Bok coach: Duane a handful at training as he nears full fitness

Duane Vermeulen is nearing the final phase of his injury rehabilitation, with Bok coach Jacques Nienaber confirming the No 8 is keen to take contact again.

Earlier this month Vermeulen joined the Springbok team at their Cape Town base in the buildup to the third and final Test against the British & Irish Lions.

Over the past few weeks, the experienced eighthman has been undergoing rehabilitation following ankle surgery, and has recently begun a gradual return to training.

Vermeulen has also performed ‘water boy’ duties for the first two Rugby Championship Tests against Argentina, and now appears to be close to full fitness.

“Duane has been a handful for us at training and he is keen to take contact again,” said Nienaber after this past Saturday’s Test.

Meanwhile, Nienaber could not immediately give details regarding the injury to loosehead prop Trevor Nyakane, who hobbled off after just 13 minutes on Saturday with what appeared to be an ankle problem.

There is also concern over scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse, who could “be in trouble” after suffering a leg injury soon after coming on as a replacement.

“He went for scans. Hopefully it is not too bad, but Jaden is a tough character and he could not put weight on his leg.

“I think it might be more than just a ligament … it might be bone. Hopefully it is not that bad, but I think he is going to be in trouble.”

His injury raises to three the number of Springbok scrumhalves sidelined after first-choice Faf de Klerk and Herschel Jantjies, leaving Cobus Reinach as the only fit No 9 in the squad.

However, both De Klerk and Jantjies are expected to be fit soon.

The injury is the latest turn in a dramatic season for Hendrikse that includes a red card against the British & Irish Lions when playing for the Sharks, and a surprise Bok call-up and fairytale debut.

Hendrikse was sent off playing for the Sharks against the Lions in Pretoria after striking Wales fullback Liam Williams with an elbow, and served a three-week suspension.

He was then added to the Springbok squad and drafted into the match-day 23 as a replacement just hours before the opening Rugby Championship clash.

Coming off the bench late in the second half, he scored the 79th-minute try that secured a bonus point for a Springbok side that had already clinched victory.

South Africa will remain in Gqeberha until the Rugby Championship organisers map out the future of a 2021 edition hampered by coronavirus travel restrictions.

New Zealand have withdrawn from a second-round fixture against Australia in Perth on Saturday pending clarity on venues and dates for the remaining nine matches.

Australia and South Africa are possible hosts and there has also been speculation of a move to Europe with double-headers in Cardiff, Dublin, London and Paris.

Additional reporting by AFP

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Craig Lewis