England in SA
UK scribe lauds Boks' Pienaar
Ruan Pienaar (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Whether it will influence coach Heyneke Meyer remains to be seen, but at least one respected member of the visiting English media believes Springbok substitute Ruan Pienaar was the premier scrumhalf of the Test series.
Eddie Butler, a former Wales captain and long-time writer for The Observer, wrote after Saturday’s drawn third and last contest in Port Elizabeth that England No 9 Danny Care (officially named player of the match) had “brought a zip to the position” but felt that Ulster-based Pienaar “looked the pick of the scrumhalves in this series”.
Pienaar got good game-time in the second half of each Test as the relatively unconvincing Francois Hougaard was pulled off the park, and Butler suggested the former Sharks favourite had limited time on the field “as a result of plying his trade in Europe”.
Many South African critics have concurred that Pienaar’s seemingly superior all-round game to Hougaard’s is worth noting as the Boks now size up the Castle Rugby Championship.
Butler was relatively lukewarm about England snatching a dead-rubber draw to stave off a clean sweep.
“It was reassuring confirmation of the refusal by Stuart Lancaster’s team to do anything other than keep going. Never give up. Chase every cause.
“England’s cussedness should be taken for granted, and stands out because it was a rare positive. Did England develop as an attacking force? Not much.”
In the same paper, Robert Kitson wrote: “A draw, in the end, preserved the honour of both teams. JP Pietersen has been among the players of this series and South Africa will be no pushovers in the inaugural Rugby Championship.”
But former England and Lions lock Paul Ackford, in the Sunday Telegraph, wasn’t quite so sure: “This was a Bok team that never got out of first gear ... (they) need to regroup and rethink if they are going to trouble the All Blacks this year.
“The crowd was booing Morne Steyn at the end, so angry and frustrated were they at the shapeless, lacklustre contribution of the Boks’ main organiser.”
He was generous to England for their courage and commitment.
“England had no right to be as gutsy and passionate as this. It was their last game of a long season, which began over a year ago in the pre-World Cup camp.
“Rattled in the first two Tests, they hung on in the third to deny South Africa an embarrassing tenth straight victory. England, and this should be writ large in capital letters, were magnificent.”
Chris Hewett of the Sunday Independent ventured: “A dead game? Not for England, who were full of life ... still breathing, rather more strongly than their hosts, when Owen Farrell’s majestically unsuccessful attempt at a decisive dropped goal signalled the end of a hard tour.
“Lancaster’s side deserved something for their efforts and were duly granted it. When the Boks pushed ... they were repelled by a defence with real iron in its soul.”