Willem Alberts (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Springbok flank Willem Alberts is fast running out of time to be declared fit for the rest of the Rugby World Cup campaign.
According to the supersport.com website, Alberts will be assessed on Monday to prove his fitness after pulling out of the Japan game at the last minute with a calf strain, and there is a growing concern the Boks are simply carrying a player who may not be fit at all.
The big flanker is vital to Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer’s plans and has been missed all season. But with just seven games under his belt in the Vodacom Super Rugby season and nothing since, the time is running out for Alberts to play himself back into match fitness and form.
It was noticeable that he sat out all of last week’s practice sessions in the lead-up to the Samoa game and with Monday’s field training session cancelled to allow players to recover from the bruising win over Samoa, it remains a question whether or not Alberts will be ready this week?
There is an argument that if he isn’t ready for the third week of a seven week tournament the Boks should look at replacing him, and it is understandable as the team only have five loose forwards at the tournament.
The return of Duane Vermeulen has definitely made a difference, but if Alberts is not able to play this week then the Boks will seriously have to consider bringing in a replacement.
Asked about Alberts fitness, team doctor Craig Roberts said the big flank has been working hard to get fit.
“Willem has been working hard, he has been cycling. We will assess him tomorrow (Monday) and he will be assessed. With the knocks and bruises we have we have to make sure we have enough loose forwards for the weekend,” Dr Roberts said.
Asked if the line in the sand where a decision on Alberts is pending was approaching, Dr Roberts added “We’re getting there.”
Coach Heyneke Meyer already endured flack for replacing Alberts against Japan with Pieter-Steph du Toit, with the Boks being beaten at the breakdown and the side also only have one specialist fetcher. But any talk of replacing Alberts will mean replacing a like for like, with Jacques Potgieter the next seven flank on the list.
Meyer may decide though, that Marcel Coetzee, who narrowly missed out on selection and has played both sides for the Boks before, may be a better bet in that case.