Pienaar may replace Steyn

2014-06-25 00:00

PORT ELIZABETH — In a surprise move, Ruan Pienaar could be named today as the Springbok flyhalf to face Scotland on Saturday.

On the other hand, Handré Pollard, captain of the Baby Boks, may get his first taste of Test rugby.

Bok coach Heyneke Meyer has to find a substitute for Morné Steyn when he announces the team for the Test at the Nelson Mandela stadium in Port Elizabeth.

Steyn has gone back to France and that opens the door for the 30-year old Pienaar to once again put on the number 10 jersey.

Johan Goosen is the obvious favourite, but he will first have to undergo a medical examination to determine whether he has recovered from his knee injury.

He did not take part in yesterday’s practice and it is doubtful that he will be ready.

Pollard and Marnitz Boshoff are the other two flyhalves in the squad.

As a result of an ankle injury, Boshoff has spent little time training with the Boks and Pollard only joined the squad on Monday.

It was, however, Pollard who spent the biggest part of the session practising with the likely team.

That does not necessarily mean that he will be in the starting line-up, but it is clear that great care has been taken to familiarise him with the game plan.

“We have four outstanding flyhalves in the group,” Johann van Graan, the Springboks’ forward and attack coach, said yesterday.

This immediately raised eyebrows. Four flyhalves?

Yes, Van Graan added, and started off by discussing Pienaar.

“Ruan showed during the few minutes he played in Durban what he is capable of and he has been excellent during the times he played for the Boks and Ulster,” said Van Graan.

During the Durban Test, Pienaar stood in for Goosen, who went off injured after he earlier came on as a substitute for Steyn.

He also played flyhalf for a short while during the past weekend when Steyn left the field.

Should Meyer decide to select Pien­aar at flyhalf, it will be the eighth time that he has been included in this position in the Boks’ starting line-up.

Pienaar, who has played 76 Test matches, made his debut for the Springboks in 2006.

He was the substitute Bok flyhalf for the first time against Namibia in 2007.

In 2008, he was the first choice flyhalf in the Test against Wales in Cardiff.

The last time he started in that position had been in 2010, also against Wales in Cardiff.

There had been a period when Pienaar was regarded as former Bok coach Peter de Villiers’s first choice flyhalf.

After Steyn clinched the second Test in Pretoria against the British and Irish Lions with a penalty kick, Pienaar was moved to scrumhalf.

It is interesting that the Boks have never lost a Test in which Pienaar started as flyhalf. The Test against the Lions at Loftus could have been the first one, had Steyn not replaced him.

Since that time, Pienaar’s goal kicking had improved tremendously and he has been responsible for a lot of points for Ulster in Ireland.

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