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South African Rugby
De Villiers encouraged by Steyn and Pienaar
Scrum.com
June 5, 2009
Springbok Frans Steyn crashes in Nick de Luca during their win over Scotland at Murrayfield, November 15 2008
Peter de Villiers is confident that Francois Steyn will be fit to face the Lions © Getty Images
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Springbok coach Peter de Villiers has seen encouraging progress from injured duo Francois Steyn and Ruan Pienaar as he continues his preparations for the upcoming Test series against the British & Irish Lions. Steyn has been struggling with a knee injury while his Sharks team-mate Pienaar picked up an ankle injury during the latter stages of the Super 14.

The Test series kicks off in Durban on June 20 and De Villiers expects the pair to be fit, and also potentially to fill a worrying gap at fullback for the Springboks.

"It was encouraging to see the likes of Ruan Pienaar and Frans Steyn running again after their injury lay-offs," he wrote in his column on sarugby.co.za. "They will continue to receive treatment in the days ahead to ensure that they will be fit for selection ahead of the first Test on June 20.

"The good news from the medical and conditioning team is that they expect a fully-fit squad by that time. With the initial groundwork done, the full squad of 28 will hit the ground running in Durban next week as we intensify preparations for the first Test. The initial part of our preparations for the British and Irish Lions Test series is over and I am satisfied with the progress we have made over the past two weeks."

After their exertions in thrashing the Chiefs in the final of the Super 14 last weekend, de Villiers gave his squad members from the Bulls the week off in order to recover.

"It was imperative that we gave the Bulls players the past week off to allow them some rest after their tough Super 14 semi-final and final matches," he said. "The encouraging thing for me was that all of them came through those two matches without injury which is a great confidence booster.

"With the Bulls putting their feet up after their stunning victory we were afforded the opportunity to work with the balance of the squad to test their levels of fitness, assess and treat players carrying injuries, work with the kickers, test out some new plays and formulate our game strategies."

De Villiers refused to add to speculation over the identity of the fullback likely to be used by the Springboks, with the subject having fuelled plenty of debates since regular choice Conrad Jantjes was ruled out with a broken leg.

"Since our squad announcement there has been much debate over who will play fullback in the series," he said. "There are numerous candidates in the squad who are all more than capable in the position and we will be looking at each of them in the coming weeks with the aim of finding the best back-three combination.

"We are blessed to have great rugby players in South Africa which is a major benefit for the coaching team."

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