I feel like I’ve finally got to the bottom of the Ruan Pienaar saga, after a thoroughly pleasant, open chat with his agent Hilton Houghton.
Regular readers may recall that I launched a pretty scathing attack on both Ruan and Hilton a few months ago, based on a bunch of rumours and half-truths that appeared on Keo.co.za, scum-rag of the rugby blog world. True to form, I went off on a half-cocked rant about loyalty to the Sharks and why I felt Pienaar had none. I’ve since come around and come to realise that I really had this one all wrong.
Ruan Pienaar, as a player, is all about confidence. He thrives on feeling relaxed and happy in a team environment and when he feels he has the backing of his coaches and team mates, he will deliver outstanding performances. At the time that the allegations surfaced on Keo, Ruan had recently been dropped from the Bok squad after a frustrating campaign that had seen him afforded virtually no game time in his preferred position. This followed a disruptive Super 14 campaign in which Pienaar suffered from the Dick Muir rotation program and could no longer be sure of his position as starting scrumhalf for his province.
On returning to the Sharks, Ruan Pienaar was not a happy man and he confided in Houghton, who organised a meeting between the player and his employers. The purpose of this meeting was to request some gametime for Pienaar at scrumhalf to allow him to establish himself back into the team setup, in the position in which he feels most comfortable. John Plumtree agreed and Pienaar’s good form, coupled with a timeous injury to Rory Kockott, saw the former emerge as the form South African scrumhalf in the entire competition.
The key here, says Houghton, was the opportunity for Pienaar to get his confidence back, playing in a position that he knows well and for a coach who he knew would back him. The opportunity to launch out and have a bash at playing flyhalf seems so much more attractive now, since Ruan knows that he isn’t going to be starting again from scratch should the experiment not work. He is on top of his game and his provincial coaches back him to deliver. He is no longer fighting for his place in the team. If the flyhalf experiment doesn’t work, either at national or Super 14 level, Pienaar has been given the assurance that he will still feature prominently in the Sharks’ plans – at scrumhalf.
So – I guess the purpose of this piece is twofold. Firstly, to apologise both to Ruan Pienaar and Hilton Houghton for getting things wrong back in August and for swallowing half-truths and jumping to conclusions. Secondly, I’d like to wish Ruan all the best for the upcoming tour. I’m sure we all want him to do well and succeed at flyhalf at whatever level he plays it. I’m sure we will also gladly accept him back in his regular position, should he not have the desired impact at 10.
Go get ‘em, Ru! We’re with you all the way.Tweet