Cape Town - While Springbok supporters are still reconciling with the fact that they might be without Duane Vermeulen at this year's Rugby World Cup, there is now fresh concern over the availability of Willem Alberts.
Alberts had already been ruled out of this Saturday's clash against the World XV at Newlands with an ankle injury on Monday, but more clarity over his fitness and the seriousness of the situation was revealed by coach Heyneke Meyer on Wednesday.
"He’s been struggling with a few injuries," said Meyer.
"He had an op at the end of last year so he’s been struggling with a back injury and his knee is not 100%.
"Whenever he puts a lot of effort in he gets more injured so it’s a bit of a catch 22 and he’s just hurt his ankle ligaments as well.
"So he struggles to run, he struggles to train and if you don’t train you fall behind and if you do train you come away with injuries. So we’re boxing smart with him at the moment, taking him out of sessions and (it is now) mostly gym work and rehabilitation."
Meyer added that Alberts' heavy work load during Super Rugby as well as his physical approach to the game might help explain his fight for fitness.
"It’s just a question of being over-played. And the way he plays – he’s a very physical warrior – he’s always going to get injured," said Meyer.
"The plan was to bring him back against the All Blacks but, looking at him now, he won’t be fit for the All Blacks so the plan is rather to take him out of all this and really condition him well."
Meyer has opted for a lose trio of Francois Louw, Marcell Coetzee and Warren Whiteley and while he acknowledges the loss of Alberts and Vermeulen, he has urged his players to show that they have what it takes to fill those positions.
"With Willem and Duane out, we know what we’ve got in them," said Meyer.
"It’s going to be a race for them to be ready for the World Cup so we have to look at different combinations.
"Although Marcell is more an open-side flanker I want to see what he and Flo can do together."
Kick-off on Saturday is at 17:00.
15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Victor Matfield (captain), 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Oupa Mohoje, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jean de Villiers