Jean-Luc du Preez, his brother Dan and Jasper Wiese’s starting No 8 stocks have risen dramatically with uncertainty around first choice Duane Vermeulen’s participation in the British & Irish Lions three-Test series.
Vermeulen lasted just 32 minutes in the Bulls 31-27 Rainbow Cup win against the Stormers in Pretoria and as he hobbled off with an ankle injury, his body language spoke of the seriousness of the injury.
The Springbok coaching staff confirmed Vermeulen in the squad of 46, with a full medical assessment on Monday. It doesn’t look good and don’t be surprised if Vermeulen is ruled out of the series.
The Du Preez brothers, Jean-Luc and Dan, have been outstanding for Sale Sharks in the English Premiership and Wiese has been equally dynamic for Leicester. What will count in the overseas-based trio’s favour is that none in the Lions squad are foreign to them. These are the blokes they battle domestically and in the European competitions.
Jean-Luc has been playing at flank and No 8 and in 2019 also played lock for Sale. Initially, his inclusion looked like the ideal banker to add to the famous World Cup substitute bench, who called themselves the Bomb squad because of the destruction when they were introduced into a match.
Now he could be the go to No 8, especially as he has more international experience than brother Dan and the uncapped Wiese.
Another option that won’t be discounted is the possibility of playing (Jean-Luc) du Preez and Pieter-Steph du Toit as flankers and Springbok captain Siya Kolisi at No 8.
The Bok coaches, while anxious on Vermeulen, are understood to be confident in the squad depth at No 8.
Bok head coach Jacques Nienaber in his first squad selection predictably entrusted the available 2019 World Cup-winning players and added a mix of youth in the extended squad.
Very few of the newbies are likely to play against the Lions in the Test series, with most of them the starters for the SA ‘A’ midweek fixture in the week leading into the first Test at the Cape Town Stadium on 24th July.
There are eight uncapped players in the 46 and 22 of the players are either based overseas fulltime or split their domestic/club rugby in South Africa and Japan.
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