Sharks flyhalf: Pienaar or Steyn?

2008-11-05 00:00

EITHER Francois Steyn or Ruan Pienaar will cover the flyhalf position for the Sharks in next year’s Super 14.

The Sharks’ Currie Cup-winning head coach John Plumtree, back from his week’s break in the Seychelles, said yesterday that either of the Springboks could fill the gap at flyhalf.

Plumtree said Frederic Michalak, who has returned home to France, would not be replaced.

“We have options with both Ruan and Frans able to do the job.”

The versatile Steyn and Pienaar are away with the Springboks in Wales and Plumtree will be following their progress with more than passing interest.

Pienaar, though he wants to be a scrumhalf, has been named as the Springboks’ first-choice flyhalf; Steyn has been selected as a centre, but he is likely to be on the bench for the Tests and providing cover for flyhalf, centre and fullback.

“We will sit back and watch how Ruan goes at flyhalf on this tour. We have seen him do the job for the Sharks before but it is crucial that he should want to play at flyhalf.”

Plumtree said that the prodigiously talented Steyn, who played most of the Currie Cup at inside centre, was keen to switch to flyhalf.

“Perhaps that is his position and maybe he will make his mark there next season with Ruan Pienaar at scrumhalf. But we’ll see after the Bok tour where we stand with Ruan.”

The move of Steyn from centre to flyhalf, and the loss of Brad Barritt to Saracens, may leave the Sharks without depth in midfied, but Plumtree is unconcerned. “We have Adrian Jacobs, Waylon Murray, Riaan Swanepoel and Andries Strauss in the squad, so we have back-up.”

Plumtree is also keen on seeing how John Smit performs at tighthead prop. “It will be tough for him but he has plenty of experience and he is strong, both mentally and physically.

“Still, I’m surprised the Boks overlooked a specialist tighthead like Jannie du Plessis.”

Plumtree is particularly well served in the front row with Test props in Beast Mtawarira, Deon Carstens, Jannie du Plessis and the up-and-coming Pat Cilliers and two Bok hookers in Smit and Bismarck du Plessis. Plumtree and his Sharks players are now in their close season but it is a brief one.

The Sharks squad return to training on November 24 with their Boks, after their tour of the UK, joining them for a week’s weight-training in December. The full squad gather on January 5 after a Christmas break.

“We will also have two camps in the Berg, one in December and one in January,” said Plumtree.

The confusion over the Super 14 play-offs has delayed the release of the official fixtures and the Sharks are now expected to open their season against the Stormers in Cape Town on February 13 (Friday).

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