According to a report on Keo, Ruan Pienaar will be the Sharks’ first-choice flyhalf for the 2009 Super 14.
Now, as usual, we should probably apply a liberal sprinkling of sodium chloride, given established doubts about the veracity of the above-mentioned site, but the source of the story is an interview with John Plumtree. Notwithstanding Ryan Vrede’s penchant for twisting things and getting them horribly out of context, Plummo seemed pretty unequivocal: “Ruan will play at 10 next year,” is what he apparently said to Vrede.
Reading between the lines, it would appear that the Sharks’ procurement team have been scouring the length and breadth of the rugby-playing world ever since Fred Michalak announced his intention to return home to Toulouse. Plumtree basically admitted that their attempts to secure the services of a super rugby quality flyhalf had failed, since such players don’t grow on trees (and, in fact, the Stormers are about the only SA franchise that actually have one). Good tens are like hen’s teeth at the moment and it would certainly be very risky indeed for the Sharks to back the young Len Olivier in this vital position, since he is untested at this level.
The other option available to the Sharks is, of course, to use Frans Steyn at flyhalf, but he has never really looked comfortable at pivot, given the reduced decision-making time available in that position. Steyn will get an extended run at inside centre next year, with a view to developing him as a flyhalf as he matures. It’s a sensible decision, but does mean that for Steyn, a regular starting berth in the Bok side will remain a dream until Jean de Villiers either loses form (unlikely) or suffers another injury (somewhat more likely).
Back to Pienaar, though. It appears that he is now keen to accept what many perceive to be his destiny; that he is potentially South Africa’s premier flyhalf. Pienaar’s uncanny physical resemblance to Henry Honiball has been widely remarked upon. Perhaps it’s now time for “klein Lem” to stake a lasting claim to the jersey that was worn with such distinction by his illustrious doppelgänger.
Boks aside, for the Sharks, this just makes damn good sense. With Rory Kockott as first-choice scrumhalf – willing and able to take some of the goal-kicking pressure off Pienaar – and the live wire Charl McLeod as his deputy, the Sharks are not short of quality options at the base of the scrum. Pienaar will set the pace at flyhalf, while Olivier can fill in if the situation allows. Steyn, Riaan Swanepoel, Adrian Jacobs and Waylon Murray will battle it out for the centre berths, although the latter may well find himself operating more on the wing. Either way, there is talent aplenty across the board.
Mark my words – with Ruan Pienaar at flyhalf, the Sharks will win the 2009 Super 14.Tweet