No 9: Deafening cry for Ruan
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – If Sport24 readers were national selectors, Ruan Pienaar would romp into the Springbok No 9 jersey while seasoned first-choice Fourie du Preez is on the injury list.
GALLERY: Wales v Springboks
Now it remains to be seen whether coach Peter de Villiers and company will follow suit as the Boks prepare to name their first genuine ‘A’ team of the season to play France at Newlands on Saturday.
There were almost 7 000 respondents to our poll late last week and into the weekend, asking the key question: “With Fourie du Preez sidelined … who should start in the Springbok scrumhalf jersey?”
And versatile Sharks star Pienaar was the overwhelming main choice, commanding 41 percent of the vote even after he was employed at flyhalf with some success in the narrow 34-31 triumph over Wales in Cardiff.
Ricky Januarie, who operated at No 9 at the Millennium Stadium and had a pretty decent outing himself, remains some way down our readers’ pecking order – he had earned a meagre three percent of approval before that Test and inched up to no more than five after it.
Of course Januarie tends not to “boss” games to the extent the now-legendary Du Preez does, especially as his kicking game is more limited, but he can be extremely under-rated as the sort of combative scrumhalf who gets under opponents’ skins: he kept big Mike Phillips in check on Saturday.
Januarie also showed typical tenacity in occasionally scrapping on the deck for turnover ball, although he incurred the penalty wrath of Irish referee Alan Lewis at least twice for off-side play.
Nevertheless, the Stormers player found himself behind Pienaar and three other scrumhalves – Francois Hougaard (Bulls, 20 percent), Rory Kockott (Sharks, 13 percent) and young franchise team-mate Dewaldt Duvenage (11 percent) in voters’ picks.
The Lions’ Jano Vermaak equalled Januarie with five percent, and there was also a minor smattering of support for Sarel Pretorius (Cheetahs, four percent) and the Bulls’ often-on-the-bench Heini Adams (one percent).
Hougaard placing second in the poll was interesting, considering that he has played most of his rugby this year at wing for the Super 14 champions, where he is similarly enhancing his reputation rapidly.
Clearly the majority of our Bok-supporting readers fancy Pienaar at scrumhalf with Morne Steyn back at No 10 for the tricky task against the French this weekend …