DURBAN - Springbok bosses Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber will be holding thumbs that misfortune doesn’t strike Eben Etzebeth and Franco Mostert in the approach to the Lions tour of South African following the news that Lood de Jager has suffered yet another serious injury.
With the Lions tour just three months away, Etzebeth (Toulon) and Mostert (Honda Heat, Japan) are currently the only fit locks from the rich supply that helped the Boks win the World Cup in Japan in 2019.
The fourth member of that excellent quartet, RG Snyman, is still to make a comeback from a horrific knee injury sustained on his debut for Munster last August.
The luckless De Jager reportedly broke his leg in a freak training ground incident at Sale Sharks a few days ago. The 28-year-old apparently slipped on a ball and when his 2.06m, 125kg frame hit the deck awkwardly, a leg fracture was the unfortunate result.
De Jager has suffered way more than his share of serious injuries since making his debut for the Boks as a youngster in 2014, including a severe shoulder injury 21 minutes into the World Cup final against England 18 months ago.
De Jager had only just resumed playing again after that injury and the three-month time frame for him to recover from this recent setback just about coincides with the start of the Lions tour in July.
Getting him match fit for the series would be tight indeed...
De Jager made a huge splash on the international scene at the 2015 World Cup in England where as a 22-year-old newcomer he was one of the best Springbok players. He has played 45 Tests and is considered one of the most intelligent lineout specialists in the game, and if he can contribute to the Boks in July, it would be a considerable boost.
The next tier of second rowers available to coach Nienaber, those playing in South Africa, are not yet in the league of the overseas-based players but those who have put their hands up include Ruben van Heerden (Sharks), Salmaan Moerat (Stormers) and Ruan Nortje (Bulls).
Another solid option for Nienaber is one-cap Bok Jason Jenkins, who is playing for Ireland’s Munster.
Nienaber is also sweating on the return to fitness of vital World Cup winners in Pieter-Steph du Toit and Handre Pollard.
Meanwhile, The Springboks’ preparations for the forthcoming international season will move up a gear in the next fortnight as Erasmus, Jacques Nienaber and the rest of the management host of a series alignment camps.
This week, the Boks’ coaching brains trust will present their plans for the 2021 season to a small group of players from the northern region, consisting of players from the Lions and Bulls.
Following the three days of alignment activities in Gauteng, the Springbok management will travel to Durban where they will repeat the exercise with a selected group of Sharks players on Thursday and Friday, before returning to Cape Town.
The Stormers’ players will attend a similar camp activity next Monday, while the Bok coaching and management staff are due to visit Bloemfontein next Wednesday.