South Africa did the right thing by converting Ruan Pienaar into a flyhalf but Peter Grant should also have been in the Springbok rugby squad to tour Britain next month.
Stephen Nell writes in Die Burger that this is the opinion of former Wallaby coach Eddie Jones, who was also an adviser for the South African World Cup-winning team in France last year.
It was during last season that Jones first mentioned the similarities between Pienaar and Australian star Stephen Larkham.
Larkham was switched from fullback to flyhalf in 1998 and became, after an indifferent start, one of the best No 10s in the world.
“Ruan showed again last weekend what a good scrumhalf he is,” Jones said on Monday, “but it will be worth it to give him a run at flyhalf.
“He has the speed, the ability to catch and pass quickly, good vision and footwork, and he kicks well. He can become a very good flyhalf.”
However, Jones believes the experiment can only succeed if the Sharks follow the same route by selecting Pienaar at No 10, the way the Australians did with Larkham at regional level.
“A few Test matches will tell you nothing. You have to give him twelve months. If it does not work, he can return to scrumhalf.
“Larkham first played at flyhalf in 1998 and it took him a few years (to establish himself). He was not an immediate, resounding success.
“At the Brumbies, in 1999, we had to divide the responsibilities of the flyhalf position among him, George Gregan (scrumhalf) and Rod Kafer (inside centre). But two or three seasons later Larkham was the boss.”
Jones feels Pienaar has the potential to become a better flyhalf than any other player in the present SA setup.
“Ruan was outstanding as an impact player at flyhalf in last year’s victory (105-13) over Namibia. People do not realise how good that performance was,” Jones said.
He nevertheless believes the selectors erred by not including Grant in the touring team. “Grant is a good, steady player and he would have been ideal to have as second choice.
“He is a good player to have in a squad because he can play at inside centre and he defends well. I would have thought he’d be an automatic choice.
“He does not possess heaps of natural talent but he has shown for the Stormers he can play well in a game plan. In the match against the Western Force he attacked well on Matt Giteau’s outside. Grant was the general.
“He may lack a little pace and vision but it is important to have such a steady and trustworthy flyhalf in your squad,” Jones said.
“If I were in his position, I’d work hard on my kicking. He kicks well at goal but his punts are not long enough.”
Jones feels the South African coaching staff will do the right thing to entrust Pienaar with the goal kicking even though his success rate is not outstanding.
“History shows one needs someone with an 80 per cent success rate,” Jones said. “But Ruan is practising hard. I’d leave the kicking to him and use Frans Steyn to take the long kicks.”Tweet