Boks still holding thumbs on Etzebeth
The Springboks are still waiting on the fitness of young lock Eben Etzebeth ahead of Saturday’s opening Castle Rugby Championship match on Saturday.
Although Etzebeth has made pleasing progress from his hip injury and took part in the first half of a training session in Cape Town on Monday, the Bok management say they will only make a final decision on whether he plays against Argentina after training on Tuesday.
That will be when they get their chance to make a proper assessment of how Etzebeth responded to his first training session since injuring himself playing for the Stormers in their Super Rugby semifinal over two weeks ago.
Etzebeth was given a clean enough bill of health after a visit to Johannesburg last week to see a specialist for coach Heyneke Meyer to decide against sending an SOS call to Bakkies Botha. But he is clearly still not certain of playing.
“He did train with the team today (Monday) and it was his first session (since the start of the camp) and we were happy with how he progressed,” said team doctor Craig Roberts.
“He did quite a few lineouts. We pulled him out the second session this afternoon, which was always part of the plan, but now we have to see how he responded to the training.
"We are pleased with his progress but we will only make a call after we have had a chance to assess how his body has responded, probably on Tuesday or otherwise later in the week.”
However Etzebeth did appear to pull up during the training session in the afternoon, and was attended to by the Bok physiotherapists, and Meyer later further betrayed a sense of concern about Etzebeth when he listed second-row back-up as one area that he is having to think a bit about.
He said it was preventing him from saying that he is 100% settled on his matchday 22. “The side won’t change much from game to game but we do need to look at the locks as there have been a few injuries. Andries Bekker is fit at the moment but he has had concerns in the past so with Eben struggling a bit we need to make sure we have adequate lock cover,” said Meyer.
Should Etzebeth be ruled out of the match the Boks could well opt for Willem Alberts at lock. The big Sharks player packed down in the second row in the last two matches of his team’s Super Rugby campaign.
According to how the team trained on Monday afternoon, Bekker looks set to be selected to the starting line-up ahead of Juandre Kruger, who wore the No 5 jersey against England.
Alberts is over his injury concerns and unless Etzebeth is forced out he will come back at No 7 flank for Jacques Potgieter, with Frans Steyn back at inside centre for Wynand Olivier.
There will be a forced change on the wing, with JP Pietersen out for a couple of weeks with a wrist injury, and it looks as though Bryan Habana will be moving to the right wing.
Habana has played one game at centre and has also worn the jersey of a reserve, but this will be his first feel of the No 14.
Presumably Meyer is looking at him to make the switch across instead of Lwazi Mvovo because he has the advantage in experience at this level and thus should be better able to deal with a switch.
Zane Kirchner, who was selected for the first test against England but was then injured is in line to get the nod at fullback ahead of Patrick Lambie.
Probable Bok team: Zane Kirchner, Bryan Habana, Jean de Villiers (captain), Frans Steyn, Lwazi Mvovo, Morne Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Pierre Spies, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Andries Bekker, Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Beast Mtawarira.