The importance of the injury assessments to Duane Vermeulen, Fourie du Preez, Marcell Coetzee and Jean de Villiers cannot be underestimated as the Springboks get set to regather in Durban, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
After one final week of training and planning, Bok coach Heneke Meyer will make the highly-anticipated announcement of his 31-man World Cup squad on 28 August.
Having undergone neck surgery in July, the latest Saru medical report on Vermeulen suggested his rehabilitation was progressing well.
Last year’s SA Rugby Player of the Year and IRB World Player of the Year nominee has been in a race against time to prove his fitness for the World Cup, and he is one player the Boks would be willing to move heaven and earth to ensure is available.
As a physical ball-carrier, powerful defender, sound lineout option and breakdown threat, Vermeulen simply has no peer.
Schalk Burger has done a solid job slotting in at the back of the scrum for the last four Tests, but the Boks will be desperate to have their first-choice No 8 back in action for the big matches of the World Cup.
Then, when it comes to Du Preez, it’s been a source of frustration that the veteran scrumhalf hasn’t quite been able to recover sufficiently from a knee injury in time to feature this season.
Meyer has repeatedly stated that he knows what he will get out of a player such as Du Preez, but he’s also been very clear about not picking a player who is not 100 percent fit.
The good news is that Du Preez was close to selection for the matches against Argentina, and Meyer will now need to decide if he’s comfortable giving the 33-year-old a sought-after World Cup ticket despite limited game-time.
Meyer will also need to give serious consideration to the number of players he can afford to select in his final squad that may have some degree of an injury cloud hovering over them.
Coetzee and De Villiers suffered a knee injury and fractured jaw respectively in the Boks’ final Rugby Championship Test against Argentina, and will also have to prove their fitness.
After suffering his unfortunate injury, Coetzee was said to be out for six weeks, which would place his availability in doubt for the Boks’ opening World Cup match against Japan on 19 September.
With his versatility and superb work rate, Coetzee is thoroughly deserving of a place in the World Cup squad, but considering the competition for loose forward berths, the Boks cannot afford to have any doubt over his recovery process.
And while De Villiers will be able to train and should be ready for the start of the World Cup, his ill-timed injury has served to further complicate the selection issue after just working his way back from a horror knee injury.
These are all men that Meyer will be desperate to have fit and in-form at the World Cup, but there will also be an inevitable element of risk related to including players who have been carrying injuries.
Such key decisions will be another crucial aspect during Meyer’s final selection process, with the squad set to regroup in Durban from Thursday.
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