Jacques Nienaber has confirmed that Duane Vermeulen is in a race against time to prove his readiness for the upcoming Rugby Championship opener between the Springboks and All Blacks in Nelspruit. DYLAN JACK reports.
Veterans Vermeulen and Frans Steyn were added to the Bok squad for the Rugby Championship after the No 8 missed the home series against Wales due to a knee operation, while two-time world champion Steyn was ruled out with a hamstring injury suffered during the Cheetahs’ Currie Cup campaign.
However, in a media conference on Wednesday, Nienaber revealed that Vermeulen is still not ready to return to full team training, putting him in serious doubt for the tournament opener against the All Blacks next Saturday.
“We got them in to have a look at them. They have been busy with rehab and we wanted to have a good look at them under our medical staff, to see where they are at,” explained Nienaber.
“They must handle this week’s load. We are only on Wednesday. We have another training session on Friday before next week. Duane hasn’t had a rugby session yet, so I think it would be tough to get him in the mix. He is still busy with his return-to-play rehab sessions.”
On a positive note for the Springboks, Nienaber was far more confident that Steyn will be available for selection.
“Frans is in training sessions, so he is training with us. He did last week’s pre-season training with the Cheetahs. So, he already has one week of pre-season under the belt and he will have this whole week with us.”
Their recall came at the expense of Vodacom Bulls flank Marcell Coetzee and Sharks flyer Aphelele Fassi, who were both released from the squad and returned to their franchises.
“Aphelele and Marcell are unfortunate. They served the team well. They understood their roles and off-field responsibilities and did that top-notch.
“On-field, we have performance analysis after every game and that is shared with the players. It’s not my place to discuss their performance assessment with the public. They know exactly and can talk about it if they want to.
“I am confident that they know where their gaps are and what we want them to work on. I told both players that it’s not goodbye. If there is another injury in the outside backs or another couple of injuries at loose forward, they will slot straight in.”
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