Eben Etzebeth, Uzair Cassiem and Coenie Oosthuizen are fit and available to face Ireland this Saturday, reports JON CARDINELLI in Dublin.
Speaking from the team’s base in St Helens on Monday, Allister Coetzee confirmed that Etzebeth had made progress with an ankle injury and is expected to lead the Boks at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.
‘Eben did limited training with the team when they arrived in Dublin on Saturday,’ said the Bok coach. ‘He will be taking full part in training this afternoon. I have no concerns about him whatsoever and he will be fit to lead the team against Ireland.
‘Uzair Cassiem came through contact training without any problems,’ added Coetzee. ‘Coenie Oosthuizen is 100% ready. From a wellness point of view, we are in very good shape.’
Etzebeth and Lood de Jager started in the second row against the All Blacks last month. Now that the Bok captain has been cleared, it seems likely that that locking combo will be retained and another lock, Pieter-Steph du Toit, will be deployed on the blindside flank.
Coetzee feels that the team have sufficient quality across the board. He’s made no indication that the 37-Test No 8 Duane Vermeulen – who told SARugbymag.co.za on Sunday that he is presently fit and available for selection – will be recalled in the near future.
Cassiem was used at No 8 earlier this season, and may be asked to start at the back of the scrum against Ireland this Saturday.
It will be interesting to see if Oosthuizen is rushed back into the starting front row, and whether Beast Mtawarira is brought back into the mix after missing the last Test against the All Blacks.
In the backline, Handré Pollard looks set to start at flyhalf ahead of Elton Jantjies, and Damian de Allende at inside centre in place of Jan Serfontein – who has made himself unavailable for the tour due to club commitments in France.
The squad were recently hit by injuries, particularly in the loose-forward department. Coetzee and his management team can expect further challenges in the coming weeks when players break down after a long and taxing southern hemisphere season.
The Bok coach, however, feels that the players are in a good physical and mental space at this late stage of the year.
‘There’s been a lot of energy in the team, especially from our tripartite [contracted] players who have been in camp for the past few weeks. The Lions players had a good break after the Currie Cup semi-final. All the players got together after the Currie Cup final.
‘Overall, we’re in a better place in terms of our conditioning than was the case at this point last year,’ Coetzee said.
Photo: Anne Laing/HM Images