Pienaar gets the nod for the Boks’ encounter with Wallabies

2009-08-27 00:00

RUAN Pienaar will be at fullback when the Springboks face the Wallabies in the Tri-Nations international in Perth on Saturday.

A source close to the team told The Witness from Perth yesterday that Pienaar, who has played most of his Test rugby at scrumhalf and flyhalf, will take over from his Sharks team-mate Frans Steyn at fullback.

This is expected to be the only change to the Springbok starting line-up when coach Peter de Villiers announces his team today, though flank Schalk Burger, returning from his lengthy suspension, will be on the bench.

Steyn, powerful, brave and with a prodigious boot, could certainly have made the Springbok fullback berth his own, but his decision to sign for French club Racing Metro will now cost him his place as coach Peter de Villiers looks to the future.

Steyn will be on the bench as cover in case the Pienaar plan backfires.

Pienaar may lack the booming boot of his Sharks team-mate, but he is a more instinctive footballer than Steyn and knows when to run, pass or kick. Whether he has the positional sense and is safe under the high ball remains to be seen.

Pienaar started the season as the Springboks’ first-choice flyhalf, but the emergence of Morne Steyn as a match-winning kicker has resulted in his being relegated to the bench. De Villiers, his coaching staff and the selectors have made it clear that they regard Pienaar as the better all-round flyhalf and more effective in sparking his outside backs, but Morne Steyn’s kicking form has been irresistible.

Of course, a strong argument could be made to field Pienaar at flyhalf and Morne Steyn at fullback where he has occasionally played for the Bulls and that could still be a possibility in the months ahead.

Danie Rossouw (tweaked hamstring) is the only Bok fitness concern and he or Andries Bekker will cover the lock position from the bench.

De Villiers yesterday defended his decision to fly his started team to Perth a day after the reserves had travelled.

“Wednesday is normally the players’ day off and we wanted to keep the week’s preparation exactly the same as any other week,” De Villiers said shortly after his arrival in Perth.

“We did all of the hard work on Monday and Tuesday. We’re trying a new thing and reducing the tour to two-and-a-half weeks. It was definitely a major factor in our decision that we were playing in Perth which is a short, nine-hour flight.”

The Springboks need six points from their next three games (two against Australia and one against New Zealand) to claim the title and the Wallabies yesterday said the mobility of the South African pack and the accuracy of their kicking game were their biggest threats.

Australian assistant coach Jim Williams said yesterday, “The athleticism of the Bok pack is what stands out. They have the ability to really get around the park while maintaining a solid set-piece and lineout. They’ve also really stepped up at the breakdowns with a guy like Heinrich Brussow, and Pierre Spies, Juan Smith, Danie Rossouw and Bakkies Botha really doing the hard graft there. It is a simple game plan but very effective.”

The Test kicks off at noon (SA time) on Saturday with New Zealander Bryce Lawrence the referee.


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