Anscombe is confident on Pienaar
ULSTER COACH Mark Anscombe has confirmed that he will have Springbok Ruan Pienaar available for the opening game of the Heineken Cup in October even though the 28-year-old will be playing in South Africa just days earlier.
Pienaar, one of Ulster’s most influential players in their march to the Heineken Cup final last season, is part of the South African squad playing in the newly expanded Tri-Nations, which sees Argentina joining Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
The Rugby Championship kicks off this weekend and continues until October 6th when South Africa host the All Blacks in Johannesburg.
Six days later Ulster will open their Heineken Cup campaign at home to Castres but Anscombe expects to have Pienaar available.
“Ruan is away with South Africa for the four nations so we don’t see him until October, so that’s unfortunate,” said Anscombe.
The new Ulster coach said that Pienaar’s absence presents opportunities to others and he was pleased that Blane McIlroy and Michael Heaney did well against Bayonne in their opening pre-season game last weekend.
“Then we have Paul Marshall and hopefully he will be right to get some game time in a couple of weeks,” added Anscombe.
Keegan Daniel will make his first Test start for South Africa when he lines up at number eight for their Rugby Championship opener against Argentina in Cape Town on Saturday.
Daniel (27) who captained the Sharks to the Super Rugby final this season, has made three substitute appearances for the Springboks since making his Test debut against Ireland in 2010.
Daniel starts in place of the Pierre Spies, who was ruled out of the tournament on Tuesday with a finger injury.
While Daniel has experience at the back of the scrum, his regular position is as a flanker and concerns have been raised that he may be too small for the international game.
Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer rejected these suggestions yesterday and clearly has no qualms about Daniel’s ability to perform at the highest level.
“Keegan has been playing really well in Super Rugby and he has put up his hand,” Meyer told a news conference in Cape Town.
“It is a setback losing someone of Pierre’s experience but I think that Keegan is the logical choice to replace Pierre. It is a step up and it is in his hands now to see if he can play at this level. What you lose in physicality with Keegan you gain with the X-factor he brings to the team,” he added.
South Africa’s starting XV to face Argentina features six changes to the team who drew 14-14 with England in the third Test in June. Fullback Zane Kirchner, wing Lwazi Mvovo, inside centre Frans Steyn, flanker Willem Alberts, lock Andries Bekker and Daniel are included.
The 25-year-old Steyn, who made his Test debut against Ireland in 2006, will become the 23rd player to reach 50 Test caps for South Africa. He is back at inside centre after missing the England game because of his wedding.
There are two possible debutants on the bench in prop Pat Cilliers and centre JJ Engelbrecht.
SOUTH AFRICA: Z Kirchner; L Mvovo, J de Villiers (capt), F Steyn, B Habana; M Steyn, F Hougaard; T Mtawarira, B du Plessis, J du Plessis, E Etzebeth, A Bekker, M Coetzee, W Alberts, K Daniel. Replacements: A Strauss, P Cilliers, F van der Merwe, J Potgieter, R Pienaar, P Lambie, JJ Engelbrecht.
ARGENTINA: L Gonzalez Amorosino; G Camacho, M Bosch, S Fernandez, H Agulla; JM Hernandez, N Vergallo; R Roncero, E Guinazu, J Figallo, M Carizza, P Albacete, J F Cabello, A Galindo, JM Fernandez Lobbe (capt). Replacements: B Postiglioni, M Ayerza, JP Orlandi, T Leonardi, L Senatore, M Landajo, M Rodriguez.