CAPE TOWN – Eben Etzebeth has been included in a Springbok training camp this week, but will he play in the Rugby Championship?
That is the big question that the big lock will have to answer through his actions on and off the field after sitting out of the entire Super Rugby season with the Stormers.
Etzebeth suffered a serious shoulder injury on Bok duty against Wales in Cardiff last December, which required surgery. It was hoped that he would feature in the June series against England, but he wasn’t ready and was unable to play for the Stormers or Western Province in the Rugby Challenge.
It was reported that former captain Etzebeth also hurt his back last month, which has further halted his progress.
But Bok coach Rassie Erasmus named the 26-year-old lock in the training squad that consists of Stormers and Bulls players for a camp in Stellenbosch starting this week.
Players selected from the Lions and Sharks will join the squad once their Super Rugby campaigns are over.
Another long-term injury casualty, Sharks prop Coenie Oosthuizen, and Bulls front-rower Trevor Nyakane – who sat out the one-off Wales Test in Washington and the England series – were picked as well.
Stormers locks Salmaan Moerat and JD Schickerling, as well as teammates Damian Willemse and Cobus Wiese, join hard-working Bulls flank Marco van Staden as the five uncapped players in the group.
“I want to thank the franchise coaches for allowing their players to attend the camp, which we view as a very important part of our preparation,” Erasmus said on Tuesday.
“We’re very pleased that several players got the opportunity to gain Test experience during the June internationals, and we are now looking forward to working with more of our most promising players, such as Damian, Salmaan, Marco, JD and Cobus.
“It’s also good to have Eben and Coenie back with us after they’ve spent a considerable amount of time out of action because of injury. Once fit and available again, they will add considerable experience to the squad.”
The Boks’ first Rugby Championship Test is on August 18 against Argentina in Durban.
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Springbok Training Squad:
Forwards: Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Steven Kitshoff, Siya Kolisi, Wilco Louw, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Salmaan Moerat, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen, JD Schickerling, RG Snyman, Marco van Staden, Cobus Wiese.
Backs: Damian de Allende, Warrick Gelant, Jesse Kriel, Embrose Papier, Handré Pollard, Ivan van Zyl, Damian Willemse.