Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Vermeulen to miss first All Blacks Test, Steyn ready to play

Both Vermeulen and Steyn missed the recent three-Test incoming series against Wales due to injury.

Duane Vermeulen is looking increasingly unlikely to be ready for the opening Test of the Rugby Championship against the All Blacks at Mbombela Stadium next week, but Frans Steyn will be fit and ready to go.

These were the thoughts of Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber who fielded questions from the media during an online press conference ahead of the team’s move to Mbombela on Friday.

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Both Vermeulen and Steyn missed the recent three-Test incoming series against Wales through injury, with Vermeulen undergoing light knee surgery and Steyn battling a hamstring injury, with both then being passed fit and added to the Bok squad for the Rugby Championship.

But their respective recoveries have obviously been slightly different as Vermeulen has yet to start training while Steyn has over a week’s worth under his belt.

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“They need to handle this week’s load… and then obviously next week, and then we must make a decision as coaches if they are ready,” explained Nienaber.

“Duane hasn’t had a rugby session with us as yet, so I think it would be tough to get him in the mix because he will probably still be busy with his return to play rehab protocol.

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“Frans is in training with us. He started last week with the Cheetahs who started their pre-season training, so he has one week of pre-season training under his belt and now this half-a-week with us. So the key thing for us is having a look at these guys in our environment and seeing where they are at.”

Despite it sounding like he would be ready to slot straight back in, it still remains to be seen if there will be space for Steyn in the match 23, with the Boks expected to continue their six-two split on the bench.

Vermeulen was expected to make his way back into the match 23, and should the next week of training go well, he will most likely be in line to feature in the second All Blacks Test in Johannesburg.