Cape Town - Stormers behemoth Eben Etzebeth was named in the national training squad for next week’s camp in Durban, but it now seems unlikely that he will play for the Springboks in the June Test matches, the supersport.com website reports.
The big lock was doing his own drills with the fitness trainer as the Stormers trained on Monday as he gets used to putting weight on the ankle that was operated on after last year’s Springbok tour of the UK and France. But after saying at the weekend that Etzebeth had an outside chance of being ready to play against the Sharks on May 31, Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has now ruled that possibility out.
Instead, the Stormers coach says that the Stormers medical staff will meet with their Springbok counterparts and suggest that Etzebeth sit out the June Tests in their entirety as the player has taken longer to recover from his injury than anticipated and it would be risky to bring him back into rugby through a Test match.
“I will say that it is another three to four weeks just before he can start training fully again, so I would doubt that he can be used in the June Tests,” said Coetzee.
“You could get him ready during the next four weeks to play Super Rugby, but even that would be at a push. The respective medical staffs will meet to discuss it, but they are likely to agree with our medical people. And I can’t see Heyneke Meyer risking Eben as he is too valuable to the Boks.”
If the Stormers’ prognosis is correct, and even if Etzebeth did make a quicker than anticipated recovery the earliest he could be back is the second Test against Wales in Nelspruit on June 21, the Bok coach has the option of giving a young lock an opportunity to make his mark, or else turn to Bakkies Botha, who is back playing again in France after a lengthy absence due to injury.
Flip van der Merwe can easily slot into the No 4 jersey after playing at No 5 in the latter part of the last international season as Victor Matfield is back in the mix to run the Bok lineouts, but he will require back-up.
Meanwhile it has been confirmed that centre Jaque Fourie, who was not named in the 36-man training squad, will undergo an ankle operation on Tuesday that could keep him out of the game for up to six months. It is unlikely that Fourie will take part in any of the Test matches scheduled for this year.