Rassie: Boks fearing the worst with Duane’s injury

Rassie Erasmus says they are concerned about the severity of the ankle injury Duane Vermeulen suffered on Friday night, while highlighting that a player like Marcell Coetzee is effectively on standby. CRAIG LEWIS reports.

There is a nervy wait under way for the Springbok coaches and certainly Vermeulen, who hobbled from the field in the first half of Friday’s match between the Bulls and Stormers after he was caught awkwardly in a tackle.

Vermeulen was seen immediately applying ice to his ankle, which later was placed in a moonboot. He has headed to Cape Town, where he will undergo scans, with the results expected on Monday.

Speaking after Saturday’s 46-man Springbok squad was announced, Erasmus addressed Vermeulen’s injury and the contingency plans being put in place.

‘We will have to wait and see, but it certainly looked bad, and he wouldn’t have limped off if it wasn’t serious, so we are unfortunately fearing for the worst.

‘We always expected that with the Rainbow Cup being strength vs strength we could have some injury setbacks. Up to now, we have been quite fortunate with injuries, touch wood, but we did expect some big losses and I expect Duane might be one of them.’

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One of the notable omissions from the Springbok squad, particularly in light of the injury to Vermeulen, was that of new Bulls teammate Coetzee.

However, Bok coach Jacques Nienaber first explained the thinking in that regard.

‘Marcell last played against Leinster on 6 March when he got injured, and Friday was his first game back in week 13 after injury. But the home-ground advantage we have now with him being back in South Africa is that he could play in the final round of the Rainbow Cup and possibly the final. And perhaps also in the Bulls game against the British & Irish Lions. We could pick up injury down the line, hopefully not, but if so then he would be someone we would look at.’

Erasmus added to this point, highlighting the benefit of being able to call on local players should the need arise.

‘The most important thing for us to understand is that the provincial teams that play against the British & Irish Lions will have to go into a bubble for 10 days prior to their games. So if we send a player to one of those teams, he is 10 days away from us, so that will be a disruption.

‘On the other hand, for us to draft a player in, it is actually only one day. So if we get an injury, a player can travel the next day if he has a negative Covid-19 test result and he can join us the following day.

‘That’s why we are keeping the squad as 46 players until the first British & Irish Lions Test.  Some of the guys, like Marcell Coetzee, might be very disappointed. But there is strategic thinking in getting them more game time, because some of them are coming back from long term injuries.’

The loose forwards who have been included at this point are Dan du Preez, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi, Kwagga Smith, Marco van Staden, Duane Vermeulen, Jasper Wiese, while Jean-Luc du Preez and Rynhardt Elstadt have been listed as ‘utility forwards’.

‘Speaking about some of those guys, the two Du Preez brothers have been unlucky in the past because of the number of quality loose forwards we have, but it’s great to have them back, and obviously one can play lock. Rynhardt is also a utility lock and loose forward, which is valuable considering Lood [de Jager] and RG [Snyman] have had injuries.

‘Then when it comes to Marco, we know what we have in him, and although he wasn’t in the mix initially, he has just been playing so well. Then someone like Jasper [Wiese] can play at No 8, and with Duane’s injury that could be key. We just couldn’t ignore Jasper’s form, he has been outstanding and just knocked the door down.’

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Craig Lewis