Injury blows for Boks

Duane Vermeulen, Damian de Allende and Lionel Mapoe have been ruled out of the first Test against France due to injury, reports JON CARDINELLI in Pretoria.

Vermeulen sustained a shoulder injury while playing for Toulon in the Top 14 final on Sunday. De Allende is still recovering from the thigh ailment he picked up in the recent clash between the Stormers and Sharks. 

Mapoe is in the final stages of his rehabilitation from a hamstring strain, but Bok coach Allister Coetzee said on Monday that he will also not be considered for selection for this coming Saturday’s clash.

The injury to Vermeulen will leave the Boks light on experience and physicality in the back row. Coetzee, however, feels that the Boks will cope in the absence of the 2014 SA Rugby Player of the Year.

'We will find out more about Duane's injury when he joins us on Tuesday,' said Coetzee. 'He will be assessed by our team doctor and may see a specialist to determine the severity of the injury.

'Obviously we will miss what he brings in terms of experience as well as his knowledge of French players. That said, we have been training with other players [in the back row] at the recent camps. I've been happy with their progress and attitude.

'Every player is going to bring something different to a position. What you gain on swings you lose on roundabouts. No two players are identical.'

Lukhanyo Am has been ruled out for the duration of the series, and with De Allende and Mapoe also sidelined, Coetzee will be forced to field another new midfield combination.

The Bok coach said the injury to Vermeulen and the late arrival of Francois Hougaard (from Worcester in England) may see a locally-based group of players starting against the French at Loftus.

'We may well see that. It's about rewarding players who have performed well and those who have trained together ahead of the first Test,' Coetzee said.

'Combinations are built over a number of games. We've seen how well the Lions combinations have worked in Super Rugby. For example, look at the combination at the back to field kicks for them [No 8 Warren Whiteley, scrumhalf Ross Cronjé, flyhalf Elton Jantjies, winger Courtnall Skosan and fullback Andries Coetzee – who are all in the current Bok squad]. That combination has worked well this season.'

Hougaard and centre Frans Steyn, who currently plays for Montpellier in France, could well feature in the match 23 though. Outside of Jantjies, the Boks have no specialist flyhalf in the extended squad. 

'It's not ideal [having only one specialist 10 in the group,' said Coetzee. 'Frans Steyn is a seasoned campaigner, and we fall back on him as a flyhalf option.'

Coetzee also revealed that Handré Pollard, who missed the entire 2016 season with injuries, could be back on the playing field sooner rather than later. According to Coetzee, Pollard will make his comeback for the Blue Bulls in the Provincial Rugby Challenge sometime in the next two weeks.

Watch Monday's full Bok press conference:

Photo: Ben Radford/Corbis via Getty Images

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