South Africa were dealt yet another serious injury blow, as they started preparations for their historic Test against New Zealand in Soweto on Saturday.
Rugby 365 reports that Blue Bulls fullback Zane Kirchner has joined French-based Frans Steyn on the sidelines, leaving Gio Aplon as the only fit fullback ahead of the weekend’s Tri-Nations encounter.
The Bok camp are still awaiting a full report from Steyn’s French club, Racing Metro, but he cannot start training before Wednesday and might be considered for the Tests against Australia only – if the South African Rugby Union can get the necessary paperwork sorted out and have him released.
That is why Kirchner’s injury, which has definitely ruled him out of contention for this weekend, is such a big blow.
Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts told a media conference on Monday that Kirchner – one of two Boks injured in Currie Cup action at the weekend – picked up a knee injury.
“He [Kirchner] twisted his knee [playing for the Bulls against Western Province at Newlands at the weekend," Roberts said, adding: "There is quite a bit of fluid and puffiness around his knee."
Kirchner, before officially being ruled out, was not the only Bulls player that sat out training in Johannesburg on Monday - he was joined by forwards Dewald Potgieter and Danie Rossouw.
Potgieter suffered a whiplash injury in the first half of the big clash at Newlands at the weekend. Although the hard-working loose forward continued playing, he suffered "a bad neck spasm" and eventually left the field late in the second half.
And while he did not train with the Boks on Monday, scans showed there was no major damage and he will also be monitored during the week.
The Bok team doctor, Roberts, said they were "hopeful" that he would join the team on the training ground on Tuesday.
It seems likely Potgieter will feature against the All Blacks on Saturday, as will the veteran Bok lock Danie Rossouw - who suffered a hip flexor strain in training last week. (Rossouw, of course, did not feature in the Currie Cup at the weekend.)
"He [Rossouw] has recovered nicely,” Roberts said at Monday’s briefing. “He started doing ‘straight line running’ today.
“We expect him to be back doing full team training tomorrow [Tuesday] and if he comes through that he is available for selection for Saturday,” added the Bok doctor.
Loose forward Ryan Kankowski, who was not considered for the Bok team this week, has made a full recovery from his calf strain and will most likely feature for the Sharks in their Currie Cup clash against Province on Saturday.
The Bok team, to be named on Tuesday, could show plenty of changes from that which last featured against Australia in Brisbane – a game the Boks lost 13-30.
Francois Hougaard is set to start at scrumhalf against the All Blacks, with Ireland-bound Ruan Pienaar also still unavailable through injury and fellow World Cup winner Ricky Januarie’s form at an all-time low.
Hougaard looks set to partner provincial teammate Morné Steyn at halfback, with Aplon at fullback – while Juan de Jongh and Jean de Villiers could be the new midfield combination. JP Pietersen could join Bryan Habana on the wing – reuniting the wing pairing from the 2007 World Cup Final.
However, the make-up of the forward pack will depend on the fitness of Rossouw.
Pierre Spies, Schalk Burger and Juan Smith could be the new loose trio – something of an old-firm for the Boks at Test level.
Victor Matfield will be partnered in the second row by either Rossouw or Flip van der Merwe – all of whom are Bulls players. The front row could consist of Gurthrö Steenkamp, John Smit and CJ van der Linde, or Jannie du Plessis in place of Van der Linde.Tweet