PRETORIA – The Springboks have been plunged into a crisis at lock after Bulls lock Lood de Jager was ruled out for at least four months due to a torn pectoral muscle suffered in the derby against the Sharks on Saturday.
De Jager joins Springbok captain and Stormers lock Eben Etzebeth - out due to back and shoulder injuries - on the sidelines.
The duo will certainly miss out on the June Incoming Series against England and one-off Test against Wales, while Etzebeth could be back for the Rugby Championship, De Jager might be fit to travel with the national team to Europe for their end-of-year.
The 23-year-old De Jager has been one of the standout players at the Bulls this year, rekindling the form that made him the SA Rugby Player of the Year in 2015.
While the Springbok squad is yet to be announced by coach Rassie Erasmus, De Jager was a certainty. The Springboks will now have to look to Stormers lock Pieter-Steph du Toit and Lions lock Franco Mostert in the second row, with De Jager’s injury paving the way for Bulls teammate RG Snyman to stake a claim in the national team.
But De Jager’s injury will be an even bigger blow to the Bulls, who would have needed his experience and abrasive play against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires on Saturday with Jason Jenkins likely to move back to the more familiar position of lock after his stint at blindside flank.
In another injury that will be a blow to the Springboks and the Bulls, prop Lizo Gqoboka has been ruled out for the remainder of the year having sustained a tendon injury to his toe in the same bruising encounter against the Sharks.
Gqoboka, who has also been in good form and stood a realistic chance of making the Springbok squad, will require surgery after consulting with a specialist. Just like De Jager, Gqoboka would have been one of the Bulls go-to-men with his strong scrummaging ability against the Jaguares, who are known for their prowess in the set-piece.
Gqoboka’s injury leaves the Bulls thin at loosehead prop with Pierre Schoeman still on the sidelines for another three weeks for his six week suspension, meaning that the Loftus Versfeld-based franchise will have to look at loaning a prop from either the Cheetahs or Southern Kings.
“Scans revealed that Lizo injured his tendon and he will need surgery for that. He will consult a specialist and will be on the sidelines for at least four to six months.
Then another piece of bad news is De Jager, who left the field in the 70th minute ... Scans revealed that he has a complete tear of that muscle ... (He) will also be out for at least four months,” said Bulls doctor Herman Rossouw yesterday.