Boks must do without Whiteley
Captain to miss start of championship due to groin injury
The Springboks will have to soldier on without captain Warren Whiteley when they start their Rugby Championship campaign against Argentina in Port Elizabeth later this month.
In fact, the groin injury that kept him out of the third and final test against France in June will sideline him for a further month after the start of the competition. It means he will at best be available for the Springboks' game against the All Blacks in Albany on September 16.
More realistically, however, he should be available for the home test against Australia on September 30. But by then the destiny of the Rugby Championships may already be shaped.It is a big blow for the team, especially after another No8, Duane Vermeulen, was ruled out through injury.
It means Springbok coach Allister Coetzee is likely to again press lock Eben Etzebeth into the role of captain, as he did in the third test against France. Although his best form has eluded him thus far this season, Etzebeth is an experienced campaigner.
His leadership is likely to be severely tested in Whiteley's absence, especially during the Springboks' three away tests in Salta, Perth and Albany.
Coetzee will also have three debutants in his group. Sharks utility back Curwin Bosch, Bulls fullback Warrick Gelant and Sharks No8 Dan du Preez will join his brother Jean-Luc among Coetzee's backrow options.
Gelant stood out in a struggling Bulls backline that scored fewer tries than the Sunwolves this season.
Du Preez has played with increasing confidence and now almost mirrors brother Jean-Luc in a combative Sharks backrow.
Bosch was in the Bok frame but was left out for the tests against France. He was instead required for the Junior Springboks.
The Sharks' utility player has been bracketed as a fullback and flyhalf in the group. Bulls flyhalf Handre Pollard is back in the Bok mix after several orthopaedic setbacks kept him from the game's highest form over the last year.
Frans Steyn, however, wants to work on his conditioning after a tough European season and is unavailable for the Championships. Lions tighthead prop Ruan Dreyer is also missing from the squad, but his absence is temporary. His wife is expecting a baby and he will miss the start of the competition as a result.