Yo-yo man Pienaar could return to scrumhalf

2009-09-16 00:00

UTILITY back Ruan Pienaar, who has played for the Springboks at flyhalf and fullback this season, could return to scrumhalf, his favourite position, for the Sharks in the Currie Cup.

Pienaar and his fellow-Springboks returned from their triumphant Tri-Nations tour on Monday night and Sharks coach John Plumtree now has to mix and match his resources for the remaining four games of the Currie Cup competition.

The log-leading Sharks face the confident Free State Cheetahs, who have won six games in a row, at King’s Park on Saturday evening.

The big question, of course, is how Plumtree will use Pienaar, the yo-yo man of South African rugby, now that Argentinian Juan Hernandez is starting to make his mark at flyhalf for the Sharks.

Pienaar has only moved to flyhalf over the past year at the request of Springbok coach Peter de Villiers, who was looking for a replacement for Butch James. But Morne Steyn has now nailed down the Test spot at flyhalf and Pienaar, switched to fullback for two Tri-Nations Tests, is now again in limbo.

Plumtree told The Witness after the Sharks’ win at Loftus that he is reluctant to switch Hernandez to inside centre and Pienaar, who has always preferred the scrumhalf position where he has played most of his rugby, could be back there in the Currie Cup with Charl McLeod and Rory Kockott providing capable back-up.

Plumtree met with the returning Springboks yesterday morning and discussed integrating them into the Sharks team in the weeks ahead.

“Some will be available this weekend and we’ll have to wait for training to see how the combinations work.

“When you know the characters like I do, it makes integration easier, I know which guys can front up and others who need a break. There are obviously team circumstances and certain areas need strengthening.

“The changes we make will be because we have to,” he added.

Plumtree said Springbok loosehead Beast Mtawarira has been carrying an Achilles tendon problem, while lock Johann Muller, who flew out to Australia to provide cover for Bakkies Botha, is still being troubled by the arm he broke at the start of the Currie Cup.

“Johann is not happy with his arm, so he will have to get that sorted out and he probably won’t be available this weekend.”

Plumtree said that Stefan Terblanche is on a roll as the caretaker Sharks captain and “it would be mad not to keep him”.

“Then we also have John Smit [the Bok captain] back, so we have to make a decision out of those two. I have lots of sleepless night ahead,” he said.

The Sharks will almost certainly be without centre Riaan Swanepoel this weekend.

“Yes, Swannie is doubtful. There is nothing structurally wrong with his shoulder, but he is sore and it will be good to give him a rest.”

Plumtree said that Free State will be a major challenge.

“This is crunch time, just four matches out from the semi-finals. Our goal is now to land a home semi-final, but the Cheetahs are also pushing hard.”

He said that the Bloemfontein team have rediscovered their balance and try-scoring ability.

“They will probably have two Springboks back at loose forward [Heinrich Brussow and Juan Smith] to provide intensity at the breakdown, they have a heavy front five and Jacques-Louis Potgieter has been running the ship from flyhalf.”

Plumtree said that Free State’s win over Province provided the Currie Cup with credibility.

“They can turn over anyone in this competition and we have to be on the money on Saturday.”

Plumtree warned that the Sharks allowed a similar position in the Super 14 earlier this year to slip through their fingers.

“We had the carrot of a home semi-final in the Super 14 and we deteriorated, but I do think that we now have a more balanced squad with more depth, with other players coming through and providing us with some serious options.”

The Sharks coach said he is hoping for a big crowd at King’s Park on Saturday.

Kick-off is at 5 pm.

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