CJ goes home, waiting on Gurthro
The Springboks went into their second training session of the week building up to the final test of the year against England at Twickenham with a lot of tight forward uncertainty hanging over the squad.
Props CJ van der Linde and Gurthro Steenkamp both pulled up in training on Monday, and by Tuesday afternoon it was announced that Van der Linde would be flying home early and be unavailable for Twickenham.
The 75-test veteran started at loosehead against Ireland and played off the bench against Scotland this past week, but has sustained a hamstring injury.
He will be replaced in the squad by Lions prop JC Janse van Rensburg, who will fly to London to serve as back-up to Steenkamp and Heinke van der Merwe, with the decision to call him up a clear indication that the management are not 100% sure that Steenkamp will be ready to face England.
“Seeing that Gurthro was not feeling 100% fit on Monday and keeping in mind that first-choice Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira was forced at the last minute to withdraw from the Ireland test and then had to fly home earlier in the tour, we have decided it would be best to have proper cover at loosehead,” said Bok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“JC is an experienced player at Vodacom Super Rugby and Absa Currie Cup level and also captained the MTN Golden Lions very well this year. He’s been knocking on the national door for long and this will provide an opportunity for JC to experience the Springbok culture and structures.”
Indeed, but going into a test against England effectively uncertain about two positions in the tight five is not an ideal situation for the Boks to be in.
Eben Etzebeth’s hearing for alleged foul play was due to start later on Tuesday, so the big lock was unable to train with the Boks at the Latymer School near White City.
The Boks are unable to comment on the Etzebeth situation because it is sub judice, but there is widespread confidence that the player will be cleared.
Even if he is, however, having him miss training is far from ideal, particularly considering that the tight five is supposedly an area of England strength.
The Boks also still have to make a call on JP Pietersen, who has a groin injury and was unable to train on Monday.
The Boks have arrived at this juncture of their tour and rugby year carrying a lot of bumps and bruises as a legacy of the big hits that have been put in along the way, and it is going to take a special effort for them to scale the final mountain at Twickenham.