Peter de Villiers’ first choice as Springbok flyhalf, Ruan Pienaar, is in a race against time to be fit for the opening Test of the three-match series against the British and Irish Lions, staring next month.
Jan de Koning reports for rugby365.com that Pienaar, back just a few weeks after picking up a serious knee injury during the Sharks’ Super 14 tour of Australasia, suffered an ankle injury in his team’s 26-27 loss to the Bulls in their final league match at the weekend.
The 25-year-old utility back, who has been earmarked to take over the pivotal role in De Villiers’ Bok team against the Lions, is one of several key players currently on the injury list.
Already ruled out of the Lions series is fullback Conrad Jantjes, with a fractured leg.
Also not having played this past weekend, or injured in the final round of regulation league action in the Super 14 season, are centres Jean de Villiers, Francois Steyn (also a back-up at flyhalf and fullback), Wynand Olivier and Jaque Fourie, flank Schalk Burger and lock Andries Bekker.
In most cases the players are expected to be back well in advance of the Lions series – some have resumed training – but in Pienaar’s case the situation is acute.
Sharks team doctor Craig Roberts told rugby365.com that Pienaar’s ankle injury – which occurred when he was tackled by Bulls captain Victor Matfield in the Durban thriller – was “not too serious”, but added that he could be sidelined for three to four weeks.
That will leave him short of fitness and match practice, considering that he had missed nearly two months of action with his knee injury.
“He needs to have a scan,” Roberts told rugby365, when asked about the prognoses on Pienaar.
“We will have to await the result of the scan before we can make an accurate assessment, but at this early stage it looks like a grade two [ankle] ligament sprain.”
If the initial prognoses of three to four weeks is accurate, Pienaar will resume training just before the opening Test in Durban on June 20 – but it will be a tight call.
Roberts revealed that Steyn, who has been sidelined with a knee injury, is ahead of schedule on the road to recovery.
“He is already doing straight line running,” Roberts said of the utility back.
Centre Adi Jacobs, who appeared favour the shoulder he injured earlier in the season, is also making good progress.
“Yes, there was some sensitivity in Adi’s shoulder when making contact, but this past weekend was already better tan the previous week and he will be fine,” Roberts told rugby365.
“All he needs now is good rehabilitation and with the Sharks out of the Super 14 play-offs there’s plenty of time for that.”
The news on Bulls centre Wynand Olivier’s hip injury is also encouraging.
Bulls doctor Org Strauss said a call on his availability for the semifinal showdown with the Crusaders this coming Saturday will only be made later in the week.
He could be sidelined for anything from one to three weeks, depending on how he responds to treatment this week, but he doesn’t appear to be doubtful for the Lions series.
The other key midfielder, Jean de Villiers, also appears to have made a full recovery from the groin injury that he suffered on the Stormers’ tour of Australasian.
De Villiers, like fellow Stormers Burger and Bekker, could have played in the final Super 14 league action this past weekend.
However, Stormers coach Rassie Erasmus wisely decided to go with his Currie Cup squad against the Cheetahs and gave the Boks extra time for rehabilitation.
Centre Jaque Fourie will also be available to join the Bok squad when they gather early next month, despite missing the Johannesburg-based Lions team’s last few matches as a result of an eye injury picked up on tour.
The Springbok squad for the Test series against the British and Irish Lions will be announced on June 1.
That is two days after the Lions’ first tour match against the Royal XV in Rustenburg on May 30 and three days after the match between a South African XV and a Namibia Invitation XV in Windhoek on May 29.
The date set for announcement of the squad is also two days after the Super 14 final in which a large number of aspirant Test players of the Bulls could be involved – if, of course, they win the semifinal against Crusaders at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.Tweet