Sharks win revives old flyhalf debate

2010-05-11 00:00

THE excellent weekend Super 14 win over the Stormers, and the form shown by halfbacks Rory Kockott and Ruan Pienaar, has revived the old Sharks’ flyhalf debate.

Head coach John Plumtree switched Pienaar to flyhalf on Saturday night to provide the competitive Kockott with a rare start at scrumhalf and the pair excelled, bringing energy and enthusiasm to the Sharks’ backplay.

They were, of course, playing off the most solid of platforms and behind a superb pack, which bullied the Stormers in most areas and created space for the backs. This allowed Kockott, in particular, to snipe dangerously around the fringes and keep his side going forward.

The halves, linking well with the loose forwards, also created a host of openings for the outside backs.

Again, however, the Sharks’ lack of finishing power cost them. Handling errors and poor decisions cost them tries on four occasions.

After the victory, Plumtree was again back defending his decision to select Pienaar at scrumhalf for most of the season.

“The halves went very hard against the Stormers and Rory at nine [scrumhalf] really stressed them. But it must also be remembered that we have also won a string of our recent games with Andy Goode at flyhalf.”

The Sharks coach said that with Kockott at scrumhalf “you got good and bad, but Pienaar is a really class act at nine.

“Rory was very good against the Stormers, but he does not always take the right options.”

Bok coach Peter de Villiers is not alone in believing that Pienaar should play all his rugby at flyhalf, but Plumtree does not agree.

“Everyone is entitled to his opinion, but I believe Ruan is a better scrumhalf than flyhalf. And the important thing is that Ruan himself believes that,” he said.

Plumtree said that job satisfaction and the player’s happiness remained a major consideration and it had been a case of rebuilding Pienaar’s confidence this year.

“I think playing him at scrumhalf again in this Super 14 has allowed him to settle and relax. You can see that he is now excited about the game again and enjoying himself. The confidence is back and it showed even when he went to flyhalf.”

Plumtree said that burly loose forward Willem Alberts, who left the field after 30 minutes on Saturday night with a knee injury, would be sidelined for about three weeks, and was the only injury concern ahead of Friday night’s final round game against the Western Force at King’s Park.

Alberts, along with Jean Deysel, has brought a strong physical presence to the Sharks back row, but Plumtree has excellent backup in Jacques Botes and Keegan Daniel.

Friday’s game kicks off at 7.10 pm.

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