Pienaar's golden opportunity
Ruan Pienaar (Gallo Images)
Pretoria – Ruan Pienaar may get the opportunity to show that he is the man to succeed Fourie du Preez as Springbok scrumhalf when the Boks play against France at Newlands on Saturday.
Du Preez will not play rugby again this year because of surgery to his shoulder, which means that Pienaar is likely to take his place at the base of the scrum.
Ricky Januarie, who played scrumhalf for the Boks against Wales on Saturday, will probably be picked on the substitute’s bench when coach Peter de Villiers names his team for the Newlands Test.
Du Preez’s unexpected injury is a setback for De Villiers’s plans. And, to make matters worse, Francois Hougaard is also injured.
Hougaard can only play again in three weeks’ time and should make the Boks’ Tri-Nations squad, but Pienaar may well have the opportunity to make the No 9 jersey his own with good performances against France and Italy.
Du Preez and Hougaard’s injuries may be good news for Griquas scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius when the team for the Tests against Italy are picked.
Uncertainty about the fitness of Andries Bekker and Jean de Villiers may well mean that Dewald Potgieter and Joe van Niekerk were playing for places in the starting line-up against Wales, while Gio Aplon could play a Test in front of his home crowd.
Bekker’s absence will mean that Danie Rossouw stays at lock, but if the tallest Springbok of all time is fit, Danie Rossouw may play as No 7 flank.
De Villiers’s fitness will determine who plays right wing, with Aplon and Odwa Ndungane set to benefit if the former Munster centre cannot play.
With the overseas Boks now allowed to represent their country, De Villiers has a number of options in that regard.
With the return of CJ van der Linde to play Currie Cup rugby for the Cheetahs and Super 14 rugby for the Stormers, and Gurthrö Steenkamp having revived his international career with a superb Super 14 season, things are looking promising up front.
Meanwhile, the French have already started complaining about fatigue, but they were also “tired” last year when they beat the All Blacks in New Zealand.
Coach Marc Lievremont believes that the Bok scrum is strong, and he is also impressed with their effective lineout and the number of world class players at their disposal.
“The main advantage is that they have rhythm and that most of the team will consist of Bulls and Stormers players,” he said.