Springbok prop Frans Malherbe will most likely miss the 2017 Castle Lager Rugby Championship campaign because of a neck injury, it was confirmed on Monday.
The front ranker underwent scans on Monday afternoon in Port Elizabeth to determine the severity of the injury after complaining about stiffness in his neck.
“Frans consulted a neurosurgeon in PE who suggested extended rest for the player, with follow up scans to be done in two weeks’ time,” according to Bok team doctor, Dr Konrad von Hagen.
Malherbe is replaced by Ruan Dreyer, the Emirates Lions prop who made his Springbok debut in the third Test match against France in June.
The Springboks kick off their Castle Lager Rugby Championship on Saturday against Argentina in PE.
The squad was strengthened though with the arrival of the experienced scrumhalf Francois Hougaard, who is based in England where he plays for Worcester Warriors. His arrival means the Bok squad now have their full complement of players for what promises to be a stern Test of the team on Saturday.
Springbok assistant coach Johann van Graan, said the Boks will focus on fine-tuning their preparations this week in anticipation of a huge contest with the Pumas on Saturday.
“Last year we had two close fought battles with the Pumas, and we expect the same when we play them over the next two weeks,” said Van Graan.
“They always have a good scrum, their mauling is a huge threat while their biggest strength is probably at the breakdown. In addition to that, the Pumas are also fantastic ball carriers, so the forward battle will again be a huge contest.”
Van Graan added that the Springboks were happy with their preparations so far in the Friendly City: “We have a great team spirit and the guys really performed well on the training pitch last week. This week it’s all about fine-tuning our preparations, focussing on our continual growth as a team and the process that we are busy with.”
Dr Von Hagen also confirmed on Monday that Warren Whiteley had surgery on Friday. The lanky No 8 captained the Springboks in two of the three Test matches against France in June, but missed the third encounter because of a groin injury.
“Warren underwent an operation on Friday and he is feeling a lot better already. He is positive that the operation will be a success,” said Dr Von Hagen, who added the groin injury has ruled Whiteley out of action for approximately six weeks.
Scrumhalf Ross Cronje (shoulder injury), hooker Malcolm Marx (bruised shoulder) and flanker Jaco Kriel (flu) all returned to squad training on Monday.
“If Ross can take contact towards the latter part of the week, we will decide on his availability for selection,” explained the team doctor.
Flyhalf Handré Pollard is set to continue with his recovery, according to Dr Von Hagen: “He will carry on with training here in Port Elizabeth, where he is able to continue to work on his fitness and in that way complete his final phase of his rehabilitation.”