Pienaar expected to be in driving seat on Saturday

2009-07-21 00:00

PETER de Villiers and his national panel are expected to select boldly by naming Ruan Pienaar at flyhalf for Saturday evening’s Tri-Nations international against the All Blacks in Bloemfontein.

Pienaar is expected to be preferred to Bulls goalkicker Morné Steyn in the pivot role while the selectors seem certain to play Adrian Jacobs, if he is passed fit, at inside centre ahead of Jean de Villiers.

Steyn won the second Test — and the series — against the British Lions with two remarkable place-kicks in the dying moments on his home ground at Loftus. However, in the third Test at Ellis Park, he battled to impose himself and was often caught in no man’s land on attack.

Certainly the talented Pienaar, a more dangerous attacker, will be more effective in tapping into the talents of his outside backs though he lacks the prodigious boot of Steyn.

The selection would not go down well in Blue Bull country where Steyn’s kicking game was pivotal to the Pretoria team winning the Super 14.

The Boks have also been practising with Jacobs partnering Jaque Fourie in midfield. There is a feeling among the selectors that the sniping running of Jacobs is better suited to inside rather than outside centre, while the patchy form of Jean de Villiers against the British Lions remains a concern.

But De Villiers said yesterday that Jacobs is struggling with a groin injury.

“The medical staff are still working with Adi. He is basically the only fitness worry, though Fourie has a slight niggle.”

De Villiers has drafted the Bulls’ in-form centre Wynand Olivier into the squad as cover for Jacobs.

Apart from the centre pairing and flyhalf, the starting line-up chooses itself with the balance of the bench the only remaining question.

De Villiers could opt for a split of five forwards to two backs, with Pie­naar rather than Ricky Januarie covering scrumhalf.

De Villiers yesterday denied media reports that SA Rugby’s assessment committee last week instructed him to steer clear of controversial statements at media conferences. “Nobody told me what I may do and what I may not do,” De Villiers said.

However, an SA Rugby source told The Witness last night that De Villiers had indeed been strongly advised how he should deal with the media in the future following a series of embarrassing press conferences during the British Lions tour.

The Bok coach said he does not believe his side are the favourites for the Bloemfontein Test.

“We never write off the All Blacks. We always knew that they were a good rugby side, as they showed on Saturday against the Wallabies [when they won 22-16 in Auckland].

“If you think you can pitch up for 60 or 70 minutes against the All Blacks then you’re at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

But De Villiers is concerned about Irish referee Alain Rolland and will meet with him before the international.

“The breakdown will always be a concern,” he said, “there are too many grey areas there.”

Springbok forward coach Gary Gold said that he was impressed with the All Blacks win, but said that the South Africans hope to target the lineout.

“Australia competed very well in the lineouts. It is definitely an area where we will try to take on the All Blacks. It won’t be easy, but we’re hoping to get the upper hand there,” said Gold.

“The All Blacks are coached brilliantly and they grew stronger as the match progressed.

“I was also very impressed by the All Blacks’ defence. Their play at the breakdown point is also very precise.”

“I am a bit worried about Rolland, because his interpretation at the breakdown point is different to what we’re used to in the southern hemisphere,” said Gold.

Likely Bok starting XV:

Frans Steyn, JP Pietersen, Jaque Fourie, Adi Jacobs (if fit), Bryan Habana, Ruan Pienaar, Fourie du Preez, Pierre Spies, Juan Smith, Heinrich Brussow, Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, John Smit (c), Bismarck du lessis and Tendai Mtawarira.

Kick-off: 5 pm on Saturday.

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