Injuries piling up in Rassie's first Bok year

2018-05-15 07:36
Rassie Erasmus (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - The news coming out of Pretoria on Monday was the latest blow to new Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus as he plans for his first year in charge of the national side.

Prop Lizo Gqoboka has a toe injury while lock Lood de Jager has a chest strain. Both players will be out for four months

In the case of Gqoboka, the impact the injury will have on the national side is not known. While he has been in good form in 2018, the 28-year-old is uncapped at international level and it is not clear what plans, if any, Erasmus had for him in June. 

The loss of De Jager, though, is massive. 

South Africa's Player of the Year in 2015, De Jager has been superb in 2018 as he has finally started delivering on the promise he showed three years ago. 

With Eben Etzebeth still out injured and almost certainly unavailable for the June Tests, De Jager had emerged as a front-runner for a place in the Bok second row.

Erasmus, all of a sudden, finds himself a little short of options in that department, though he does still have Pieter-Steph du Toit and Franco Mostert to consider at No 5 while RG Snyman is expected to play at No 4. 

Just 24 hours earlier, Erasmus had been given another dose of bad news as Pat Lambie was ruled out for the foreseeable future with a knee injury that he picked up in the European Champions Cup final on Sunday. 

On the surface, this one doesn't hurt as much. 

It's not that Lambie isn’t an asset for the Boks, but rather that Erasmus seems well-stocked in those positions. 

Handre Pollard will wear the No 10 jersey this year, while Elton Jantjies, Damian Willemse and Robert du Preez have all played good rugby, too. 

Then, at fullback, Erasmus has an in-form Warrick Gelant, who continues to impress. 

Lambie may have offered a versatile option off the bench for the Boks, but there is enough talent currently doing the rounds in Super Rugby to suggest that Erasmus has sufficient options at 10 and 15. 

The biggest blow to the new coach came a week ago when Lions hooker Malcolm Marx was sidelined for six weeks with a hamstring injury.

Marx, considered one of the best players in world rugby right now, is perhaps the Boks' biggest weapon moving towards the 2019 World Cup and replacing him for the three Tests against June will be nearly impossible. 

Adriaan Strauss, Bismarck du Plessis and Chiliboy Ralepelle have emerged as potential replacements, but whichever way you look at it, Marx will be missed. 

Then, of course, Erasmus will have to pick a captain and with each passing week it is looking more likely that Warren Whiteley will not be that man.

While the Lions have gone a bit quiet on his progress, Whiteley remains sidelined with a knee injury that doesn't seem to want to go away. 

Siya Kolisi and Handre Pollard are other leadership options, but Erasmus had hinted last month that Whiteley would be a "strong contender" for the captaincy if he was fit. 

It isn't anywhere near panic stations yet, but with each new injury Erasmus's job becomes that much more difficult. 

A series win against England is an absolute must as he looks to start winning back the trust of the South African rugby public, and Erasmus will be hoping more than anyone that there is no more bad news between now and then.

Read more on:    springboks  |  super rugby  |  lood de jager  |  rugby

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