Ulster face anxious wait to learn of extent of Ruan Pienaar's injury
New Zealand inside centre Ma'a Nonu and Springboks scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar could miss the rest of the Rugby Championship after both sustained bad injuries in the All Blacks' bruising 14-10 victory at Wellington Regional Stadium on Saturday.
Nonu appeared to have broken his forearm, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen told reporters, while Pienaar had damaged his knee and could be out for between six and eight weeks, his Springboks counterpart Heyneke Meyer added.
The extent of both injuries would need to be determined after further medical checks, with Nonu being taken to hospital during the game while Pienaar's injury would be assessed in South Africa.
Pienaar was carried off in the 36th minute while Nonu did not appear again in the second half, forcing Hansen to shift Ben Smith into inside centre for the second 40 minutes.
Smith has principally played on the wing or at fullback for the All Blacks, but did play at centre on the All Blacks' end of year tour to Europe last November.
With Cory Jane covering the outside backs from the bench, Smith's selection to cover the midfield, should Nonu or Conrad Smith get injured, had been debated during the week, though both Hansen and assistant coach Ian Foster had no concerns.
"He did that job magnificently," Foster said. "We had a conversation on Tuesday and basically told him not to worry because Ma'a never gets injured.
"That didn't work. He trained there and just trusted his instincts. His footwork was great.
"He has been hugely valuable for us."
Foster described Smith as the most versatile player he had seen throughout his playing and coaching career, but both he and Hansen said there would be no thought to him starting a test at inside centre.
"No," Hansen said, then paused. "No, I should really say no.
"Not unless we had a while lot of circumstances that dictated that we had to, like Ryan (Crotty) not being available, Malakai (Fekitoa) not been available. Ian not being available, me not being available, and Richie (McCaw) not being available.
"So no is the answer, which I have to reaffirm because Fozzie (Foster) has just kicked me under the table."
Hansen added that Crotty had recovered from a broken cheek and should be available for selection for their final two Rugby Championship clashes against Argentina on September 27 and South Africa on October 4.
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