Springbok and WP lock Eben Etzebeth has returned to full training ahead of the Currie Cup and Rugby Championship.
Etzebeth has not seen a single minute of competitive action in 2014 after first a foot, and later a toe injury, kept him out of the Stormers' entire Super Rugby campaign. After a long and arduous process he is finally nearing a return to fitness, but it remains to be seen if Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer opts to draft him into the Bok set-up immediately or allows him to get some game time under his belt with Western Province. Speaking following his team's training session in Langa on Tuesday, Western Province coach Allister Coetzee spoke candidly about Etzebeth and his fellow Springbok candidates.
'I would love to use them for one or two weeks. We worked hard to get them back to full fitness. I'm not sure yet whether they'll be involved with the Bok squad, so we will only know by next week who we will have available. If I put my Province cap on I would say that is the best thing for them [to play a few matches in the Currie Cup].'
The decision on the participation of Etzebeth and fellow Springboks Damian de Allende and Jean de Villiers ultimately lies with Heyneke Meyer though, says Coetzee.
'It's all up to the Bok coach, and he might reason the sooner they are part of the [Springbok] structures the better. But on the other hand, he might think it will be better to give them some game time, before they are exposed to the intensity of Test rugby.'
As Province continue to ramp up preparations ahead of their opening game against Eastern Province in Port Elizabeth next Friday, Coetzee has decided to hold off on the selection of his captain until after the Springbok squad announcement.
'We have identified eight to 10 players who we want to develop in a leadership role,' he said. 'We won’t be announcing a captain as yet, only once we know who will be chosen for the Springboks can we make a final decision on that. I also don't know just how the team for the opening game will look like but at this stage I'm sitting with a whole lot of selection permutations.'
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