Durban - While coach Heyneke Meyer has rounded up all the usual suspects as he prepares the Springbok squad for the Rugby World Cup, one of his favourites - veteran centre Jaque Fourie - has gone missing.
It was late in June that Meyer included the 32-year-old Fourie in his Springbok training squad.
“Even though Jaque Fourie announced that he had retired from Test rugby late last year, we have had positive talks with him and his club in Japan,” said Meyer at the time.
“An agreement was reached that he will be available for one last season of Test rugby. As soon as he’s back to full fitness, we’ll consider him for selection.”
Fourie was almost immediately sent back to his club in Japan to regain full fitness and the burly outside centre spoke of his excitement at the prospect of again being involved in a Rugby World Cup campaign.
But a source inside the Springbok camp told The Witness yesterday that Fourie has now told Meyer that he will not be ready for the RWC and no longer wishes to be considered.
Meyer, if he had his way, would have selected a backline for the RWC that would have included Jean de Villiers, Fourie and Frans Steyn but circumstances have changed.
Fourie, it appears, has confirmed his retirement from international rugby, captain Jean de Villiers has still to prove he has regained form and fitness, and Frans Steyn’s future in the squad is now uncertain following the sudden death of his brother on Monday and a lingering chest injury.
Meyer is short of midfield experience but the good news, of course, is that young midfield replacements Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel have excelled in three successive outings for the Springboks.
While Fourie apparently no longer wants a piece of the World Cup action, Pat Lambie says he will do whatever it takes to make the squad.
Lambie, a member of the 2011 World Cup squad, was the natural successor to flyhalf Morné Steyn but serious injury over the past two years has stalled his career.
He is now second choice to the talented Handré Pollard but could be back in the starting line-up for Saturday’s international against Argentina if the Bulls flyhalf fails a concussion test.
Lambie told reporters yesterday that he is quite prepared to play a utility role if it brings him game time.
“I am happy to play either fullback or flyhalf for the Boks. Right now any game time would be great for me.”
Lambie said his confidence is returning after an extended break with a neck injury. “In the beginning I obviously had to deal with a few horrible thoughts in my head, but now my head feels fine and I go onto the field feeling fully confident. Obviously injuries are very frustrating, and you could say the latest one came at the wrong time, but there is never a good time.
“The sideline is the worst place to be. But you do try to take advantage of your time on the side. I worked hard on aspects of my conditioning, and I feel mentally fresh and hungry and ready to go more than ever before.”
There are four flyhalves in the squad, with Morné Steyn and Elton Jantjies also in contention.
“Hopefully the competition between the four of us helps bring the best out of us, and what is good is that we all get along well too,” said Lambie.
He spoke glowingly of Steyn - “a wonderful personality who has an outstanding sense of humour”.
The Sharks flyhalf, who has had his shares of ups and downs during his brief career, remains philosophical about the future.
“I have learnt in rugby that there are no guarantees or certainties, and a lot can change in a short time. Both now and in 2011 my primary goal has been to just make the World Cup squad. That means a lot of hard work, so not much has changed in that regard.”