Flank Roelof Smit has been ruled out for the rest of the Springbok tour after sustaining an injury in training, reports JON CARDINELLI in London.
Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse for a battling and injury-hit Bok side, they've lost yet another loose forward to serious injury.
Allister Coetzee confirmed that Smit was injured in training and will play no further part in the Boks' three-Test tour. The incident occured during a training session on Monday morning when Smit went in for a tackle and felt his arm give.
The flanker was subsequently taken to hospital and treated. The Bok medical team has confirmed that Smit suffered a pectoral muscle tear – and not a bicep injury as was initially reported – .and will fly back to South Africa on Monday evening.
The upshot is that the Boks need to find an alternative at No 6 for the matches against England, Italy and Wales. The problem, as Coetzee confirmed on Monday, is that the Boks have already suffered significant losses in this position over the course of the season.
Francois Louw, Jaco Kriel and Marcell Coetzee are all recovering from their respective injuries, as is Siya Kolisi, a blindside who has played at openside for the Boks before. According to the Boks, loose forwards such as Heinrich Brüssow, Duane Vermeulen, and Schalk Burger are not available for the tour of Europe.
'We have a few plans that we will consider putting in place,' said Coetzee when he was asked about his selection at No 6, and the back row as a unit.
'The game up here is very different to how it's played in the southern hemisphere. When you look at picking an openside, you're not just looking at a guy to make turnovers. You're looking at a guy who can secure the first breakdown. He has to be defensively strong.'
Coetzee has called up Uzair Cassiem, who played blindside flank for the Cheetahs this season, ahead of the clash against England. At the same time, Coetzee expressed his confidence in the current group of loose forwards, and suggested that he may 'create an openside' in the short term.
'We have a strong group here. Nizaam Carr played at openside for the Stormers in 2014. There are also guys like Jean-Luc du Preez, Oupa Mohoje and Warren Whiteley who can add value.'
Coetzee confirmed that Burger, who currently plays for English club Saracens, is not available for Test rugby this year.
With regard to Vermeulen, who fits the bill as a strong physical player who can force turnovers and dominate the gainline, there is no chance of a recall at this stage. Vermeulen wasn't included in the touring party for reasons related to his conditioning. On Monday, however, Coetzee highlighted another reason.
'When I chatted to Duane, he made it clear that he would be going back to South Africa this week for the birth of his second child,' said Coetzee. 'So no, he's not available.'
Meanwhile, Coetzee may face another problem in the back three. On Monday, the Bok coach said he was worried about Bryan Habana, who is battling a knee injury.
The good news is that wing JP Pietersen is on the mend and may be ready to face England. Fullback Willie le Roux has been given the all clear.
Pieter-Steph du Toit, Beast Mtawarira, Vincent Koch and Lourens Adriaanse didn't train on Monday but Coetzee is confident that they will be available for the Test at Twickenham.
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