Ireland still uncertain over Rory Best as Springboks rule out Pienaar

The Ulster hooker has been struggling with a calf problem, while his provincial teammate is out of Saturday’s Test.

Best is carrying a calf strain, but Ireland are hopeful he will be fit.
Best is carrying a calf strain, but Ireland are hopeful he will be fit.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

IRELAND REMAIN UNCERTAIN over the availability of hooker Rory Best for Saturday’s November Test against South Africa in Dublin, while the Springboks have confirmed that Ruan Pienaar will not take part in the remainder of their tour.

Best has been struggling with a calf strain this week, and though he came through a modified training session earlier today, assistant coach Les Kiss says no decision will be made on the Ulster captain until Thursday.

“We have got a tight calf [with Rory],” said Kiss. “We’ve managed it. We will see how it goes. We will get some reports again this afternoon and we will make that decision on Thursday.

I wouldn’t like to predict too much, but he had a little bit of light action today and everything went fine with it, so we’ll probably be more informed on Thursday.”

Head coach Joe Schmidt will name his starting team and replacements bench on Thursday afternoon.

Meanwhile, South Africa’s management team have announced that Pienaar will not recover from a knee ligament injury in time to face Ireland. Indeed, the scrum-half has been ruled out of the entire Springboks tour this month.

Jano Vermaak of Toulouse has been called into Heyneke Meyer’s squad to replace the Ulster playmaker.

Ruan Pienaar dejected Pienaar has yet to make a competitive appearance for Ulster this season. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“Ruan was re-assessed [this] morning following the on-field fitness tests from Monday, and unfortunately he has developed some swelling and puffiness around the knee, indicating that he is not yet ready to partake in full training and playing in a match,” said Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts.

“He needs a few more weeks of rehabilitation before he’ll be ready to return to play and hence we’ve taken the decision to rule him out of the tour.”

Ulster fans will hope Pienaar’s recovery sees him regain full fitness for the do-or-die December double-header against the Scarlets in the Champions Cup, with the province having missed his influence during the defeats to Leicester and Toulon.

The Boks are now almost certain to start Francois Hougaard at scrum-half against Ireland. The 26-year-old has been in excellent form in recent months, and provides a sharp counter-attacking threat.

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Murray Kinsella

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