Johannesburg - Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer’s hopes of touring with a fit and strong team to Ireland, Scotland and England next month took another blow on Tuesday when Bok loose forward Jacques Potgieter was ruled out for six to eight weeks with a groin injury.
According to the supersport.com website, Potgieter, who was ruled out of the final Castle Rugby Championship Test with the same problem, will undergo an operation on Wednesday to sort out the injury and will need to be on the sideline until the new year, ensuring he will not tour with the national side.
Potgieter was a bit of a controversial choice when Bok coach Heyneke Meyer chose him ahead of the England tests in June and has had a slow start to his Springbok career, but his injury certainly leaves another void and adds another name to an already crowded injury list.
The Bok coach is set to take an increasingly young team over on the tour, and may even have to choose a new captain, with incumbent Jean de Villiers still struggling with a hamstring injury, although indications are he will be okay for the opening Test of the tour against Ireland in Dublin.
Already the season started without Meyer being able to choose experienced Boks like Schalk Burger and Juan Smith, and the loss of experience was made worse by defections of Jaque Fourie, Fourie du Preez, Danie Rossouw and Ryan Kankowski to Japan.
During the season, the Boks have had a horrible injury list, with the likes of Bismarck du Plessis, Frans Steyn, Pierre Spies, Siya Kolisi, Heinrich Brüssow, Johan Goosen and Coenie Oosthuizen all injured and ruled out of the tour in the last few months.
While some of the injuries have come to young guns, the Boks have lost a load of experience, with Meyer hoping that De Villiers makes it through for the tour as well.
If those losses weren’t enough, last week hooker Tiaan Liebenberg and lock Andries Bekker were both ruled out of action for the tour, meaning a new lock forward will need to be chosen.
And with Morné Steyn facing a disciplinary hearing on Tuesday, the Boks may well lose the chance to pick him as well.
While Keegan Daniel and Arno Botha are the favourites to fill the void left by Potgieter, with Botha a more natural blindside flank, at hooker the news is at least good that Chiliboy Ralepelle won’t be undergoing a shoulder operation, as feared earlier in the season.
Ralepelle and Adriaan Strauss are likely to fight it out for the hooking berth while it will be interesting to see who takes Bekker’s place, and if Meyer will include a young gun like Pieter-Steph du Toit, or turn to an experienced hand like Franco van der Merwe for the tour.
Talk of Rossouw or Bakkies Botha coming back would defeat the purpose as Meyer will be looking for a No 5 lock to call lineouts, and both those mentioned are four locks.