De Villiers gets it half right

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Springboks on 26 Oct 2008 at 18:51
Tagged with : ,

While I can in no way endorse the frankly suicidal decision to embark on a three-match tour of the northern hemisphere without a proper tighthead, I must say, I think the decision to pick Ruan Pienaar as the only flyhalf is a master-stroke on de Villiers’ part.

Pienaar has emerged as the form scrumhalf in the country during the latter stages of the Currie Cup and this would definitely seem to vindicate his insistence on being considered primarily as a number 9. He completely overshadowed Fourie du Preez in the final yesterday and offers oodles more all-round than Ricky Januarie does. That said, he remains only one of three incredibly talented scrumhalves, all of whom have a legitimate claim to the Bok number 9 jersey.

Assuming that Earl Rose’s inclusion is nothing more than a statistical error, the Boks really do find themselves without any decent options at flyhalf. Morne Steyn disappears in tight games, Peter Grant’s decision making is just not good enough and Butch James is really struggling to assert himself, possibly as a result of too much rugby. Pienaar showed in half an hour against the Aussies just how good he can be at pivot and it would appear that all that is standing between the maverick player and his destiny seems to be his own reluctance to accept the inevitable.

What I think de Villiers has done so well is to essentially force Pienaar to embrace the Bok 10 jersey by giving it to him unconditionally. Pienaar is far too much of an all-round good guy to turn down such a mission, seeing as he’s essentially been told “boet, we NEED you to be our first-choice flyhalf. There is nobody else. We’re giving you the jersey and it is yours to keep. Do you want it?” All any player really wants is the guarantee of (reasonably) regular game time and Ruan now, for the first time in his Bok career, has that in spades.

Ruan Pienaar now has his Bok destiny firmly in his own hands. He has three tests in which to make a proper fist of being the first-choice flyhalf. If he succeeds, he’ll be set for the next few seasons. If it doesn’t come off (and I don’t see why it shouldn’t) it will be a huge step backwards, both for him personally and the natinal team (and coach).

My hope is that, once Ruan Pienaar returns, triumphant and settled as an international flyhalf, from this tour, he may then decide that there’s another number 10 jersey that he’d like to see his name on. For the Sharks, that would really plug a worrying gap in the backline just in time for the 2009 Super 14. One can dream, I suppose?

Then again, how anyone can be expected to make a name for themselves behind a pack without a proper tighthead is another story…


  • Aside from BJ when last did the Bokke have a decent tighthead?

  • Comment 1, posted at 26.10.08 19:08:42 by PJLD Reply
  • @PJLD (Comment 1) : it’s also true…

  • Comment 2, posted at 26.10.08 19:20:21 by robdylan (Go Sharks!) Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • i think ruan doesnt like the pressure of being the only specialist goalkicker,when percy was there u could turn to him but if ruan misses in the big games who are we gonna turn to?

  • Comment 3, posted at 26.10.08 20:58:05 by Bok-Clyde-Kiwi Reply

  • @Bok-Clyde-Kiwi (Comment 3) :

    Very true… there is no-one… only Steyn on the bench…

    No fly-half… our best 9 forced into 10… no back-up goal kicker… pushing a 1 to 3, a back-up 2 that can’t make his provinces first side, no back-up 3… and a tour of the NH where scrums, tactical kicking, penalties are what it’s all about…

    Losing the plot IMO…

  • Comment 4, posted at 27.10.08 01:45:46 by bryce_in_oz Reply

  • (edit) pushing a 2 to 3…

  • Comment 5, posted at 27.10.08 01:46:39 by bryce_in_oz Reply

  • Although as a Sharks fan, I am pleased Smitty is being moved. It gives Plum a chance to see how Smitty handles and would sort out the conundrum that is bis vs smit. These games also have no effect on Plums record so he doesn’t get tarnished with a bad brush. I think Smitty is going to fire, and Jannie is going to do a little sweating next year to keep the starting role. As for Ruan I agree with Rob, tell the guy if you want a bok jersey, this is how you will get it. take it or leave. And Ruan I feel is a good enough player to prove pdv right. the only players i wouldn’t have in the squad are gurthro, schalk, chilliboy and mujati. but if you sent the whole sharks team over you couldn’t quite call the team the boks.

  • Comment 6, posted at 27.10.08 08:05:32 by try time Reply

  • Let’s not forget that Smit played very few games for Clermont at hooker and almost all of them at tighthead. So this is not THAT big an experiment. john has quite a bit of experience there.

  • Comment 7, posted at 27.10.08 08:11:29 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 7) : yeah, i think guys are over analysing this. we also have to realise that england wales and scotland aren’t going to be big challenges. they are new to the elvs, and they are battling with continuity. so this tour is a perfect opportunity to try some things out without getting hammered.

  • Comment 8, posted at 27.10.08 08:23:59 by try time Reply

  • There was hardly a dry eye in the house on Saturday night as the Sharks celebrated long and hard, but one of the more emotional among them was Frederic Michalak, who leaves the Sharks this week for his native Toulouse.

    “Durban and the Sharks have changed my life,” the Frenchman said.

    “My reason for leaving France was to have a new life experience, but I could not have imagined it would work out quite as positively as it did. I am a changed person. I have grown. I had never spent time outside of my home town, and I came to Durban unsure of myself.

    “But South Africans of all cultures, black, white, English and Afrikaans, opened their hearts to me. My time here has been very special indeed. I was very anxious to repay the Sharks by making a good contribution in the final.”
    I am a changed ‘person’

    He did that and more. Michalak was one of the stars of the show.

    He kicked superbly and cleverly, varying grubbers with deft chips and nudges into space, while his swift, precision passing created the space for Frans Steyn’s crucial second-half try.

    But it was Michalak’s contribution in defence that had fans singing his praises late into the night. Nobody who was in that seething stadium will ever forget the sight of Bryan Habana in full flight down the touchline in the first half, with Michalak chasing fiercely, every sinew straining in effort until he was close enough to launch himself into a valiant ankle-tapping dive that destabilised Habana sufficiently for Frans Steyn to then make the smother tackle and save the day.

    It was one of the most important moments of the match, and a massive psychological victory for the Sharks. If Habana had scored an early try, thoughts would inevitably have turned to the heartbreak of the Super 14 final.

    Michalak said the occasion of the Currie Cup final was probably the finest he had experienced in rugby.

    “There is no place like this in rugby,” Michalak said, pointing to the celebrations on the outer fields.

    “I am just so happy that I could experience this.”

    Will he ever return?

    “I have signed for three years for Toulouse. After that, who knows? It would have been good to play more rugby for this team,” he said.

    “It is one of the happiest and most talented I have played in.”

  • Comment 9, posted at 27.10.08 08:38:44 by barend Reply

  • All I can say RE Ruan is; Finally.

  • Comment 10, posted at 27.10.08 08:44:47 by MorneN Reply
  • [email protected]barend (Comment 9) : yeah before fred came to sa, he was a super sub in the french team. now after the grooming and growing he has done here i won’t be surprised to see him as the number one flyhalf for france. i think he has improved a lot over the last year.

  • Comment 11, posted at 27.10.08 08:49:09 by try time Reply


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