Johannesburg – Springbok captains Warren Whiteley and Eben Etzebeth will play no part in the three-Test series against England, and have been told to focus their time and energy rather on the Rugby Championship campaign which starts after the completion of Super Rugby.
There have been question marks over both players’ availability since they sustained injuries earlier this year and both were expected to be back in some form by the start of the England series.
But Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus revealed that he had had long chats with both players and told them to concentrate on regaining their full fitness, rather than rushing to try and face the England squad that arrives in South Africa on Sunday.
Erasmus has made up his mind that while it would be great to have the leadership duo back in the squad, he wants them back fully fit when they return so that they can play a meaningful role in the leadership group taking the team forward.
The same goes for the likes of Coenie Oosthuizen, who is also recovering from injury.
The Boks have already learnt that they will also be without Lood de Jager and Lizo Gqoboka, both who sustained injuries that will probably end their season, but Whiteley and Etzebeth have been the subject of much speculation in recent weeks.
Whiteley was meant to tour with the Lions some six weeks back before he re-injured the same knee ligament in the last training session before the team departed.
Since then the Lions have kept mum on his return and offered only speculation that it would happen in a few weeks.
Etzebeth has also been reported to be returning just before the June Tests but the news now leaves both players enough time to complete their rehabilitation at a steady pace without rushing things.
“We have had good chats with Warren, Eben, Coenie and Lood, Lizo. Lizo and Lood are more longer term injuries,” Erasmus said when quizzed on the duo.
“But the advantage in all of this is they can start focusing on the Rugby Championship. They can start doing analysis on Australia and New Zealand and begin putting their heads into those games.
“The advantage is that they will be fresh and fit. But they will definitely not be ready for this June Test series.”
Erasmus also learnt on Monday that Roelof Smit’s MCL ligament tear was worse than expected and is expected to keep him out for around three months, confounding his luck as he was also on the brink of returning to the Springbok squad while there was good news on Marco van Staden, who seemingly was in the squad until he got injured in the last minute of the Bulls loss against the Brumbies, and has only “badly sprained” his ankle, and not a fracture as was first thought.