Selectors opt for skill of Pienaar

2009-07-22 00:00

THE selection of a runner (Ruan Pienaar) instead of a kicker (Morné Steyn) at flyhalf, and the withdrawal of centre Adrian Jacobs, are the features of the Springbok team yesterday named for the Tri-Nations Test against the All Blacks in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

Coach Peter de Villiers, in settling on his flyhalf, opted for the general rugby skills of Pienaar instead of the match-winning boot of Steyn.

Pienaar played impressively in the first Test against the British Lions, but it was the boot of Steyn which finally settled the second Test —and the series — in Pretoria.

Steyn, however, was less effective in the much-changed Bok team for the third Test at Ellis Park and Pienaar clearly remains De Villiers’s first-choice flyhalf.

“It was a difficult decision to choose between Ruan and Morné. But you always have difficult decisions as a coach,” said De Villiers yesterday.

De Villiers has lost his favourite centre Jacobs to injury, but many observers would agree that Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie would be his most potent midfield pairing and certainly his stronger defensively. The two would have been South Africa’s first-choice pairing for the past few years, but injury to De Villiers at the 2007 World Cup and Fourie in 2008 opened the door for first Frans Steyn and then Jacobs.

Jean de Villiers confirmed yesterday that he had signed a one-year contract for Munster, but the Bok coach said this was never going to be a factor in selection.

An impeccable source told The Witness earlier in the week that coach De Villiers had been running Jacobs at inside centre with Fourie on his outside at last week’s practices, but the Bok coach denied this yesterday. He said that Fourie was replacing the injured Jacobs and De Villiers’s place at inside centre had never been threatened.

“It was a big setback to lose Adi, as he has been in our plans for a long time. But with Jaque coming in, our plans won’t change that much.

“I am excited that they [De Villliers and Fourie] are reunited and I look forward to seeing what they can do.”

Apart from Fourie’s inclusion for Jacobs, the team is the same as the one that played the British Lions in the first Test in Durban a month ago.

De Villiers has reverted to a 4:3 split on the reserve bench with the out-of-touch Ricky Januarie returning as back-up for Fourie du Preez. This has resulted in the omission of Andries Bekker, and Danie Rossouw will cover lock with Ryan Kankowski the backrow reserve.

Tighthead Jannie du Plessis returns on the bench and John Smit will switch to loosehead if Tendai Mtawarira is injured.

Bok captain Smit said that the Lions series had provided the Boks with ideal preparation for the Tri-Nations.

The competition was tough and tight, the opposition was of high quality and the Boks would be battle-hardened, he added.

“We realise there are a few areas that we now need to iron out. We are going to draw on that Lions success for what will be a tough Tri-Nations. That win gives us confidence, but we have also had 10 days to unwind and rest. We have worked hard in the last couple of days, especially on our accuracy in training.”

Smit said the All Blacks, coming off a hard win over the Wallabies, would be confident and would have benefitted from the Test.

“They also played an intense Test match and that will help their build-up. But we’ve had better preparation than past years with that Lions tour.”

“It is dangerous to talk about our chances before we’ve even played our first game.

“We’ve got a strong squad and our standards are high, but we cannot get too far ahead of ourselves.”

Kick-off is at 5 pm on Saturday.

Springbok team

15 Frans Steyn, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Ruan Pienaar, 9 Fouire du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 John Smit (c), 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Danie Rossouw, 19 Ryan Kankowski, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Morne Steyn, 22 Wynand Olivier.

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