Ruan Pienaar’s performance at flyhalf for the Springboks during their year-end tour, have vindicated coach Peter De Villiers’ selection gamble.
Rugby 365 reports that since 2006, Pienaar has struggled to find a regular start in the Springbok team with Ricky Januarie and Fourie Du Preez well established in the number nine jersey.
Pienaar has only been in the Springbok run-on side nine times during his 27-cap career, with two of those starts at fullback. But it is his last three Test starts that have been most significant.
De Villiers was heavily criticised prior to the tour for not selecting a specialist flyhalf. Pienaar and Earl Rose’s selections were greeted with doubt and rugby pundits argued that the northern hemisphere conditions will not suit the free-running pair.
Rose did not get a chance to prove them wrong, however Pienaar excelled in his latest role scoring a try against England and landing five conversions and 11 penalties during the year-end tour, illustrating a complete set of skills.
It is yet unclear whether Pienaar will be retained at flyhalf for the Lions series in 2009 but Springbok team manager, Arthob Petersen believes this is only the start of the 24-year old’s career as Springbok flyhalf.
“The tour has shown that Ruan Pienaar definitely has a future as a Test flyhalf.
“He is not yet the complete product but he made great strides over the past month and proved he had what it takes to make the switch. He made a major contribution to the victory over England, both tactically and with the boot.
De Villiers also praised Pienaar’s performances on tour.
“I was very, very happy with the way Ruan came through on this tour,” said De Villiers.
“He has a sense of how to keep the tempo of a game going forward, an eye for the break and an awareness of space and position. I think he’s quite probably the best all-round player in South Africa.
“We took him over as a flyhalf because we need good number 10s in this country and he has shown he can be the man we are looking for.”
De Villiers also gave the tour overall a pass mark, although he did concede that there were areas of their play that demanded attention.
“We reached our goals on this tour and some things went to plan and others need some more looking at,” said De Villiers.
“We got a lot out of the guys and found out just how deep they can dig into themselves when they are asked to.”Tweet