Pietersen out: Springboks dealt harsh blow ahead of Rugby Championships

2012-08-07 00:00

THE Springboks have suffered a major blow ahead of the Rugby Championships with the loss of Sharks wing JP Pietersen.

Pietersen, who has been in sublime Super Rugby form for the Sharks, fractured his thumb in the final against the Chiefs on Saturday and left the field in the second half.

Pietersen underwent scans on his return to Durban yesterday and will undergo surgery tomorrow.

He is expected to be sidelined for six to eight weeks and is unlikely to see action in the Rugby Championship, which ends in exactly two months, on October 6.

Sharks wing Lwazi Mvovo, who is in the 30-man squad, could replace Pietersen in the Test starting line-up, but Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer yesterday added to his backline options by calling up Western Province centre Juan de Jongh.

The 24-year-old De Jongh made his Springbok debut against Wales in 2010 and has 10 Test caps to his name, the last coming at the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand last year.

“We decided to pick Juan as he provides midfield cover, an area where we are perhaps a bit thin now that JP is out,” said Meyer.

“JP was going to provide cover for us at outside centre, while JJ Engelbrecht and Francois Hougaard can also be used on the wing, especially as Bjorn Basson is out for six weeks.

“Losing JP is obviously a massive blow as he’s been playing some superb rugby lately, but Juan has also been in good form for the Stormers and was one of the unlucky players to miss out on initial selection.

“This call-up just shows again that no player is ever completely out of the equation.”

De Jongh, who is based in Cape Town, had his first session with the Springboks yesterday afternoon.

According to Cape Town reports, Sharks number eight Ryan Kankowski — a surprise omission from the 30-man squad named by Meyer on Saturday — could return later in the championship.

Kankowski was considered a certainty, but confusion over his Japanese contract resulted in him being overlooked.

Meyer told reporters in Cape Town that Kankowski, contracted to play for six months in Japan, was playing the “best rugby of his life” and he was trying to gain his release.

Meyer is also hoping to have flank Schalk Burger and prop Coenie Oosthuizen back from injury next month, while there is a possibility that scrumhalf Fourie du Preez may also make a return for the away leg internationals against Australia and New Zealand.

The Springboks fly to Mendoza to play Argentina after the Newlands Test. The indications are that Meyer will continue with halfbacks Morné Steyn and Francois Hougaard — rather than Ruan Pienaar — though he admitted he was concerned about their form.

“You need a number nine and a number 10 who can kick tactically and control the game.

“Morné hasn’t played to the best of his ability and the same for Francois, but that is something to work on. I thought hard about the halfbacks, but you do need some continuity.

“The players know they have to step up to the plate and that I wasn’t happy with their performances against England.”

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