First-choice captain O’Driscoll has been ruled out for up to 12 weeks with an ankle problem that requires surgery while Ulster hooker Best, who has captained Ireland on four occasions, has a neck injury.
Ordinarily O’Connell, who was captain in three of Ireland’s Six Nations matches earlier this year, would be the automatic choice to take the armband against the Springboks, but he has not been back from a knee injury long, and he has also struggled with a back problem of late.
And Kidney is reluctant to burden the 33-year-old with too much.
“It is a big blow to be down the two lads who have been captaining the side, along with Paul, over the last couple of years,” Kidney told the Irish Independent.
“That makes it all the more precious when he is around.
“Paul isn’t training and has his own niggles with his back. He was hoping to get some pitch time this weekend and that is not right for him too. Captain can be an onerous position, we’ll let him recover first and see what’s best for the person too.”
Should Kidney decide against appointing O’Connell as skipper, it would leave Leinster duo Jonathan Sexton and Jamie Heaslip as the leading candidates for the job.
© Sportsbeat 2012
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BIOGRAPHY: Alexandre Lacazette