An injury to Rudy Paige may see the French-based Jano Vermaak returning to the Springbok squad as scrumhalf cover, reports JON CARDINELLI in Cardiff.
Paige joined the Bok squad this week to provide cover for Cobus Reinach and Francois Hougaard. On Tuesday, the Bulls scrumhalf pulled up with an ankle injury at training. Further scans revealed the injury is serious, and Paige will be sidelined for as many as four weeks.
The news places the Boks in a difficult position. They need a third scrumhalf fit and available in case Reinach or Hougaard fall foul to injury between now and Saturday.
The problem is none of the players based in Europe are technically available, as the Test against Wales in Cardiff falls outside the international window. In normal circumstances, Heyneke Meyer would be on the phone to one of the South African provinces, and a scrumhalf from the Republic would be on the next flight to the United Kingdom.
But after what transpired this past week, the Boks may well look to Europe for a replacement. It’s been learned that the Wales Rugby Union has an agreement with the French clubs that allows star players such as Leigh Halfpenny, Jamie Roberts, and several others, to represent the Dragons in this particular game.
Saru attempted to secure the release of the French-based Boks for the Test against Scotland on 28 June, a game which also fell outside the international window. The request was denied, even though the European season had already concluded. Toulon-based Bryan Habana and others were forced to watch that game in Port Elizabeth from the stands.
Five months later, and it appears as if Wales are receiving special treatment. Welsh players based in England have already returned to their Premiership clubs, but the France-based contingent are still with the national squad in Cardiff. Halfpenny, Roberts, as well as the other big-name players are all expected to be included in Wales' match 23, which will be announced on Thursday.
The Bok management is still waiting for clarification on the matter, and to see who Wales select on Thursday. When contacted by SARugbymag.co.za, Saru said it was investigating the situation.
The Bok coaches and management believe there should be some consistency with regards to the regulations. If the rules are there to be broken, then the Boks may well follow Wales’ lead and look to France for a solution to their scrumhalf injury problem. Vermaak, who was with the squad in England and Italy, will return in that event. A decision will be confirmed later on Wednesday.
However, had the Boks known these rules and regulations were not be taken seriously, they would not have released their France-based players in the first place. Their match 23 for the clash against Wales may have boasted a far more experienced look.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images