Ulster recovered from being 23 / 0 down at halftime to get a vital victory over Oyonnax in Pool 1 of the European Champions Cup.
Key men Ruan Pienaar, Paddy Jackson and Nick Williams all came off the bench for the 2nd half to help the Irish side scrape a remarkable 1-point win.
Ulster were in big trouble when Jeremie Maurouard and Uwa Tawalo scored tries. But backs Rory Scholes and Craig Gilroy, and young prop Kyle McCall, saved them from a damaging defeat.
Ulster, who revived their European prospects with back-to-back wins over Toulouse, are 2nd in Pool 1 with 13 points – 6 behind Saracens.
Those December victories over Toulouse would have meant little had they lost to the Pool outsiders at the Stade Charles-Mathon.
Strange as it may seem considering the hype beforehand over “emotional Springbok swansongs” in the bronze playoff match at Rugby World Cup 2015, only 1 member of the squad at the tournament, captain Jean de Villiers, has officially confirmed his Test retirement.
Several younger Springboks spoke beforehand of their desire to beat Argentina – a task duly achieved – as a fitting send-off for senior players bidding farewell to the green-and-gold cause.
Almost 2 weeks on from the end of the Rugby World Cup, however, it is still only the luckless Jean de Villiers, injured again in just the 2nd Rugby World Cup match against Samoa, who has definitely bowed out after 109 appearances since 2002.
Perhaps influenced by the state of flux surrounding embattled coach Heyneke Meyer, the likes of Victor Matfield, Fourie du Preez, Schalk Burger and Bryan Habana intriguingly haven’t yet pulled the plug publicly on their illustrious Springbok careers.
The majority of “older” Springboks who took part in their hot-and-cold Rugby World Cup 2015 campaign are now exclusively foreign-based and there have been some pleas back home for only locally-stationed players to be chosen for South Africa henceforth – a tricky matter considering the ever-shrinking strength of the Rand against other currencies, which hardly helps keeps the best players rooted here.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer named his strongest possible team as a mark of the greatest respect to an outstanding Argentina team as both teams chase the end-of-season reward of a bronze medal at the Olympic Stadium in London on Friday evening.
Victor Matfield replaces Lood de Jager as 1 of only 2 changes to the starting line-up from Saturday’s semifinal against New Zealand. He takes over the over the captaincy from the injured Fourie du Preez, whose place in the No 9 jersey is taken by Ruan Pienaar, with Rudy Paige coming onto the bench.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer will announce an interim captain for South Africa on Tuesday.
Even though there’s been no formal confirmation, the fact that a media briefing has been scheduled to name an ‘interim’ captain confirms that current stand-in captain Victor Matfield will not play against New Zealand at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday.
Matfield, who suffered a hamstring injury in the 1st half of last week’s 20 / 24 loss to Australia’s Wallabies in Brisbane, was standing in for the injured captain Jean de Villiers.
And Meyer has made it very clear that De Villiers won’t be considered this week.
So who are the candidates in the current Springbok squad?
The front-runners, surely, are Francois Louw, Schalk Burger, Ruan Pienaar, Bismarck du Plessis and Adriaan Strauss – with Bryan Habana, Patrick Lambie and Warren Whiteley at long-odds.
If you really want to stir the pot, why not throw Flip van der Merwe’s name in there – seeing as he is now ‘available’ again.
Springbok scrumhalf Fourie du Preez will be sidelined for an extended period with a medial knee ligament injury.
When Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer unveiled a 49-strong squad on Saturday, a paragraph in the official media release revealed that “He suffered a knee injury while training with his Japanese club earlier this week”.
More clarity regarding Du Preez’s injury was given in Johannesburg on Monday, where it was determined that the 33-year-old former Loftus-based favourite, now contracted to Suntory Goliath in Japan, will be sidelined for between 4 to 8 weeks.
The other scrumhalves picked in the Springbok squad are Ruan Pienaar, Cobus Reinach, Faf de Klerk and Rudy Paige.
Another serious injury concern is prop Coenie Oosthuizen who had a neck operation today and will miss the Castle Rugby Championship.
The latest news from the Barbarians camp is that both Zane Kirchner and Ruan Pienaar have been called up to join the Barbarians for the matches against Ireland and England.
The Barbarians face Ireland at Thomond Park (28 May) and an England XV at Twickenham (31 May).
They will line up alongside the likes of Joe Rokocoko, George Smith, Adam Jones, Alex Cuthbert, Gio Aplon and Thomas Waldrom for the famous invitation club that celebrates the 125th anniversary of its foundation this year.
World Cup-winning Springbok scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar has also been called up to complete the Barbarians squad to face Ireland and England this week.
Apart from Pienaar, who became available after his Irish province Ulster suffered a dramatic 14 / 16 defeat to Glasgow Warriors in the Pro12 semifinals at the weekend, Barbarians head coach Robbie Deans also added other high-profile names like England international wing Ugo Monye, also with All Blacks forwards Brad Thorn and Jason Eaton.
Louis Ludik’s pair of tries helped Ulster to resist a 2nd-half fightback from Cardiff Blues and strengthen their position in the Guinness PRO12 Top 4.
Fullback Ludik scored a try in either half to supplement finishes from Craig Gilroy and Paul Marshall as the hosts picked up what could prove to be a very valuable try bonus point.
Tom Isaacs and Alex Cuthbert crossed for the Blues as they showed real resilience after the break, but the 18 / 0 halftime deficit ultimately proved too much.
Glasgow Warriors’ draw at Leinster means Neil Doak’s side stay second, but they will be pleased to have forged a bit of a buffer between themselves and the chasing pack
Ulster scrum half, Ruan Pienaar, suffered a twisted knee in the defeat to Ospreys in Wales on Saturday evening.
There were fears that Ruan had re-injured the same knee ligaments which kept him out of the Springboks End Of Year Tour in November, but luckily the injury is not as serious as initially thought.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer will be pleased to see two of his stalwarts returning to the rugby field in the European Cup this weekend.
Bath’s Francois Louw is set to make his comeback after a ten-week stint on the sideline following surgery on his neck for nerve damage.
The flank last played for the Springboks in their Rugby Championship Test against the All Blacks in Wellington on 13 September.
Bath assistant coach Toby Booth has indicated that Louw may be thrown straight into the action and could start for the English team when they face Montpellier at home on Friday.
Ruan Pienaar and Dan Tuohy are poised to return for Ulster in Saturday’s European Champions Cup tie against Scarlets at Kingspan Stadium.
Pienaar has not played for Ulster this season having suffered a knee injury playing for South Africa in September.
Tuohy broke his arm during a Pro12 match against Cardiff 10 weeks ago.
“Dan and Ruan both trained the last two days and if there is no reaction, they might potentially be involved at the weekend,” said Ulster coach Neil Doak.
While delighted at the prospect of the pair being involved in the back-to-back fixtures against Scarlets, which Ulster must win to keep alive slim hopes of qualification from Pool 3, Doak is not expecting too much from his returning internationals.
“It’s good to have them back on the paddock but let’s see how they react and come through. We just have to see how Ruan’s knee reacts.”
“It is a different kettle of fish when you are training on your own, but when you get in a team environment and it is twisting and turning, it is live stuff now.
“Hopefully both of them can get in the mix this weekend. To have those experienced players coming back in, it is good to have.”
Ruan Pienaar has been ruled out of the year-end tour because of a knee ligament injury and he will be replaced by Jano Vermaak.
Pienaar picked up the injury in the Springboks’ Test against New Zealand in Wellington in September and has been out of action since then.
“Ruan was re-assessed on Tuesday 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.”
A bright sunshiny but chilly day greeted the Springboks when they arrived in Dublin on Sunday, where they kick off the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour against Ireland this weekend.
The South Africans left Johannesburg last night and travelled via London Heathrow to the Irish capital for their first visit to this part of the world in two years.
Eben Etzebeth stayed behind in South Africa and will join the squad on Tuesday following a family bereavement, while there will be more clarity on Ruan Pienaar’s fitness situation in the week.
It is unlikely that the Springboks will rest a few key forwards for their year-end tour to Europe.
According to reports on Sunday, there will be no respite for stalwarts like Jannie du Plessis, Beast Mtawarira, Adriaan Strauss, Bismarck du Plessis and Duane Vermeulen as Boks aim to pick their best possible team for the tour.
The Boks play four Tests back-to-back against Ireland (Dublin, 8 November), England (London, 15 November), Italy (Padova, 22 November) and Wales (Cardiff, 29 November).
RWC winning back JP Pietersen will replace injured scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar for home Rugby Championship Tests against Australia and New Zealand, it was announced on Sunday.
Pietersen, who can operate on the right wing or at outside centre, has been playing in Japan and was unavailable for the first four southern hemisphere championship matches.
“JP has always been part of our plans and did very well in June playing at outside centre,” Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said in a statement.
Springbok scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar will miss the rest of the Rugby Championship after suffering a knee ligament injury in the 14-10 defeat to the All Blacks in Wellington.
Pienaar was carried from the field in the 36th minute after a swinging leg from team-mate Duane Vermeulen connected with his leg.
Team doctor Craig Roberts confirmed the 80-Test veteran is likely to face several months on the sidelines.
Get better as quickly as possible, Fourie du Preez!
That should be the earnest, continued wish of all astute Springbok enthusiasts… even given the knowledge that his return to fitness after an ankle operation for national team purposes probably only comes in time for next year’s roster.
But with 2015 hardly unimportant as it signals the advent of another World Cup, in the United Kingdom, that’s still not the worst scenario to mull over.
If South Africa are to win this year’s Castle Lager Rugby Championship, then quick ball from the breakdown is non-negotiable.
The Boks have made it clear that they want to speed up their play during this year’s competition, not slow it down as they have in the past.
The biggest problem is that their catalyst, their general in exercising their play in this regard, talisman Fourie du Preez, is injured and unavailable, bringing a heavy burden on the three halfbacks in the squad to produce the goods.
Who Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer earmarks as his flyhalf at the outset of the Championship next month could also have a major bearing on which scrumhalf he chooses to plug the unfortunate Fourie du Preez gap.
Incumbent No 9 and still world-class customer Du Preez, 32, was confirmed on Tuesday as having an ankle injury serious enough for him to ruled out of the entire southern hemisphere tournament.
Given his vast, 70-cap experience and precious ability to read and control a game better than most other South African scrumhalves right now, the loss of Du Preez certainly dents the Boks’ chances of ousting New Zealand from their status as defending champions, even if there have been enough positives in other departments of late to suggest they’ll be seriously competitive nevertheless.
The veteran was just beginning to benefit from a decent run of international matches – important given that he plies his franchise trade in the much more modest arena of Japanese club rugby now – in the June window, looking increasingly more like the character who helped drive the World Cup 2007 success.
The niceties dictate that the phrase ‘parted company’ is employed but effectively Ulster have sacked Mark Anscombe. The New Zealander did not know what was in the offing over the weekend and only learned of his fate yesterday.
Ireland’s defence coach Les Kiss will combine those duties with the responsibility of those as interim head coach for the province. There is no time limit placed on his dual remit.
Ulster rugby released a statement yesterday afternoon. It read: “Following the departure of director of rugby, David Humphreys, Ulster Rugby has today announced that head coach, Mark Anscombe, is to leave the province with immediate effect.”
South Africa’s Sevens Player of 2013, Cornal Hendricks, will make his debut for South Africa in the 15-man code next to ten players who started in the Springboks’ final Test of 2013 when they face a star-studded World XV, sponsored by Samsung, at DHL Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday (kick-off at 17:00 SA Time).
The speedy Hendricks is the only newcomer in the team as Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer opted for continuity in his team’s first match of the year.
The old firm of Bakkies Botha and interim captain Victor Matfield are re-united in the second row. JP Pietersen moves to outside centre. Schalk Burger makes a return to the side for the first time in two and a half years while Frans Steyn, Schalk Brits, Lwazi Mvovo and Johan Goosen are also back after playing no Test rugby last year.
Overseas-based Springboks Francois Louw and Ruan Pienaar will be ready for action by the time the Boks play their first game this year.
Flanker Louw, who plays for Bath in England, has recovered from an ankle injury which ruled him out for the last nine weeks. He is expected to play for Bath in their Amlin Challenge Cup final against Northampton Saints at Cardiff Arms Park on Friday.
Scrumhalf Pienaar has also returned to action for his Irish club, Ulster, after being sidelined for four weeks.
Glasgow’s Jonny Gray was named ‘Young Player of the Year’ at the RaboDirect PRO12 Awards evening in the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh.
Jonny Gray picked up the award after not only breaking into and starting in the Glasgow side, but also into the Scottish national team.
He beat Leinster centre Noel Reid to the title and follows in the footsteps of Tim Visser (Edinburgh Rugby), Toby Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons), Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors) and Luke Marshall (Ulster Rugby) as the RaboDirect PRO12 ‘Young Player of the Year’.
Springbok scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar is in a race against time to be fit for the June Tests after injuring his AC joint playing for his Irish team Ulster.
The Rumour of a move to Toulon has been laid to rest on Tuesday after Springbok scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar extended his stay at Ulster for another 3 years.
Ruan Pienaar seems to be the latest interest for French side Toulon.
According to reports from France it seems that Toulon is chasing Pienaar’s signiture.
The Springbok team to face Scotland in Nelspruit on Saturday shows five changes, three of them on the bench, from the match-23 which beat Italy in the opening round of the Castle Lager Incoming Series last weekend.
The two new players in the starting line-up are scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar, who comes in for the injured Jano Vermaak, and loose forward Marcell Coetzee, who replaces Francois Louw.
Although the Springbok side will officially be announced later today, Wednesday 12 June, it appears from the way the team is training that the likelyhood is that Heyneke Meyer will only change players in the positions where injury and absense due to other duties are forcing his hand.
After 22 rounds and two play-off games, the 2012/13 Pro12 season wraps up on Saturday with the Final at the Royal Dublin Society. It is, appropriately, between first and second seeds, Ulster and Leinster.
Ruan Pienaar scored 21 points playing at flyhalf as unbeaten Ulster secured a 46-19 away Pro12 victory against the Dragons on Friday.
Ruan Pienaar’s last-gasp try gave Ulster a deserved bonus-point win over Castres in the Heineken Cup opener.
Ruan Pienaar’s elevation to the Springbok kicking role is likely to continue this weekend despite the fact he was successful with less than half of his kicks at goal against Australia at Loftus Versfeld.
DHL Western Province No 8 Duane Vermeulen will make his Springbok debut against Australia in Perth on Saturday, in South Africa’s third test in The Rugby Championship for 2012.
Johannesburg – Coach Heyneke Meyer’s proactive use of his substitutes was one of the essential reasons that the Springboks lifted their second-half game to win the first Test against England in Durban.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer expressed his excitement at the upcoming international season as the national planning camp concluded in Durban today (Monday), with less than two weeks to go before the first Test of the Castle Incoming Tour 2012 against England,
The RaboDirect Pro12 ‘dream team’ for the season 2011/2012 was announced last week. There is a fair mix of representation of players from Irish, Welsh and Scottish clubs with no Italian clubs having any players in the team. On Sunday evening, in Cardiff, various awards for this season were handed out with the accolade for player of the season going to Edinburgh try scoring machine Tim Visser.