Assistant coach Mzwandile Stick was the bearer of the good news at the Springboks’ pre-match press conference ahead of Sunday’s Pool B match against Romania.
After the disappointment of losing Malcolm Marx to injury last week, there will be a sigh of relief across Springboks country after it was confirmed that talisman lock Eben Etzebeth is just about fighting fit and will play against Ireland this week.
Assistant coach Mzwandile Stick was the bearer of the good news at the pre-match press conference ahead of the Springboks’ Pool B match against Romania at 3pm.
Marlcom Marx injured his knee in training this week and has been ruled out of the remainder of the competition, leaving Bongi Mbonambi as the only specialist hooker in the squad and loose-forwards Deon Fourie and Marco van Staden filling in the void.
Etzebeth hurt his shoulder early in the first-round match against Scotland and while the prognosis was that it was not a severe injury, to hear that he is already in the gym is a ray of light after a dark week in the Bok camp.
Indeed, he was spotted with captain Siya Kolisi in the crowd at the Chile versus Samoa game in Bordeaux, looking very relaxed and chilled.
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“Eben was busy in the gym earlier today,” Stick said. “Last week he did one or two full sessions with the team.
“I don’t think it’s a serious injury. We just have to manage him. He’s a few days away from being fully fit,” Stick added, suggesting that there is no issue regarding the 31-year-old’s participation in the crunch clash against Ireland on Saturday night at 9pm.
Stick also confirmed that Handré Pollard will almost certainly be joining the Springboks’ squad later this week. Bok bosses Jacques Nienaber and Rassie Erasmus watched Pollard play in a friendly match between his club, Leicester, and Sale.
Pollard played 30 minutes off the bench and came through unscathed.
“We haven’t made any decision yet, maybe something will come after this game against Romania,” Stick said. “The key thing is that we just wanted to focus on the Romania game.
“We watched him (Pollard) yesterday, he had a good half an hour. Also, we have got a guy like (specialist hooker) Joseph Dweba who’s currently back in South Africa and in full shape.
“We have options and will look at it on Monday again.”
As it stands right now, Nienaber has said that flankers Deon Fourie and Marco van Staden are providing hooker cover.
Fourie has played hooker before, but not since 2018, while Van Staden has trained there with the Boks this year.
Manie Libbok, who started at flyhalf in the 18-3 win over Scotland last weekend, has been in excellent form with the ball in hand for the Boks this year but has had issues going for the poles. He kicked two from five against the Scots.
The number two flyhalf in the squad, Damian Willemse, who plays predominantly at fullback, shares the same plight, with other kicking options coming from scrumhalf Faf de Klerk and wing Cheslin Kolbe.