It is a topic I raised yesterday on a forum, and one I believe might be a blessing in disguise given the immanent departures after the Tri-Nations for young Ruan Pienaar and Peter de Villiers. Could this be a stroke of genius by De Villiers or is it a foolish idea? You decide.
“Die een se dood is die ander een se brood.” It is an Afrikaans saying which I believe could well apply to Ruan Pienaar but not in the sense that most would think.
South Africa’s player of the year and Player’s player of the year for 2008, Jean de Villiers is leaving for an Irish club at the end of the year on a one year deal, with the option to extend his contract if he wants to.
To most this is a significant loss, and given the form Jean had in 2008 they might well be right, but unlike most, I could not care less if so-called ‘superstars’ leaves for greener pastures (read money) because that simply opens up the door for another player to step up.
In two very short tests Morné Steyn seemed to have surpassed Ruan Pienaar in the pecking order for first choice flyhalf. A tough break for Ruan especially since he was asked by Bok coach Peter de Villiers to make the switch from scrumhalf to flyhalf to solve what at that stage was a massive concern for the Bok team and De Villiers after a possible career ending injury to Butch James.
Such is life some might say, you win some and you lose some and in Pienaar’s case the chips unfortunately did not fall for him in the last couple of months mainly thanks to injuries he sustained this season which halted his progress and momentum.
Notwithstanding the magnificent form Morné Steyn is in of course, who deservedly lays claim to the number 10 jersey at this point in time.
I mentioned last week that the fact that we now have two massively talented prospects in this position should be celebrated and that is still my view. The problem now obviously exists where one will always play second fiddle, and not get as much game time and in the uncompromising world of test rugby there is little room to effectively manage players to ensure ongoing development and game time.
This is where the departure of De Villiers might be a god-sent for Ruan Pienaar.
I read somewhere yesterday that ex-New Zealand coach Laurie Mains suggested that the All Blacks play Dan Carter outside of Stephen Donald in the number 12 jumper, a position Carter played for most of his career when he started out. Now I am no expert in the woes of New Zealand rugby but I would think that inside center, since the departure of Mauger is a big problem area for them. Luke McAlister is there but he just returned and obviously the All Blacks can also do with the brilliance in playmaking which is Dan Carter. So in essence, they kill two birds with one stone.
Ruan Pienaar, who let’s be honest will probably not be wearing a Bok jersey with a 9 on it again, could fill that role for South Africa as-well.
Before 2008 I was never a massive fan of Jean de Villiers. I simply did not get the hype surrounding which to me was a pretty average 12 who mostly only has an eye for an intercept and is a good defender and organiser of defences. But he was pretty much a De Wet Barry when he played his best rugby.
In 2008 that did change where Jean played some of the best rugby of his life and his partnership with the inventive Adi Jacobs contributed to earning him the accolades he did in 2008.
South Africa however never really bought into the creative play-making second 5/8 or inside center though. For some reason we are fascinated by bulk and physique at the expense of the most important muscle needed in rugby, a brain.
Another point raised about playmakers in recent times is that South Africa in the professional era seem to prefer playmakers primarily at scrumhalf, of which Ruan along with Fourie du Preez, Rory Kockett and in the past, Joost van der Westhuizen fits this bill. It came down to the point I always tried to make that there is a massive difference between a playmaker, and a game breaker – Jean de Villiers always fell into the latter category for me whereas a 12 had to be more of a playmaker.
New Zealand, up and till recently had this though, and the current impotence of their backline might just well be because they do not have the playmaking abilities at 12 anymore. A player who cannot only read a game like a flyhalf, but also offers you options with the boot and has great distribution skills. Mauger in this sense was never flash, but he created oodles of space for his outside backs.
The Aussies of course does the same thing now with Giteau and Barnes.
If Peter de Villiers believes Ruan’s future is at 10, there is no better way to have him grow into the role by playing 12 next to the reliable and solid Morné Steyn. These two can shift roles depending on the match situation giving South Africa that elusive unpredictability and potency on attack we so crave. In addition, the pressures of kicking will be lifted off Ruan’s shoulders with Mr. Consistency on his inside.
Some might say that he is not a good enough defender, but defending and tackling is all about your defensive structures, communication, application and technique – simply put, it can be coached. And do not think or compare a Ruan or even Adi Jacobs to a Jaque Fourie, the argument here is being an effective defender and logic will certainly show you Jaque and Ruan or Adi will not apply the same technique in defense, they are physically different, but it will not make the smaller less physical guy any less of an effective defender if he is coached the right techniques and operates in an organised structure.
A creative and match winning combination of Fourie du Preez at nine, Morné Steyn at 10, and Ruan Pienaar at 12 will not only help us to dominate any game tactically and territorially it also might just set our game breakers outside them alight in a way we have seldom seen in SA Rugby. It might just be a case of for once, getting the best of both worlds.Tweet