Ruan Pienaar is in danger of missing the clashes against England and Italy as well as the coming game against Ireland, reports JON CARDINELLI in Dublin.
The Springbok scrumhalf has not played since sustaining a medial ligament injury in the Test against the All Blacks on 13 September. SARugbymag.co.za has been reliably informed that he won't be ready to battle Ireland at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.
The situation, however, may worsen in the coming weeks. On Monday, Dr Craig Roberts revealed that Pienaar may not recover ahead of next week's tour-defining clash against England, and might play no part at all against Italy.
Much depends on how the scrumhalf fares in training over the next few days. Following an assessment, a decision will be taken to determine when and if Pienaar can return to the match-day squad.
‘Ruan hasn’t played in a while, and he hasn’t done any field running at his club,’ said Roberts. ‘We still need to determine if he can play this Saturday against Ireland, and also whether he can play in the next two games [the Ulster-based Pienaar is not available for the final tour fixture against Wales as it falls outside the IRB’s Test window].
‘We hope he can be ready for that England game. If it’s clear he’s not going to make it, then a decision may be taken to call up a replacement.’
The Boks already have two other scrumhalf options in the touring party. It’s likely that Francois Hougaard will start at No 9 against Ireland, with Cobus Reinach providing cover from the bench.
Hougaard was excellent in the last two matches of this year’s Rugby Championship, but is yet to show that he can play a more tactical game. The Boks have some of the finest tactical scrumhalves in Fourie du Preez and Pienaar. Can Hougaard prove he is a genuine option for the 2015 World Cup, a tournament that will be played in conditions that demand strong all-round skills?
Bok backline coach Ricardo Loubscher believes this tour represents a great opportunity for the Bulls scrumhalf.
‘He’s been in great form, and I can tell you that a lot of work has been done behind the scenes,’ said Loubscher. ‘We saw him taking his chances in the Rugby Championship, and he will have another chance to show what he can do on this tour.
‘We've spoken about how important game management will be on this tour. The conditions are always going to be a challenge in this part of the world. It’s about adapting to that.
'We know that guys like Hougie and [flyhalf] Handré Pollard bring a different skill-set to the mix. These players are a threat with ball in hand, and have the vision to make an impact. But ultimately it’s about playing the situation, and about accuracy and good decision-making.’