Springboks: Ruan Pienaar banging on number nine door

2012-08-21 00:00

CAPE TOWN — For how much longer should Ruan Pienaar be curtailed to the role of Springbok “supersub”?

It is a question likely to be weighing as much on the mind of coach Heyneke Meyer and his lieutenants as it doubtless is already for plenty of observers.

The Ulster-based Pienaar, a former Sharks favourite, has been a patient but also highly effective substitute in all Springbok Tests thus far in 2012.

Scrumhalf tends to be a position occupied by a livewire athlete, one often less likely than others to see the incumbent hauled off well before the end of matches if things are going suitably well for him.

Perhaps tellingly, however, Pienaar has been introduced with at least 20 minutes to go — and occasionally a fair bit more — in all four matches, including the trio against England.

The trick was duly repeated in the latest instance on Saturday, when Pienaar got another “last quarter” in the moderately satisfying triumph over Argentina in the Castle Rugby Championship, at the usual expense of first-choice Francois Hougaard.

The last-named player did get to see out the fixture at wing, a position where he has often been at his most incisive for his country before — and arguably was so again.

Hougaard is a naturally slippery, electric runner and there is a mounting case for saying he demonstrates it best when there is a bit more space available in raids from the back of the park.

Indeed, with the mercurial, in-form JP Pietersen inconveniently absent for the first two-thirds or so of this tournament, perhaps Hougaard is as equipped as anybody to show some alternative X-factor from out wide in broken-play situations.

Consideration of Hougaard for a wing berth, in the immediate follow-up game against the Pumas in Mendoza on Saturday, could lead to a win-win situation for both current rival number nines, opening up a rather obvious gap for Pienaar to try to raise the bar for the Boks as starting scrumhalf.

Frankly, Hougaard has under-delivered there this year, even if his broad talent and supreme tenacity as a rugby player is hardly in doubt.

He struggles to genuinely take command of games at scrumhalf in the manner his legendary Bulls predecessor Fourie du Preez once did, with his tactical kicking aspect remaining unremarkable and his passing sometimes overly laboured.

Pienaar, who has been getting such rave reviews in Ireland and wider European competition since his switch to northern climes, just seems so much more “natural” in the slot of late.

Isn’t that an important consideration in a team currently, let’s face it, not massively renowned for cutting-edge backline play?

He is in the prime of his pro rugby life, at the age of 28 and with 55 international caps to his name, only bearing out his wisdom.

Hougaard is four years his junior and still has time on his side to iron out certain rough edges to his number nine game — unless his admirably versatile credentials do yet lead to his more regular stationing at wing.

Right now, he is not quite the Full Monty at Test scrumhalf.

Pienaar warrants an opportunity to wear a certain, single-figure number on his back for a change, doesn’t he?

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/Sport

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.