Ruan Pienaar has come through a fitness test but a final decision on his involvement in the Springboks' touring campaign will be made on Tuesday, reports JON CARDINELLI in Dublin.
The Boks currently have three scrumhalves in their 36-man touring group, and will need all three fit and available for the Test against Ireland this Saturday. Pienaar underwent tests on Monday and came through well, but the Bok medical team still intend to assess the player further on Tuesday morning.
‘We would just like to see how he responds overnight, but at the moment it’s looking positive,’ said team doctor Craig Roberts.
As one member of the Bok management team remarked during a training session on Monday afternoon: ‘One has to plan for the worst case scenario’. Only two scrumhalves will play at the Aviva Stadium this Saturday, but the third must be ready to step into the breach if there are any injury dramas between now and kick-off.
In short, the Boks need to go into that clash with Francois Hougaard, Cobus Reinach, and Ruan Pienaar fit and ready to play 80 minutes of rugby. If one isn't fit, the Bok must call up a replacement into the squad.
That is likely to be the pecking order for the coming game. Pienaar boasts 80 Test caps and is the best scrumhalf in the touring party, but the fact that he has only just returned from injury has complicated the situation.
On Monday morning, Roberts suggested that Pienaar was in doubt not only for the game against Ireland but the following two matches against England and Italy.
Pienaar has subsequently passed a fitness test and could be considered for the game against Ireland. However, if Hougaard and Reinach remain fit, then Pienaar may be given more time to recuperate ahead of the game against England on 15 November.
The starting XV that fronts Ireland is likely to mirror the one that was selected for the Test against the All Blacks on 4 October. Bryan Habana and Bakkies Botha both played for French club Toulon this past weekend, and were managed carefully at the Boks’ training session at the Blackrock Rugby Club on Monday. Lwazi Mvovo and JP Pietersen alternated at No 11, but Habana is expected to wear that jersey this Saturday.
Duane Vermeulen has a minor rib injury, but will start against Ireland. Schalk Burger trained at No 8 in Vermeulen’s stead during Monday’s session, and will receive an opportunity in that position at some stage on this tour.
Eben Etzebeth did not travel with the squad to Europe, as he has been given some time off following a death in his family. Lood de Jager trained alongside Victor Matfield in the second row, but Etzebeth should be with the side in the next day or so to reclaim his place.
The one change to the 23 is likely to be on the bench, with Coenie Oosthuizen wearing the No 18 jersey and providing cover at tighthead.
The Bok team will be announced on Wednesday.
Probable Bok XV – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
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