Saturday,” said Meyer.

Twelve players who were involved with the Springboks last year are already out of contention for the June series.

They are 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). – Sapa