VIDEO: The two players that could make dramatic comebacks
Two legends of the game, who have been ruled out by injury, may still play significant roles in the Test series between South Africa and the British and Irish Lions.
Both Rassie Erasmus, SA’s Director of Rugby, and B&I Lions coach Warren Gatland confirmed that veterans Duane Vermeulen and Alun Wyn Jones could feature in the latter stages of the three-Test series.
Vermeulen, 34 and capped 54 times by the Springboks since his debut almost a decade ago, underwent surgery early in June after he injured his ankle during the Bulls’ Rainbow Cup win over the Stormers.
Jones, 35 and capped 157 times (nine times by the B&I Lions and 148 times by Wales), was scratched from the tour following the shoulder injury he sustained at a seventh-minute ruck in a warm-up game against Japan at Murrayfield before the tour.
Both Vermeulen and Jones are now linked to dramatic returns.
Erasmus said putting Vermeulen in an ‘isolation bubble’ will work pretty much the same as what the B&I Lions will have to do to get Jones back in the mix.
“Duane [Vermeulen] is also in the mix, maybe, for the last [Third] Test match [on August 7],” Erasmus told a virtual media briefing.
“The way Alun [Wyn Jones] will join the B&I Lions’ bubble, Duane [Vermeulen] will pretty much join us [the Boks] – if both of them are fit.”
Erasmus said there is a protocol for players joining from outside the respected camps, guided by the tour’s Medical Advisory Committee.
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“Yes, there is an outside chance for Duane, but we are not banking on that.
“We are just monitoring him.”
Jones, the original B&I Lions captain, still has a few fitness test to pass.
“A few weeks ago we did not think that it was an option,” Gatland told a virtual media briefing on Monday – when asked about Jones’ possible comeback.
“He [Jones] has been back fully training with Wales.
“I think he is doing a double session with them tomorrow [Tuesday] and we will just see what the outcome is.
“He has made a remarkable recovery.
“The assessment was that the injury was not as bad as they first thought.
“It is a real positive and it would be a boost to the squad for someone of his experience and calibre to come back.”
Erasmus and Gatland on Monday named their teams for the ‘fourth Test’ of the tour – when the SA ‘A’ team will face the B&I Lions at the Cape Town Stadium on Wednesday.
Scrumhalf and current tour captain Conor Murray will his first start of the tour and his first game as captain since taking over from Jones.
“I think it is going to be pretty much a Test match,” he told @rugby365com, when asked about the game.
“If you look at their [South Africa A] line-up, it’s going to be a really intense game, almost a fourth Test.
“Since we arrived in Cape Town [on Sunday] the players have switched to a more serious mode in terms of our preparation and the edge that we have in training.
“Having seen the South Africa A line-up, it is only going to sharpen our focus even more.
“It’s going to be a real battle, almost like a fourth Test for us, a massive challenge and a preparation for what’s to come.”