The issue of Ruan Pienaar’s errant goal-kicking is known to have been the major talking point in Monday’s Springbok selection meeting ahead of Saturday’s second Tri-Nations Test against the All Blacks in Durban – and there is a strong possibility that the name of Morne Steyn will be read out at No.10 when the team is announced today.
Mike Greenaway writes for The Star:
It is acknowledged that Pienaar is the better attacking flyhalf of the pair but his disappointing goal-kicking form in the previous two games he started – the second Test against the British and Irish Lions and last week’s Tri-Nations opener against New Zealand in Bloemfontein – almost cost the Boks the matches, and on both occasions substitute Steyn came on and sealed the results.
Steyn has yet to miss a kick at goal in international rugby and there is a growing feeling that the Boks have chanced their arm once too often with their primary goal-kicker stuttering along at 20 percent.
At Monday’s news conference in Umhlanga, coach Peter de Villiers hinted that there might be a change at flyhalf when he said that Pienaar, who has a minor ankle injury, “needs to be managed carefully to get him through the next five games”.
“Ruan is a very competitive player and a true professional,” De Villiers said. “He is also a sweet kicker and we are not sure what is wrong with his goal-kicking. He is such a creative player and somebody that we can build an attack around but maybe we need to look after him over the next month or so.”
So will the Boks start with Morne Steyn?
“Maybe,” De Villiers said.
The understanding from senior Boks is that Pienaar is the better footballer, the better athlete and distributor of the ball but, just as a dominant tight five is non-negotiable in Test rugby, so is picking a kicker that will land the goals.
Apart from the possible change at 10, the Boks are likely to field the same team that beat the Kiwis in Bloemfontein.
Centre Jean de Villiers is fit – he left the field in some discomfort last Saturday but it was later confirmed that his ailment was nothing more than cramp.
There will be possible changes to the bench, with fit-again Adrian Jacobs coming in for Wynand Olivier and recovered Andries Bekker replacing Ryan Kankowski.
Whoever is at flyhalf, De Villiers reckons the time and space will be cut down this week by the hurting All Blacks.
“We are expecting them to come out of the tunnel with all guns blazing,” the coach said.
“They hate losing, and then there is also the fact this was the tour match they would have heavily targeted. Coach Graham Henry hinted as much before they left New Zealand.
“Just like Super 14 teams target matches over here, this second one – after the travel problems of last week – is the one they have targeted.”
The back-to-back games have been likened to a mini-series, and the Boks can clinch that series with a win in Durban.
“We don’t look at it like that,” De Villiers said. “We aim for the honour of winning every Test match we play. It would be good for our people.
“It’s the same as this No.1 ranking in the world. You play this game for a number of reasons – one is to be the leader in your field and to assert yourself over your rivals and thus win respect, but for us winning rugby Tests is also about building our nation. When we win, we make people happy. We like to give back to the public what they give to us.
“Moving past New Zealand to No.1 is wonderful, but it is not the be-all and end-all. It is much harder to stay at No.1 than it is to get there.Tweet