Springboks sweating on availability of key locks ahead of start of season

Springboks sweating on availability of key locks ahead of start of season

Springbok head coach Rassie Erasmus looks set to be a bit thin in the second-row department for the upcoming internationals against Wales, Ireland and Portugal.

The Bok coach looks set to be without at least one of his 2023 Rugby World Cup-winning locks, with another in doubt - however, there are certainly other options available to him.

After switching international allegiance back to South Africa, Jean Kleyn forced his way into the Springbok squad last year and featured for the side throughout the World Cup, coming off the bench in the final against New Zealand.

However, Kleyn looks set to miss the upcoming internationals against Ireland this July as he continues to recover from an eye and knee injury that cut his season with Munster short.

The tighthead lock is unlikely to return in time for the clash against the team he represented at the 2019 World Cup, according to a report by South African newspaper Rapport, and he is not the only lock who could be absent for the upcoming internationals.

Lood de Jager, who missed the World Cup last year due to a heart condition, sustained an injury in the Wild Knights' Japan Rugby League One final defeat to Toshiba Brave Lupus.

The experienced second-rower won the World Cup with the Boks in 2019 and has been a key member of the squad since his debut back in 2014, racking up 66 Test caps.

If fit, De Jager is likely to be one of the front runners - along with Franco Mostert - to start alongside Eben Etzebeth in the first Test match of the year against Wales at Twickenham Stadium, with the Japanese clubs allowing the South Africans to feature in the match outside of the international window.

According to the report, the results of his scans are not yet known, but Erasmus will be eager to have the abrasive lock in his playing squad.

As for Etzebeth, he missed the Sharks' final URC match of the season, with the Durban-based franchise citing 'recovery and niggles' as the reasoning for three of their Springboks missing the game, which hopefully shouldn't be much of a concern for Erasmus.

However, Leinster lock Jason Jenkins has been added to the growing injury list.

The one-cap Springbok linked up with the Test squad in 2022 but failed to add to his cap tally after his debut against Wales back in 2018.

Jenkins is set to be sidelined for about 12 weeks after confirming that he will not go under the knife and "should be ready for the start of pre-season."

While he has not been a regular squad member for the Springboks, he may well have been in the selection frame for the squad, offering a similar build and game to that of Kleyn.

Some good news for Erasmus is that reports from Ireland suggest double World Cup-winning lock RG Snyman will likely not be cited for a suspect tackle in Munster's 29-24 victory over Ulster last weekend.

The lock looked to have tucked his arm with his shoulder colliding directly with the head of Will Addison, and while he escaped sanction for the tackle during the match, there were fears he could cop a subsequent citing and ban.

At the very least, Erasmus should have Etzebeth, Mostert and Snyman to call on against Ireland, while he also has several top talents able to fill the void, including Bulls star Ruan Nortje and rising Stormers star Ruben van Heerden. Salmaan Moerat is likely to be in the mix, too, as might the versatile Ben-Jason Dixon.

Sharks youngster Corne Rahl is also highly rated, although it could be too soon for the young enforcer, while Ruan Vermaak has also impressed for the Bulls.

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