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Vermeulen meets with specialist ahead of series opener against France

(Photo by Getty Images)

South Africa number 8 Duane Vermeulen will not play a part in the three-Test home series against France this month.

Vermeulen picked up a shoulder injury when captaining Toulon in the Top 14 final against Clermont on Sunday evening and has faced assessments from the Springboks medical staff since arriving in Pretoria ahead of the first Test at Loftus Versfeld this Saturday.

The decision to refer Vermeulen to a shoulder specialist to see if surgery was required suggests there is enough damage there for the forward to miss out on the series against Guy Noves’ side.

Disappointed to lose a player of the back row’s ability, Boks assistant coach Johann van Graan said: “He is a world class forward, and a fantastic asset to have in your side.

“Team selection is the task of coach Allister (Coetzee), but what I can tell you is that we have some brilliant loose forwards in our squad, and the selections will be made according to what is needed for the coming challenge.”

The South African coaching team are expecting a stern test from the French pack and warned that they need to uphold their cohesive set-piece which has held firm at a time when other areas of their game have fallen behind the standard of international Test rugby.

Van Graan added: “If you look at the 2016 set-piece stats, then South Africa and France were No1 in the world with a 95 per cent success rate.

“The French have got a very good scrum and a brilliant line-out, plus they defend the driving maul well. However, we want to concentrate on ourselves, doing the things we have to do.

“We’re fortunate to have a few players who have played in France and who know a bit about them, but as coaches we’ve done our homework and we will be well-prepared on Saturday.”

Since the appointment of former Stormers head coach Allister Coetzee as Heyneke Meyer’s replacement in April 2016, the Springboks have slipped from third in the World Rugby rankings to seventh.

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