CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — Rugby World Cup winner Duane Vermeulen joined South Africa on Sunday and will be assessed to determine his availability for the decisive final test against the British and Irish Lions next weekend.

The influential No. 8 missed the first two tests following ankle surgery more than seven weeks ago.

The Springboks also summoned uncapped Sharks scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse as injury cover. Starting No. 9 Faf de Klerk came off after an hour in the second test on Saturday with an apparent leg injury.

The Springboks medical team have declared their satisfaction with Vermeulen’s progress, and should he be declared fit, will provide a further boost to the world champions after they squared the series with an impressive 27-9 win.

“We will never risk a player who is not 100% fit but he brings experience to the squad and it will be great to have him with us,” Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber said.

Vermuelen was injured playing for the Bulls, but hasn’t played a test since winning the 2019 World Cup final, after which he was named player of the match.

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The injury status of 2019 world player of the year Pieter-Steph du Toit will be determined on Monday after the flanker was forced off 22 minutes into the second test with a shoulder injury. Du Toit was replaced on the field by Kwagga Smith.

The 21-year-old Hendrikse only just became available to the Springboks after serving a three-match ban in the Currie Cup. Hendrikse was sanctioned after he was red-carded for hitting the head of Lions fullback Liam Williams with his elbow on July 10 in the Sharks’ second game against the tourists.

Hendrikse is the fourth scrumhalf in the South Africa squad beside de Klerk, Herschel Jantjies and Cobus Reinach. The Springboks follow the Lions series with two home tests against Argentina this month in the Rugby Championship.

Hendrikse was named the breakthrough player of the under-20 world championship in 2019 in Argentina.

“Jaden is a talented player, and he has been in SA Rugby’s junior structures from a young age, so we are excited to see what he can do at this level,” Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber said.

“We are in the opening stages of a physically demanding season with the Rugby Championship starting next week, so this will serve as a great opportunity to expose him to our structures and at the same time allow us to expand our depth with an eye on the future.”

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