ThorMeulen and Faf ready to be unleashed
Tournament leaders South Africa head to Brisbane on Thursday for the remainder of the Rugby Championship, bolstered by the news that a number of key players will be fit to return to play.
South Africa, who top the standings after back-to-back wins over Argentina in Port Elizabeth, face Australia on the Gold Coast (September 12) and in Brisbane (September 18).
That is followed by back-to-back encounters with arch-rivals New Zealand in Townsville (September 25) and Gold Coast (October 2) – with the first of those the historic 100th encounter between the Springboks and All Blacks.
Bok coach Jacques Nienaber confirmed that two key positions – loose forward and scrumhalf – will see the return of a number of star players – including veteran Duane Vermeulen and Francois de Klerk.
Nienaber revealed that De Klerk “ran well” in training, while Vermeulen also trained with the rest of the team for the past three weeks.
Vermeulen acted as a ‘water boy’ in the two Argentina internationals and his quicker-than-expected recovery from ankle surgery has gladdened the coach, Nienaber.
“Duane has been outstanding in training and is making contact,” he said, adding: “He made it tough for us in training.
“He hasn’t had a lot of contact and was keen to get stuck in [against his teammates].”
Jean-Luc du Preez has also recovered from his medial collateral ligament (knee) injury and adds further dept to the already impressive loose forward stock.
“Rynhardt Elstadt is almost ready to go again, [after his knee injury],” the Bok coach said.
“We are fortunate that those loose forwards are all getting back into the mix.”
Although Jasper Wiese acquitted himself well in the middle of the back row during July and August, the return of Vermeulen is a massive boost.
The 35-year-old is not only an outstanding forward in tight and loose exchanges, but a key asset to captain Siya Kolisi when it comes to on-field leadership.
The veteran back row forward had ankle surgery in June and, after missing the six-match home leg of the world champions’ season, should be available for a September 12 Test against Australia.
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The return of De Klerk comes after another scrumhalf injury in the squad.
Grant Williams joined the Springbok squad in Port Elizabeth this past Monday, following the withdrawal of his Sharks teammate Jaden Hendrikse – due to a leg fracture.
Hendrikse was stretchered off the field seven minutes after coming off the replacements bench – following a tackle in the team’s 29-10 victory against Argentina in PE this past Saturday.
Hendrikse has been ruled out of the remainder of the competition.
Williams, who has made a strong statement on the field for the Sharks, joins De Klerk, Herschel Jantjies and Cobus Reinach as the scrumhalves in the squad.
De Klerk is fit again and Jantjies is on track with his recovery from a hip pointer niggle.
Australia and New Zealand will be champing at the bit to knock the long-time leaders of the world rankings off their perch.
COVID-19 travel restrictions mean Australia will host the remaining nine matches in the annual Southern Hemisphere championship.