KSA Shark ©

Ruan at sixes and sevens — but he prefers Number 9

Written by Andre Bosch (KSA Shark ©)

Posted in :In the news, Springboks on 3 Aug 2008 at 07:32

The Springbok coaching team’s stated intention to try Ruan Pienaar at flyhalf may be an expression of supreme confidence in the player’s ability, but it can’t be doing wonders for his self- belief.

In terms of outrageous talent, Pienaar is every bit as gifted as the other player who gets shunted around the Bok backline, Francois Steyn.

But the difference between the two is that he doesn’t have Steyn’s bullet-proof confidence.

Simnikiwe Xabanisa writes for the Times Online that the decision to have him run the show (at flyhalf) against Argentina on Saturday seems to be aimed at making him realise how important he is to the Bok cause, but it could well deepen his self-doubt.

After being the second-best scrumhalf in the world last year (behind teammate Fourie du Preez), Pienaar has yet to recover from losing his place to Rory Kockott at the Sharks, and Ricky Januarie in the Bok team.

Asking him to solve the problem created by Butch James’s seeming confidence crisis at flyhalf is only compounding his insecurity.

“I’m probably just as confused as everybody else,” said Pienaar in Pretoria this week. “I’m not sure where the coaches see me playing at the moment — some see me as a 10, some see me as a nine.

“I think it’s best to settle somewhere and decide for myself where I see my future and just play there.”

A significant part of the problem is that despite possessing the skills needed to succeed at flyhalf, Pienaar is reluctant to play there.

“I’m convinced I’m a better nine than a 10 because I’ve spent most of my life playing there. That’s where I’ve got confidence in myself.

“I haven’t played a full game at nine since last year’s Tri- Nations (against New Zealand in Durban) and that’s been frustrating. It’s been a difficult year for me, hopefully I can get a chance there again.”

Pienaar said his preference for scrumhalf had more to do with familiarity than it did with major changes from a technical perspective.

“Other than I’ve played there all my life, it’s the involvement with the forwards and all the decision-making,” he said. “I don’t think there’s too much difference between nine and 10, I’m just more comfortable at nine because I feel that’s where I’ve built a healthy reputation.”

He said the chopping and changing — which has seen him play fullback and wing as well for the Boks — has not only confused him, but it has eaten away at his confidence.

“After being injured I didn’t play so well and Rory (Kockott) came into the side and took his chance,” he said, “Then I had to slot in at 10 under pretty difficult circumstances in the Super 14. We still made the semifinals but my confidence hasn’t been as high as it has been.

“It is something I hope to regain by playing and playing well again. But I’m still positive because any rugby player goes through rough patches.”

A sign of the loss of confidence Pienaar has suffered is that his greatest contribution to the Bok season so far was a charge-down of Dan Carter’s attempted drop goal, which would have won the Dunedin Test.

In the past, he could always be relied on to conjure up magic on the counter-attack. It also doesn’t help that Du Preez is back from a hand injury and seems to have leap-frogged him onto the bench as Januarie’s deputy.

“It doesn’t get easier.” laughed Pienaar. “We have a lot of talent. Fourie was probably the best scrumhalf in the world last year. But I think healthy competition is not a bad thing for players, and that’s what we have with the Boks this year.”

Pienaar said being shuffled around in the Bok backline has resulted in discussions between himself and Steyn.

“We’re roommates and we speak about it often. To be honest it is pretty frustrating. That’s probably one of the reasons I didn’t have one of the best Super 14s. I think you need to play in one position so you can build your confidence and be sharp, it’s been pretty difficult for Frans and me.”

Steyn’s water-off-a-duck’s- back attitude was once shown in his response when asked the same question. He said playing in a lot of positions was like any day job, sometimes you did admin work and sometimes you attended a lot of meetings.

But Pienaar needs more assurance. “I need to sit down with the coaches here and at the Sharks to find out where they see me play.”


  • Aye you have to feel for these two guys.

    BUT WHAT is the answer though?

    We have to many players in certain positions, both at a provincial level and at Springbok level.

  • Comment 1, posted at 03.08.08 07:51:14 by KSA Shark © Reply
    KSA Shark ©
  • How do we solve this problem though?

    A player of his quality needs REGULAR game time in his best position.

    Something along the lines of a draft system where he would go to a S14 franchise that needs a scrummy.

    Send him to the Cheetahs or rotate him regularly with Kockott at 9 but you can’t leave the guy being stuffed around like that all the time.

    He may be helping out in a tight spot but it is screwing up his career.

    Same thing is happening with Steyn. Their quality and versatility is turning out to be the reason for their downfall rather than the reason for their rise to great heights

  • Comment 2, posted at 03.08.08 09:01:49 by KSA Shark © Reply
    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 2) :
    The biggest problem for these guys was Dick Muir I’m afraid. His selectiona nd rotation policies in the S14 this year were awful.

  • Comment 3, posted at 03.08.08 09:44:52 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @Big Fish (Comment 3) :

    en nou sit Suid Afrika met die gebakte pere. 👿

  • Comment 4, posted at 03.08.08 09:50:38 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 4) :
    For shizzle. Dicky outfoxed himself on that one. Everyone and his dog coulda told him he was piloting the Titanic on that one.

    One hopes that the loss of Barritt brings some sense and player respect to the Sharks coaches.

  • Comment 5, posted at 03.08.08 10:00:52 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @Big Fish (Comment 5) :

    ironically Barrit is the one player that WASN’T stuffed around in the S14 and was selected at 12 week after week.

  • Comment 6, posted at 03.08.08 10:12:03 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 6) :
    Except for the semi, when he was unceremoniously dropped.

    You probably forgot that amongst the euphoria of seeing Frans at 12.

  • Comment 7, posted at 03.08.08 10:18:01 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @Big Fish (Comment 7) :

    i did forget about that

  • Comment 8, posted at 03.08.08 10:25:41 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • Ruan should just learn to prefer 10.

  • Comment 9, posted at 03.08.08 10:25:49 by blackshark Reply

    blackshark - I'm back!

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