In an unusual development, the Springboks have released Faf de Klerk to his English club this week, which has ruled him out of Saturday’s Test against Scotland at Murrayfield.
According to World Rugby’s Regulation 9, all players are supposed to be released for the official November Test window, which is defined as the “second, third and fourth weekends” of the month.
That is why the first-choice Bok scrumhalf was not available for the opening November Test against England at Twickenham.
De Klerk returned for the past weekend’s 29-26 triumph over France in Paris, where he played the full 80-odd minutes.
Reserve halfback Embrose Papier was again left on the bench for the entire match by coach Rassie Erasmus.
So, to send De Klerk back to his club, Sale Sharks, during the international window is somewhat of a surprise, especially after he missed the England Test.
“The Springboks have released @fafdeklerk to play for his club @SaleSharksRugby this weekend. He will not be considered for the Test against Scotland at Murrayfield,” the Boks posted on their Twitter account on Monday.
The Springboks have released @fafdeklerk to play for his club @SaleSharksRugby this weekend. He will not be considered for the Test against Scotland at Murrayfield.#boksontour #SCOvRSA pic.twitter.com/koao6rMWjU
It remains unclear as to whether De Klerk will return to the Boks for the final Test of the tour against Wales next week.
But it seems as if Bok coach Erasmus is hoping to maintain good relations with overseas clubs – in this case Sale – in order to secure the release of players when required.
There was a similar situation with Wasps fullback Willie le Roux during the Rugby Championship. Le Roux was initially ruled out of the last two matches against Australia and New Zealand in South Africa, but was eventually released.
The same applied to Francois Louw of Bath, who missed the Wallaby Test in Port Elizabeth, but started at No 8 against the All Blacks at Loftus Versfeld.
But the absence of De Klerk could just result in Papier finally getting much-needed game time – and a start against Scotland would be just what the Bulls youngster needs.
Ivan van Zyl wore the No 9 jersey against England, and carried out the coach’s instructions to a tee – even though the safety-first, kick-orientated approach contributed significantly to the 12-11 defeat.
The #Springboks had their training run on Scottish soil on Monday afternoon.The University of Edinburgh is hosting our team training sessions this week.#boksontour #SCOvRSA#LoveRugby pic.twitter.com/dTDjtsq5Oe
Meanwhile, good news for the Boks is that star lock Eben Etzebeth, who missed the French Test, has recovered from a foot injury and was set to return to training on Monday.
But No 8 Warren Whiteley has picked up a calf problem.
“Warren has a calf injury and I would say he is doubtful for Saturday,” Erasmus said on Monday.
“Vincent Koch and Frans Malherbe (props) both have some bumps and we will be cautious with them, but I think they will be fit to play.”