Legendary Springbok Naas Botha believes the inability of any South African player to stamp their authority on the flyhalf position has caused “in-decision” as to who should fulfill this pivotal role.
“No flyhalf has stood out and said I’m taking control of this position and making it my own,” he told the Daily News when reflecting on Saturday’s announcement of the Springbok end-of-year tour squad. “No-one has proven themselves to be a Dan Carter and this has led to the in-decision that we see now.”
Craig Lewis writes for the Daily News that following the Absa Currie Cup final, Bok coach Peter de Villiers named a 28-man squad to face Wales, Scotland and England, omitting World Cup winning flyhalf Butch James as well as the highly fancied Morne Steyn and Peter Grant, with the latter on standby. Instead, De Villiers has “earmarked” Ruan Pienaar for the No 10 jersey, with the uncapped Earl Rose as the apparent flyhalf understudy.
Pienaar is one of nine Sharks players to have cracked the nod while Rose was just one of two uncapped players to be selected, with Cheetahs flank Heinrich Brussow named as the other debutant.
De Villiers said he felt Pienaar had all the right attributes to be a fantastic flyhalf.
“Ruan to me is a brilliant rugby player, he plays with his gut and you just need those kind of players. He’s got great speed off the mark, great hands and a great eye for the gap. He’s a total footballer.”
Botha said he had no doubt Pienaar could become a great flyhalf but he said it was vital for him to settle in this position if that’s where the national selectors saw his future.
“Only time will tell if Pienaar is the best guy for the job but we will just have to wait and see. He certainly has what it takes but if they want him to play there, then it’s also the responsibility of the Sharks to play him at flyhalf too. I don’t think we can have him as our national flyhalf but then a provincial scrumhalf.”
Botha added that he had no problem with the selection of Rose, despite the fact he was in indifferent form during the last few rounds of the Currie Cup.
“Earl has mostly played well this season and we all know he didn’t do too well in some of the bigger games but it’s only fair that he has this opportunity now. It will help for him to get this experience and to have this learning curve.”
And his views on the exclusion of Steyn and Grant?
“There are too many question marks with Morne that need to be answered. Tactically he’s just not taking control as he should.
“If he’d gone and won the game for the Bulls it would have been tough to leave him out but he didn’t. Grant is unfortunate not to be in the team but there’ll always be unlucky people,” Botha said.
Another interesting element to the squad announcement was that De Villiers has said hooker John Smit will be playing tighthead prop on the tour, thus allowing for both him and Bismarck du Plessis to be accommodated in the front row.
De Villiers said he also felt the move would “hopefully give him (Smit) a longer career”, with an eye to the 2011 World Cup.
Former Springbok and Natal prop Robbie Kempson said he believed Smit could fulfill the role at tighthead (he did play much of his under-21 rugby at prop) but added that he felt it would be a risk to play him only a few months after sustaining a serious groin injury in the Tri-Nations opener.
“John would certainly be able to play at tighthead but I hope he is going on the tour more for the role he plays as a leader and not as a frontline prop because I really believe that his groin injury needs more time to heal. That was a serious injury he picked up and he should really be looked after to ensure he’s fit for next year’s Lions tour.”
Kempson added that he was glad to see nine Sharks players had been included in the squad but said he was still baffled by the omission of Stefan Terblanche and Jean Deysel.
“The biggest shock to me is the exclusion of Terblanche. How he cannot be selected is beyond me. He is undoubtedly the best fullback in the country.
“That’s unbelievable, as is the exclusion of Deysel. He’s been amazing.”Tweet