Robert Ebersohn has been placed on standby for the Springboks following injuries to Jean de Villiers, JJ Engelbrecht and Juan de Jongh.
Robert Ebersohn has been placed on standby for the Springboks following injuries to midfielders Jean de Villiers, JJ Engelbrecht and Juan de Jongh.
The news comes ahead of their opening Test of the year against Italy at Kings Park on Saturday.
The trio sat out training in Durban on Monday, along with several other critical players, and management later confirmed that Stormers centre De Jongh would not feature against the Azzurri.
Bulls captain Pierre Spies was also among the spectators, because of a tight groin, and Francois Louw (quad strain) and Pieter-Steph du Toit (sternum) were also given a precautionary break.
“Jean has a mild hamstring strain and a decision on him will be made later in the week,” team doctor Craig Roberts told a press briefing.
“JJ Engelbrecht has a knock on his quad, so he too didn't train. We'll also make a call on him later in the week.
“Juan de Jongh has had that fractured finger, and it was always going to be touch and go with him.
“After an X-ray today, we've made the decision that we're not going to consider him for this weekend, but we're hoping he'll be ready for the following week in Nelspruit,” said Roberts.
Ebersohn has been in superb form this season and coach Heyneke Meyer admitted he was unlucky to have missed out on selection when the 34-man squad was named on Saturday.
“Robert's been awesome this year,” the Bok boss said.
“He usually plays 13 and I thought he was probably the one guy I felt was very unlucky not to be in the squad.
“I felt he had a really great season. He's been great on the ground, specifically, and his technical skills have improved. I'll be happy if it works out for him. As soon as we get clearance, we'll have him in the squad.”
Meyer said there was concern about the centre position, and particularly the captaincy.
De Villiers was forced off the field for the final 10 minutes of the Stormers' Super Rugby clash against the Southern Kings on Saturday.
“Obviously it's a concern. I'm especially concerned about the centre position, because suddenly there's three guys that can't train,” he said.
“But, we've got a good medical team and I'm hopeful Jean and JJ will be ready. You obviously want your captain there and the experience in as well.”
With De Villiers struggling, it means there could be a completely inexperienced midfield against the Italians with 20-year-old Jan Serfontein the only fit centre, in line for his debut.
“Jean is a fighter and wants to play, but you don't want to push him,” Meyer said.
“If I have to play Jan and JJ, I'll be happy with that. They know each other very well, but we'll give Jean all the time he needs.”
Meyer said there were several candidates waiting in the wings to potentially stand in as skipper.
“Last year, I was really worried about the captaincy, but the group has grown in experience over the past 12 months,” he said.
“We have Francois Louw, who's been captain at Bath. He's really impressed me.
“Pierre is captain at the Bulls, and playing his best rugby currently. Adriaan's [Strauss] been the vice-captain and he's leading from the front for the Cheetahs and a guy like Bismarck is also there. So we have a lot of guys that can come in.”