Du Randt to return for England tour

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The Independent Online

Os du Randt, one of the outstanding prop forwards in the history of rugby union, is clearly intent on continuing his second career as God's gift to orthopaedic surgeons.

The South African loose-head specialist, a World Cup winner as long ago as 1995, has gone under the knife for the umpteenth time for a routine clear-out of his knee joint. The word in Springbok country is that he will be fit to tour England in November, although the operation was timed to maximise his chances of playing in next year's global tournament in France.

Du Randt, a front-row forward of mountainous dimensions, has been a regular visitor to hospital suites for years. In the late 1990s, he missed two full seasons because of serious knee ligament trouble, which most lay observers put down to the vast avoirdupois pressure on his legs. The fact that he regained full fitness and reclaimed a place in the Test arena in a country as passionate about scrummaging as any in the world says as much for his determination as it does for his physical resilience.

At 33, he has one last year left in him - a year in which he will be expected to anchor the Springbok scrum through five Tests against England, the last of them in a World Cup pool match in Paris almost exactly 12 months from now. If he fails to make it back from this latest tidy-up, there will be some quiet celebrations down Twickenham way.

Twenty-four current Springboks, including Du Randt, have been withdrawn from provincial duty in the Currie Cup - the leading domestic competition in South Africa. This kind of thing is happening the world over, as the organisers of the Magners League are discovering to their cost. The newly rebranded Celtic tournament is still without its leading Irish players, although one or two have resurfaced in time for Leinster's match with Cardiff Blues in Dublin this evening.

Denis Hickie, a Lion in 2005, makes his first start of the season on the left wing, while Keith Gleeson features among the replacements.

The Australia hooker Jeremy Paul, meanwhile, will miss this year's tour of Europe, which includes tests against Wales, Italy, Ireland and Scotland, due to a finger injury. Paul, 29, ruptured a tendon during last Saturday's test defeat in South Africa and will undergo surgery on Monday.