Springbok coach Peter de Villiers received some encouraging news on Monday, the day that the British and Irish Lions gathered for the first time as preparations for the 10-match tour of South Africa.
Scans have revealed that the ankle injury of De Villiers’ first-choice flyhalf, Ruan Pienaar, is not as serious as first thought and won’t rule him out of the Test series against the Lions.
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.
“It is good news,” Sharks team doctor Craig Roberts told Jan De Koning of rugby365.com, when asked about the results of the scan.
“He has suffered a grade two ankle ligament sprain, but the rest of his [ankle] structures are all intact and it is not as bad as we thought when he came off the field,” the doctor said, adding that Pienaar is looking at about “two to three weeks” our of the game.
“He’ll be fine for the [Test series against] the Lions,” Roberts said.
He also added that the news on the injury front in general is very encouraging and “nobody is doubtful at this stage”.
The Bok coach, De Villiers, will be happy that Pienaar will be fit – considering that World Cup-winning flyhalf Butch James has been ruled out with a long-term anterior cruciate knee ligament injury, suffered while playing for Bath in the Guinness Premiership in April.
Pienaar, who made his South Africa debut against the All Blacks in 2006, has represented his country in 27 tests, scoring 62 points with five tries.
The 25-year-old utility back 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.
Roberts revealed that Francois 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.
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 1Tweet