Du Plessis ruled out

2013-11-19 00:00

DESPERATE efforts to rush Sharks tighthead Jannie du Plessis to Paris ahead of Saturday’s Test against France have failed and the Springboks have now called up the uncapped Bulls prop Frik Kirsten instead.

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer had hoped the experienced Du Plessis would be cleared to join the squad this week, taking over from tighthead Frans Malherbe who left the field with a rib cartilage injury against Scotland on Saturday.

Du Plessis missed the start of the tour because of a shoulder and hand injury. Yesterday Sharks team doctor Alan Kourie told The Witness that the big prop had been “medically ruled out” of joining the Springboks.

“He is still in the six-week recuperating period from the hand fracture so he won’t be able to join the Springboks,” Kourie said.

WP prop Pat Cilliers was also ruled out yesterday because of injury. Meyer responded by calling up the 25-year-old Kirsten to replace Malherbe although he already has former Griqua and Cheetahs tighthead Lourens Adriaanse on tour with him.

Where the call-up of Kirsten leaves Adriaanse is uncertain but it does appear like a slap in the face for the Sharks’ new Super Rugby signing.

He has been part of the Bok squad all year but has yet to see Test action with Meyer regarding Coenie Oosthuizen as his tighthead replacement off the bench.

Adriaanse now seems certain to watch another Test match from the grandstand with the unheralded Kirsten overtaking him into the match squad.

“We’ve been watching Frik quite closely over the last few seasons and he’s really done very well,” said Meyer. “He’s played for the SA U20 team, took part in one of our training camps last year and was the next player on our standby list.

“I feel sorry for Frans as he’s performed strongly in his two first Tests. He certainly has a great future ahead of him and it was good to see him take the step up to Test match rugby.”

Even more damaging for the Springboks is that scrumhalf Fourie du Preez has left the touring squad.

The shock overnight announcement that the veteran scrumhalf, the hub of the Springbok team, was to leave the touring party ahead of the French Test caught even the touring South African media group on the hop.

Meyer said that there was an agreement with Du Preez’s Japanese club that the scrumhalf would only play in the Tests against Wales and Scotland and that it was always part of the plan that the Toulouse-based Jano Vermaak would join the squad in Paris.

Meyer plays some cards close to his chest.

The loss of the astute, composed and world-class Du Preez is a major blow for the Springboks and his tactical kicking game has been an outstanding feature of the Tests he has played this year.

“Fourie will be sorely missed,” said Meyer. “He was man of the match in two of the five Tests and he really put his body on the line the last fortnight. We are very fortunate though to replace him with another world-class player in Ruan Pienaar.”

Du Preez, who was surprisingly recalled from Japan this year, said he had thoroughly enjoyed his time with the Springboks.

“It was wonderful to be part of the team this year, to see how well they operate and to work with a group of committed players and management.”

Vermaak is certain to play off the bench on Saturday, leapfrogging surprise Western Province tour selection Louis Schreuder into the match-day squad of 23.

The Springboks are confident that both Francois Louw and Willem Alberts, who left the field with injuries against Scotland, will be fit for the Paris Test and a medical update will be made later today.

The Test against France kicks off at 10 pm on Saturday (SA time) and England’s Wayne Barnes will be the referee.

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