Springbok No 8 Duane Vermeulen has been ruled out of the series-deciding third Test against Ireland due to an elbow injury. JON CARDINELLI reports from Port Elizabeth.
Vermeulen sustained the injury in the second Test against Ireland in Johannesburg. The Bok No 8 went for scans in Port Elizabeth on Monday, which revealed a grade-two tear in the elbow.
According to Bok team doctor Konrad von Hagen, Vermeulen will be sidelined for two to six weeks, depending on how the injury responds to treatment. The Bok team management confirmed that no replacement will be called up.
Prop Trevor Nyakane went for scans to his ankle on Monday. Further assessment on Tuesday morning revealed that he will not be ready for Saturday’s final Test in Port Elizabeth. While the uncapped Steven Kitshoff is now set to come into the match 23, a replacement to serve as extra cover for both loosehead and tighthead prop will be named in due course.
Warren Whiteley participated in Monday’s training drills, but did not take any contact due to a shoulder injury. The No 8 also went for scans on Monday, which confirmed that no damage had been done to his AC joint.
That said, if Whiteley fails to recover completely over the next few days, Sikhumbuzo Notshe could be pushed to start at No 8 against Ireland at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. At the Boks' training session in Zwide on Monday afternoon, it was clear that coach Allister Coetzee was looking at Notshe as a No 8 option.
The versatile Stormers loose forward spent much of the practice in that position. Coetzee rotated his back row throughout the session, giving Francois Louw as well as Jaco Kriel an opportunity to train at openside flank. Notshe was the constant at No 8.
Notshe has started eight Super Rugby games in the Stormers back row this season. More specifically, he has started at openside flank in five of those games, and at blindside in two. Notshe has started only one match at No 8 (the Stormers’ most recent game against the Cheetahs).
If Coetzee is forced to pick a new No 8 this Saturday, it will be interesting to see if he makes a further change in the back row. There have been calls for Coetzee to give Kriel an opportunity, and the Bok coach gave the impression on Monday that he was keen to do so. However, it may be a gamble to start two debutants in the back row in a game of such importance.
Indeed, judging by the way the Boks ran at the training session on Monday, there could be few if any unforced changes ahead of the third Test against Ireland. Louw and Kolisi could retain their starting positions on the flanks, and Lwazi Mvovo may again be on the left wing despite his errant showing under the high ball at Ellis Park last Saturday.
Damian de Allende is another player who did not feature in the training session. The Bok management has confirmed that the inside centre is battling a stomach bug. De Allende should be ready to start in the third Test.
On Monday, Lionel Mapoe ran at No 12 in De Allende’s absence, with Jesse Kriel at No 13. Again, this gives one an insight into who Coetzee considers as his alternative at inside centre now that the likes of Pat Lambie and Jan Serfontein are no longer with the squad.
Lambie, who can play flyhalf, centre and fullback, was recently ruled out of the third Test due to a concussion. Serfontein failed to overcome a wrist injury in the lead-up to the first Test, and was subsequently ruled out of the whole series.
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