Ruan Pienaar will play flyhalf for the Sharks in 2009 and Francois Steyn will be at his Rugby World Cup position of inside centre, coach John Plumtree has confirmed.
Mike Greenaway writes in the Cape Times that there has been speculation that Steyn and Pienaar would fight it out for the No 10 position vacated by Frederic Michalak, but it will be Pienaar at flyhalf when the Sharks kick off against the Stormers on February 14 and pretty much for every game thereafter.
“We reckon Ruan is the answer for us at 10 and he is happy to make the switch (from scrumhalf),” Plumtree said.
“He realises that there is a big opportunity for him in this position with the Springboks (he was the flyhalf on the end-of-season tour). Similarly, Frans is happy to make a full go of playing 12 and is keen to push hard to regain the Springbok No 12 shirt.”
Pienaar and Steyn were among the chief beneficiaries last week when Plumtree brought in Australian rugby league great Andrew Johns for an intense week of coaching.
Johns, heralded by many Aussies as the greatest player ever from that code, worked on all aspects of attacking running, including running angles and changing pace.
Plumtree said that the squad has worked extremely hard on fitness over the last two months and were now shifting the focus towards the technical side of the game.
“We will spend this week at Michaelhouse in what is essentially a training camp,” he said. “There will be a big emphasis on our structures and set pieces, and also goal-setting.
“It will also be good to have a week of training away from the humidity.”
The coach said that there has been a high pre-season casualty rate, with four players having undergone operations.
“The injury side of things is not good at all, although some of the problems have been inherited from the Currie Cup” he said. “Pat Cilliers (knee), Albert van den Berg (shoulder), Waylon Murray (knee) and Jacques Botes (groin) had to have surgery and will be touch and go for the first round of the Super 14.
“Our depth is pretty good among the forwards but we might be in a bit of trouble if we pick up more injuries among the backs.”
Plumtree said that the Sharks are very excited about the imminent season.
“This is a happy group of players and they can’t wait for the season to start. The Currie Cup success has been put well and truly behind us and everybody realises that the Super 14 is a very different and much tougher competition. There is no breathing space, every match is tough and every week you have to play with great intensity.
“But is a challenge the guys are looking forward to. They are already talking about the Stormers game. It is going to be huge. They are certainly going to be waiting for us, we know that.”
The Sharks will play the Cheetahs on January 24 in Abu Dhabi in the first of their two Super 14 warm-up matches.
They then host the Bulls in Durban on February 4 (5pm).
The match against the Cheetahs will be played at The Sevens Stadium in Dubai (120kms from Abu Dhabi) which recently underwent refurbishment in order to host the World Cup 7′s in March 2009. The conditions in Dubai, at sea-level and with high humidity, are very similar to those of Durban.
Craig Joubert will be the referee and according to De Wet Ras, former Springbok and Free State flyhalf who currently resides in the UAE, there is great interest in the match amongst the estimated 100 000 South Africans who live and work there.Tweet