Jon Cardinelli

De Villiers in doubt

Springbok captain Jean de Villiers has a chest injury and may miss the quadrangular series decider against Samoa at Loftus, reports JON CARDINELLI in Pretoria.

De Villiers picked up a sternoclavicular injury against Scotland in Nelspruit. The veteran centre was able to complete the match, but has been in some discomfort over the past two days.

De Villiers was unable to participate in Monday's training session at Loftus Versfeld. He will be given more time to recover, but if he doesn't, promising centre Jan Serfontein will be promoted to the starting line-up for the game against Samoa.

Serfontein already has two Test caps, but this would mark his first start for South Africa. He and JJ Engelbrecht have featured prominently in midfield for the Bulls in the Super Rugby season.

The Boks' team doctor, Craig Roberts, rated De Villiers' chances of recovery as '50/50' and confirmed that the Bok captain is the biggest injury concern ahead of Saturday's clash.

De Villiers, by his own admission, has played a lot of rugby this season. He played every minute of the Stormers' 13 Super Rugby matches and has come through two Tests.

When asked if it would be better to rest De Villiers for what should be a particularly taxing and bruising battle against Samoa, Boks coach Heyneke Meyer maintained his view that a coach shouldn't need to rest players at Test level.

'At this level, the players want to play as much as possible.' Meyer said. 'Jean picked up an injury in last week's game, but he soldiered on. It was important that he did, if you consider how the team pulled together in that second half. He's a warrior.

'I will never risk players if they are not 100%, or if there is any chance of further injury,' Meyer added. 'I trust in my medical staff, and we won't risk Jean if he is not ready.'

In other injury news, Roberts confirmed that flank Arno Botha will go for knee surgery on Wednesday after sustaining a horror injury in last week's game. Botha is likely to be sidelined for six to 10 months.

Apart from De Villiers, Eben Etzebeth is another player who could miss the Test at Loftus. Etzebeth hurt his shoulder in the clash with Scotland, and the Bok medical team will wait a few days before taking a decision on his availability.

The good news for South Africa is that Willem Alberts (side strain) came through Monday's training session without complaint and could feature against Samoa.

Roberts said that Alberts will need to come through fitness tests on Tuesday and Wednesday to be given the green light. If he is passed fit, he will start at No 7.

Francois Louw, who missed the recent Test against Scotland because he was getting married in Durban, is also expected to face the Samoans.

If De Villiers and Etzebeth are cleared, Meyer is likely to make few changes to his starting line-up.

The Bok coach said on Monday that the team must improve on their patchy showing against Scotland, and that continuity in selection will give them the best chance of realising this objective.

Photo: Barry Aldworth/BackpagePix

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