Springboks

Boks in scrumhalf pickle

Francois Hougaard (File)
Francois Hougaard (File)

Hazyview - The Springboks face a conundrum at scrum-half following the injury to Jano Vermaak, while team management confirmed on Monday that there was a cloud hanging over the availability of Francois Hougaard.

Cheetahs scrumhalf Piet van Zyl was called into camp after Jano Vermaak suffered a hamstring strain against Italy.

"Francois Hougaard struggled with his knee - he had a problem since Super Rugby with a cartilage tear in his knee - and we’ll send him off to see a specialist in Pretoria tomorrow (Tuesday)," said team doctor Craig Robberts in Hazyview on Monday.

"So we’ll have the news on him later in the week in terms of his knee."

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said he would request a replacement for Hougaard if the Bulls scrumhalf was not declared fit in time for their match against Scotland in Nelspruit on Saturday.

"You usually have three scrumhalves and hookers because they play such important roles in the game plan, and we’ll definitely look for somebody else," Meyer said.

"But we’ll give Hougie as much time as possible and until the doc gives us the go-ahead, he’ll stay with the team.

"You don’t want to lose two nines (scrumhalves) in a week like we could now, so we’ll definitely ask for a replacement."

Meanwhile, Robberts gave the team a relatively clean bill of health with the exception of a few niggling injuries which were not too serious.

Loose forward Willem Alberts, who suffered an injury ahead of the match against Italy, was recovering well from an oblique injury, while hooker Bismarck du Plessis was available for selection against Scotland.

The match against Scotland will be the first time a Test match will be played in the Lowveld, which will have some added significance for three members of the Springboks.

Meyer, hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle and prop Trevor Nyakane all hail from the region, while injured eighthman Duane Vermeulen also grew up in the Lowveld.

"It is very special for me, in my heart I am still a Lowvelder and it is great being here in the outdoors," Meyer said.

"I remember on the dorp’s (town) field the only team that came to visit was Tukkies and as a little boy it was overwhelming to see them play.

"I always dreamt that I can come back with my own team, so for me it is very emotional and we hope we can treat the people to a great game."

Meyer believed the Boks would be able to make a step-up from last week’s victory over Italy and he expected to make at least two more changes to the side.

The Springbok coach said while he was not completely satisfied with breakdowns and scrums, he felt they had made steps in the right direction.

"I was happy with the breakdown, if we didn’t make the adjustments we would have struggled," he said.

"It is a first step, but it was a huge improvement and I think it is also why I thought our backs played particularly well."

While the Springboks were inconsistent during scrum time, Meyer believed the pack of forwards showed some improvement.

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England 219
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England 219
Pakistan 326 & 137/8 (44 ov)
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