Springbok doctor Craig Roberts has explained why it took a month to decide that Stormers number eight Duane Vermeulen needs surgery.
Vermeulen missed the Super Rugby play-offs due to a neck injury and following consultation with a specialist in Durban the Springbok medical team have opted for surgery.
Vermeulen will go under the knife on Wednesday and will need at least eight weeks of rehabilitation, meaning he will not be available for any of the Boks’ five matches before kicking off their World Cup campaign.
"He won’t play any games before the World Cup," said Roberts.
"He may be ready in eight weeks, but ten weeks is more realistic.
"We were hoping that it would settle with conservative management but it didn't," explained Roberts.
"We had to make the decision for Duane’s medium to long-term career to do something with his neck. It wasn't an easy decision but we made the decision to operate as it gives him the best chance to be ready for the World Cup."
Some good news, however, is that Vermeulen will be able to start training a few weeks after surgery.
"Two weeks after surgery he can go flat out with fitness, but he won’t be taking any contact, so hopefully we'll have a fit Duane," says Roberts.
Roberts also added that they are happy with how the Stormers managed his injury.
"They communicated really well with us and gave Duane the chance to respond conservatively to the injury. Their approach was perfect in terms of waiting and hoping that it will resolve. He did see a number of specialists who advised him to wait before opting for surgery."
Vermeulen's injury is a big setback for the Boks as his leadership in the squad will be sorely missed. But assistant coach Ricardo Loubscher says the good news is there are a number of players who can fill Vermeulen’s role as a leader in the team.
Roberts confirmed more good news with the return of players from long-term injuries. He says Jean de Villiers is fit to play, as is Pat Lambie. He added that loose forwards Heinrich Brüssow, Marcell Coetzee, Francois Louw, Oupa Mohojé, Siya Kolisi and Warren Whiteley are fit which releases some pressure.