Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Ruan Pienaar and Rory Best back for Ulster Rugby's Dublin crunch

Ulster ready to gamble on star duo for semi-final

Ulster's Ruan Pienaar
Ulster's Ruan Pienaar

Ulster are ready to take a risk on A-list pair Ruan Pienaar and Rory Best in Saturday night's RaboDirect PRO12 semi-final against Leinster at the RDS (7pm).

But Ricky Lutton is in a race against time, while John Afoa and Nick Williams are out having failed to recover from their injuries.

Neither South African scrum-half Pienaar (shoulder) nor Ireland hooker Best (ankle) have played since Ulster's Heineken Cup quarter-final defeat by Saracens on April 5.

At the time the prognoses were that Pienaar was likely to be out for six weeks while Best was expected to miss six-eight.

Saturday will be six weeks since that European exit, for which reason seldom-injured Pienaar and famously quick-to-heal Best will be risked.

Unlike that pair's case, there was no estimated time-out for former All Black and 2011 World Cup winner Afoa, who also has been sidelined since suffering a back injury against Saracens.

But as a tight-head prop whose primary raison d'être is to scrummage, a disc problem meant it was always highly unlikely that he would be involved this weekend.

And with both of those immediately below Afoa in the pecking order – Declan Fitzpatrick and Ricky Lutton – sidelined by heart palpitations and a toe injury respectively, the past two matches have seen fledgling Andrew Warwick switch from the loose to tight-head side of Ulster's front row, where he has excelled.

Further reading:

Ulster Rugby: Write us off at your peril 

D-day for Ulster Rugby: Mark Anscombe spells out what he expects from his men in Dublin  

Previous Pro12 results mean nothing to Ulster Rugby's Mark Anscombe 

Only Pro12 title glory will satisfy Fergus McFadden's appetite 

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