Duane Vermeulen won’t be back for the Springboks until their opening World Cup match against Japan. JON CARDINELLI reports.
On Monday, the Bok medical team confirmed Vermeulen will undergo neck surgery this week. It's hoped the operation on Wednesday will improve Vermeulen’s chances of recovery in the lead-up to the World Cup this September.
However, Vermeulen will not be available for any of the Boks’ five matches before that global tournament. Team doctor Craig Roberts said on Monday that Vermeulen would be sidelined for a minimum of eight weeks.
‘He won’t play any games before the World Cup,’ said Roberts. ‘He may be ready in eight weeks, but 10 weeks is more realistic.
‘The good news is that he will be able to train after his surgery. He won’t be taking any contact, but conditioning-wise we will have an opportunity to get him into peak condition.’
Last month, Vermeulen pulled up with a neck problem in training. He was forced to miss the Stormers’ Vodacom Super Rugby league clashes against the Lions and Sharks, as well as the subsequent play-off against the Brumbies.
At the time, the Stormers medical team said that Vermeulen did not require surgery. It was hoped that with conservative treatment, the Bok No 8 would recover ahead of the international season.
However, after visiting yet another specialist in Durban recently, the decision was taken to progress with surgery. The Bok management hope this will improve Vermeulen’s chances of being ready for the World Cup.
The good news is that flyhalf Pat Lambie, who has battled his own neck injury over the past few months, will be available for selection this week. Scrumhalf Cobus Reinach (hand), lock Lood de Jager (elbow), and flank Schalk Burger (groin) have also been cleared, while captain Jean de Villiers (knee) could feature from the bench. Centre Jan Serfontein (knee) and flank Heinrich Brussow (arm) are recovering well, but won't be available for this week's match against the World XV.
Flank Willem Alberts still requires intense rehabilitation to his ankle, and will be monitored on a week-by-week basis. It's hoped that both Alberts and scrumhalf Fourie du Preez (knee) will be available for the Rugby Championship Test against the All Blacks on 25 July.
Centre Frans Steyn (pectoral) and lock Pieter-Steph du Toit (knee) have already been released to the Sharks to continue with their respective recoveries. The pair won’t be considered until the match against Argentina on 8 August.
Finally, Roberts said prop Coenie Oosthuizen could yet be fit for the World Cup.
‘His surgery went well and there's still a chance he will be ready,’ said Roberts. ‘He might be able to play a couple of warm-up games [in the Currie Cup] before the World Cup squad is announced [on 28 August].’
Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images