Durban - The Springboks have called up Cheetahs centre Robert Ebersohn to the squad, following injuries to Jean de Villiers, JJ Engelbrecht and Juan de Jongh ahead of their opening international of the season against Italy at Kings Park on Saturday.
Ebersohn’s inclusion follows uncertainty over the availability of the trio who sat out training in Durban on Monday, along with several other key men, and management later confirmed that Stormers' centre De Jongh would not feature against the Azzurri.
"I’m really happy for Robert and his call-up is well-deserved," said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
GALLERY: Springbok rugby fans
really playing great rugby for the Cheetahs at the moment and was
involved in both of our training camps this season, but in the end just
missed out on selection to the final squad."
Ebersohn will join
the Springbok squad in Durban on Tuesday morning. As his inclusion is
only precautionary, he will only remain with the squad as long as any of
the other midfielders remain injured.
Bulls' captain Pierre Spies was also among the spectators, because of a tight groin, and Francois Louw (quad strain) and Pieter-Steph du Toit (sternum) were also given a precautionary break.
"Jean has a mild hamstring strain and a decision on him will be made later in the week," team doctor Craig Roberts said.
"JJ Engelbrecht has a knock on his quad, so he too didn't train. We'll also make a call on him later in the week.
"Juan de Jongh has had that fractured finger, and it was always going to be touch and go with him.
"After an X-Ray today, we've made the decision that we're not going to consider him for this weekend, but we're hoping he'll be ready for the following week in Nelspruit," said Roberts.
Ebersohn has been in superb form this season and coach Heyneke Meyer admitted he was unlucky to have missed out on selection when the initial 34-man squad was named on Saturday.
"Robert’s been awesome this year," the Bok boss said.
"He usually plays 13 and I thought he was probably the one guy I felt was very unlucky not to be in the (initial) squad," Meyer said earlier on Monday.
Meyer lamented his concern about the centre position, and particularly the captaincy.
De Villiers was forced off the field for the final 10 minutes of the Stormers' Super Rugby clash against the Southern Kings on Saturday.
"Obviously it's a concern. I’m especially concerned about the centre position, because suddenly there’s three guys that can’t train.
"But, we’ve got a good medical team and I’m hopeful Jean and JJ will be ready. You obviously want your captain there and the experience in as well."
With De Villiers struggling, it means there could be a completely inexperienced midfield against the Italians with 20-year-old Jan Serfontein the only fit centre, in line for his debut.
"Jean is a fighter and wants to play, but you don't want to push him," Meyer said.
Meyer said there were several candidates waiting in the wings to potentially stand in as skipper.
"Last year, I was really worried about the captaincy, but the group has grown in experience over the past 12 months," he said.
"We have Francois Louw, who's been captain at Bath. He's really impressed me.
"Pierre is captain at the Bulls, and playing his best rugby currently. Adriaan's [Strauss] been the vice-captain and he's leading from the front for the Cheetahs and a guy like Bismarck is also there. So we have a lot of guys that can come in."