KSA Shark ©

Pienaar and Smit come to the Bok party

Written by Andre Bosch (KSA Shark ©)

Posted in :In the news, Springboks on 9 Nov 2008 at 07:34

We shouldn’t have been surprised. John Smit and Ruan Pienaar are splendid rugby players and their metamorphosis took shape in compelling fashion yesterday.

Clinton van der Berg writes for the Times online that Smit had been asked to play tighthead, the toughest, most technical position in a rugby XV.

Pienaar, in turn, had been designated to transfer his skills to flyhalf, where supreme demands are made on a player’s instinct, vision and attacking skill.

Both passed the test.

Smit, for so long the mainstay of the Bok hooking position, was untried as a prop and an obvious target for the Welsh to attack. Buckle the tighthead, goes the idiom, and you’re on your way.

But his back stayed true and straight yesterday and he scrummaged with vigour and power. Not once was he exposed as the Bok pack held up against a team known for its grunt in the tight five.

Moreover, Smit’s relish for the looser aspects of the game were also appreciated as he threw himself about, kept the tackle count up and threw a particularly refined pass to Victor Matfield. So much for the demands on the No3 extending to no more than dictating the odds in the tight.

Smit earned his badge of honour in more ways than one. He copped a fierce crack on the bridge of his nose just after the hour mark that turned his face into a mask of blood. He trooped off to get repairs and promptly made his way back minutes later. Welcome to the dark world of the tighthead, skipper.

Pienaar stepped into the No10 jersey as if to the manner born. His game was characterised by long, raking kicks, but when he did chance his luck he came close to scoring in the first half. Certainly, his heads-up, have-a- go style kept the Welsh on their toes and they had a job on their hands shutting him down.

Pienaar also showed encouraging signs defensively. He’ll face better teams and faster loose forwards, but on the evidence of yesterday, he will cherish the opportunity to test his skills against them.

People may carp about the narrow nature of the scoreline and SA’s difficulty in breaking down the Welsh defence, but this was rugby based on structure and common sense. When your two most important positions are designated to rookies, safety-first is the mantra.

The irony is that while Adi Jacobs and Jean de Villiers, the centres, were the try-scorers, they weren’t set free by Pienaar. It was a day in which the backs were kept on a tight leash, particularly with the Welsh contesting every ball ferociously.

Coach Peter de Villiers and his assistants will no doubt have reflected last night on an experiment that went particularly well. Scotland loom next week and they will offer another set of challenges, as will England.

But those are challenges for another day, another week.

For now, South Africa appear to have found their flyhalf. And the tighthead ain’t bad either.


  • Sharks’ Super14 prospects are looking good. 😎

  • Comment 1, posted at 09.11.08 07:37:24 by KSA Shark © Reply
    KSA Shark ©
  • Was happy with RP’s first half… pity he dropped the ball on the tryline though and him and RJ didn’t gel all that well off the bat…still not sure about the Smit thing… the man is not an 80minute player IMO…

  • Comment 2, posted at 09.11.08 07:54:50 by bryce_in_oz Reply
  • Ricky was awful – although FDP was also slow.

  • Comment 3, posted at 09.11.08 11:55:25 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • They concentrated so hard on these two areas, which was a resounding success, that they forgot there was a match on.

    The result? John saying in his interview that they defended their lead and how frustrating that was. Zero for captaincy then… 😯

  • Comment 4, posted at 09.11.08 14:22:06 by Silver Fox Reply
    Silver Fox
  • @bryce_in_oz (Comment 2) : Can’t really blame Ruan for dropping that ball, he was being tackled by three guys, and one of them did a superb job of stripping the ball from Ruan’s grasp. Can’t really blame Ruan for not being able to beat three tacklers, the amazing thing is he almost did beat all three, just the ball getting stripped that saved the Welsh.

    @Silver Fox (Comment 4) : I think it was a mistake in Smit’s captaincy to allow the team to play so defensively, but isn’t it wonderful to have a leader and captain that admits his mistakes, and learns from them. He won’t make that mistake again as captain. He may make some errors tactically as captain, but there are not many greater leaders of men than John Smit is.

  • Comment 5, posted at 09.11.08 14:45:12 by Dancing Bear Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Dancing Bear
  • @Dancing Bear (Comment 5) : A-bloody-men!

  • Comment 6, posted at 09.11.08 14:50:36 by robdylan (CC Champ '08) Reply
  • @Dancing Bear (Comment 5) : Appreciate your input there, but that particular mistake has been made so consistently by especially South Africa that it is a disease at this stage.

    But let me not be too hard on John, the team has not backed him up? 🙂

  • Comment 7, posted at 09.11.08 14:53:29 by Silver Fox Reply
    Silver Fox
  • @robdylan (CC Champ ‘08) (Comment 6) : hehehehe, so what do you think about my idea that Habs and Juan get sent home to rest, but should be back in their starting positions for next year’s Lions tour? They are both playing like shadows of their former selves. Personally I believe they are the best in their respective positions, but seem either tired or are carrying niggles.

  • Comment 8, posted at 09.11.08 14:54:19 by Dancing Bear Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Dancing Bear
  • @Silver Fox (Comment 7) : I don’t think that the team will back up any other captain like they will John. It was a tactical mistake, and John is the kind of leader that certainly has the skills to change the strategy of the team. They will support him, this was John’s mistake as captain, but I have great faith in our skipper.

    One thing to consider, do you think that having to play TH for the first time in a test for 80 minutes might have taken John’s focus off the captaincy somewhat? He did not make tactical mistakes as captain in the RWC, so perhaps his focus on being captain was not there as he needed to focus on his right shoulder. That being said, it won’t take long for John to settle at TH, so I am sure his leadership will be back to normal soon.

  • Comment 9, posted at 09.11.08 14:58:59 by Dancing Bear Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Dancing Bear
  • @Dancing Bear (Comment 8) : yeah, I’d agree with you on that one.

  • Comment 10, posted at 09.11.08 15:02:33 by robdylan (CC Champ '08) Reply
  • @Dancing Bear (Comment 9) : Quite right, hence my comment at 4???

    And also he had to rely on his backup captain in such a situation. Now we all know….

    No doubt John will get back on track. 😀

  • Comment 11, posted at 09.11.08 15:04:13 by Silver Fox Reply
    Silver Fox
  • @Silver Fox (Comment 11) : Ja, I think that PdV needs to appoint Jean as vice-captain, always good to have a designated leader in the forwards and the backs. Jean has become a top notch leader of all men, Vic seems only to be able to lead the Bulls, nobody else seems to want to follow him. I think that would take the pressure off John somewhat.

    In addition, I think it is critical that John not captain the Sharks in the Super 14 next season. Muller should remain captain, and let John settle in at TH without the additional pressure. I have always believed that John should not captain the Sharks and the Boks. I remember when Fitzpatrick captained the ABs but he did not captain Auckland, that was Zinzan’s job. Same should happen with the Sharks, John captains the Boks and Muller the Sharks. Would relieve a lot of the pressure that is on John all the time.

  • Comment 12, posted at 09.11.08 15:12:42 by Dancing Bear Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Dancing Bear
  • @Dancing Bear (Comment 12) : Now that makes a heap of sense.

    I believe we should anyway broaden our horizons in terms of stand-in captains.

  • Comment 13, posted at 09.11.08 15:18:56 by Silver Fox Reply
    Silver Fox

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