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 on Monday due to a torn pectoral muscle suffered in the derby against the Sharks.
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.
De Jager joins Springbok captain Eben Etzebeth on the sidelines, with the Stormers lock not having played this year due to shoulder and back injuries.
The duo will certainly miss out on the June Tests against Wales and England.
While Etzebeth could be back for the Rugby Championship, De Jager might only be fit to travel with the national team to Europe for their end-of-year tour, which usually starts at the end of October.
The 23-year-old De Jager has been one of the standout players at the Bulls this year, rekindling the form that made him one of the most talked about players at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
His crowning moment came when he was named as the SA Rugby Player of the Year in the same season.
While the Springbok squad is yet to be announced by coach Rassie Erasmus, De Jager was a certainty and would have been a shoe-in for the starting line-up in all four June Tests.
The Boks will now have to look to Stormers second-rower Pieter-Steph du Toit and Lions No 5 Franco Mostert, 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.
Jason Jenkins is likely to move back to the more familiar position of lock after his stint at blindside flank.
Gqoboka, who has also been in good form and stood a realistic chance of making the Springbok squad, will require surgery after consulting 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 of his six-week suspension, meaning that coach John Mitchell will be looking to loan 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,” Bulls doctor Herman Rossouw said on Monday.
“Then another piece of bad news is Lood de Jager, who left the field in the 70th minute with an injury to a muscle in his chest wall.
“Scans revealed that he has a complete tear of that muscle. He is also consulting with a specialist and will also be out for at least four months.”