Will South Africa’s 111th rugby test since Henry Honiball’s retirement finally deliver a player that can make the Springbok No 10 jersey his own?
Stephen Nell, Beeld
Honiball finished his test career at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff nine years ago in the play-off for third place during the 1999 World Cup.
South Africa beat New Zealand 22-18 on 4 November 1999, with Honiball given the opportunity to end his career in a fitting manner after an injury sidelined him earlier in the tournament.
It is therefore quite appropriate that Bok coach Peter de Villiers starts his search for a long-term solution with the choice of Pienaar in Cardiff.
South Africa previously examined their options there, with a 20-year-old Meyer Bosman making his test debut in the No 10 jersey in 2005 at the Millennium Stadium. The Boks won, but Bosman started only two tests at flyhalf.
The flyhalf to have started the most consecutive tests for South Africa since Honiball’s retirement is Jaco van der Westhuyzen. He played 17 tests there on the trot, starting against Ireland in 2004.
His grooming started when he came on as a substitute in South Africa’s victory of 46-40 over New Zealand at Ellis Park in 2000. That, however, would be coach Nick Mallett’s second last test in charge of the side and his successor, Harry Viljoen, wanted to turn Percy Montgomery into a flyhalf.
Montgomery started three tests there at the end of the 2000 season, but history shows that he was a much better fullback.
The rise of Butch James in 2001 was a significant development in the search for a successor for Honiball. James had a good Super 12 in 2001 and started the international season at flyhalf.
While James never made the No 10 jersey his undisputed property, he became a fallback option for Bok coaches.
Van der Westhuyzen never really convinced, even though he had more opportunities than any other player to establish himself.
André Pretorius also played several tests during Jake White’s tenure as coach, but ultimately James was the first-choice at last year’s World Cup.
James performed well, but the luck of the draw was such that South Africa never had to play against France, New Zealand or Australia.
This year James has not looked up to the task when he had to measure himself against the All Blacks’ Dan Carter and the Wallabies’ Matt Giteau.
Still, many believe the Boks are risking by not including James or a consistent No 10 like Peter Grant.
Grant has been used as a substitute a few times, but it does not appear as if De Villiers believes he is a potential solution.
That brings us to Pienaar. South Africa will hold its breath for the 111th time on Saturday.
The sequence of flyhalves since Honiball’s retirement in 1999 (number of tests played in a row in brackets):
2000: Braam van Straaten (3), Louis Koen (1), Van Straaten (4), Percy Montgomery (3), Van Straaten (1).
2001: Butch James (2), Montgomery (1), James (4), Van Straaten (1), Koen (3).
2002: André Pretorius (7), Brent Russell (1), Pretorius (1), James (1), Pretorius (1).
2003: Koen (9), Derick Hougaard (3).
2004: Jaco van der Westhuyzen (13).
2005: Van der Westhuyzen (4), Pretorius (6), Meyer Bosman (2).
2006: Van der Westhuyzen (4), James (3), Pretorius (3), James (1), Pretorius (1).
2007: James (2), Hougaard (1), James (2), Hougaard (2), James (4), Pretorius (1), James (4), Pretorius (1).
2008: James (2), Frans Steyn (1), James (7).