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Matfield, Coetzee doubtful ahead of New Zealand Test

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Springbok captain Victor Matfield and flank Marcell Coetzee are both doubtful for the second Test in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship, on Saturday in Johannesburg against New Zealand.

Both players were forced to leave the field last Saturday against Australia – Matfield with a hamstring strain and Coetzee with a knock to his knee. According to Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts a call on their availability will only be made later in the week.

“Both are doubtful to play this weekend, but luckily neither of them are in doubt to miss the Rugby World Cup,” said Roberts. “Jannie du Plessis and Schalk Burger also picked up knocks in Brisbane on Saturday and we will reassess them at our first training session of the week, on Tuesday. Apart from a lot of bumps and bruises, the rest of the squad should be fit for selection.”

The other injured players in the Springbok squad, Jean de Villiers, Fourie du Preez, Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts and Frans Steyn are not yet ready to be considered this weekend, Roberts added.

Pieter-Steph du Toit will join the squad in Johannesburg later on Monday and his progress will also be reassessed. With only three fit locks left in the squad, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has decided to call up the experienced Flip van der Merwe.

“Flip is very experienced and can cover both lock positions, so it made sense to pro-actively assess our options and bring him in,” said Meyer.

“We’ve had a great discussion and he has made himself available to play for the Springboks, which I’m very grateful for. Flip has always put his body on the line for the Boks and it will be great to have him back in the fold.”

Commenting on De Villiers, Meyer said: “The plan was never for Jean to play against Australia and New Zealand and even though Victor and Schalk are injured, we’re not going to rush him back.

“If Victor can’t play on Saturday, we’ll make a call on the captaincy and announce it when the team is named on Wednesday.”