Boks Matfield, Coetzee doubtful for NZ

Acting South Africa captain and lock Victor Matfield and flanker Marcell Coetzee are doubtful for a Rugby Championship clash with New Zealand this weekend, the team doctor said on Monday.

Craig Roberts told a media briefing at the Springboks’ hotel in a Johannesburg suburb that Matfield has a hamstring strain and Coetzee a knock on the knee.

“Victor and Marcell are doubtful for this weekend, but neither of them are in doubt for the World Cup,” said Roberts.

“A call on their availability for the New Zealand match will be made only later this week.”

The doctor said tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis and loose forward Schalk Burger picked up knocks during a weekend loss to Australia in Brisbane and they will be assessed at a Tuesday training session.

The Springboks and All Blacks square off Saturday before a sell-out 62,000 Ellis Park crowd in the second round of a southern hemisphere championship shortened to three rounds because the World Cup begins in September.

World title-holders New Zealand started the pursuit of a fourth consecutive Rugby Championship title with a 39-18 home win over Argentina last weekend while South Africa lost 24-20 away to Australia.

South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer is scheduled to name his starting line-up and eight replacements Wednesday.

Matfield is standing in as skipper while captain and centre Jean de Villiers recovers from knee reconstruction surgery.

De Villiers played 20 minutes of an exhibition match between the Springboks and a World XV in Cape Town two weeks ago — his first appearance since being injured in Wales last November.

He also turned out for Western Province last Saturday in a Currie Cup warm-up match and came through unscathed.

“The plan was never for Jean to play against Australia and New Zealand,” stressed Meyer.

“Although Victor and Schalk are injured, we are not going to rush him back.”

As Meyer grapples with a never-ending injury list, he has added lock Flip van der Merwe to a squad that now numbers 50.

The coach welcomed the change of heart by the initially unavailable Van der Merwe.

“Flip always puts his body on the line for the Springboks and it will be great to have him back in the fold.”

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