Cape Town – Some might argue that the Ruan
Pienaar-Rudy Paige flashpoint at the Olympic Stadium was a key straw in
breaking Heyneke Meyer’s back, if you like, as Springbok coach last year.
Even as impassioned cries rang out at the
venue and on social media during the dour World Cup playoff between South
Africa and Argentina for third place in London, Meyer steadfastly kept a
formulaic Pienaar on the pitch as scrumhalf until the Bulls-based rookie
finally got a token three minutes at the death in the 24-13 victory.
You will find no lack of subscribers in
this country to the theory that 32-year-old, longtime Ulster-based Pienaar
should now be considered “pensioned off” by the Boks, set to begin a new era
shortly under Allister Coetzee’s guiding hand.
But RWC 1995 flyhalf hero Joel Stransky
isn’t among them: the pundit said on SuperSport’s “TMO” rugby chat show on
Tuesday that he would be still be partial to the 88-capper for the June
internationals against visiting Ireland.
Stransky is likely to command a more
sympathetic ear for his more general suggestion that scrumhalf is “one area
where you look around and aren’t quite sure who the best option is … in some (others)
we have loads and loads of talent”.
It is mostly on those grounds, presumably,
that Stransky believes Pienaar shouldn’t automatically be deemed disposable.
“I could maybe see a surprise call from
overseas at scrumhalf,” he said, also not discounting the possibility that
in-form Francois Hougaard might get a call from Worcester Warriors.
“I would be tempted to have Ruan Pienaar in
my squad because he plays in Ireland and knows the Irish players. He knows how
Clearly co-panelist and another former Bok
backliner, Gcobani Bobo, wasn’t exactly leaping to agreement, pointing out that
Irish players, conversely, would also know plenty about Pienaar.
“We’re going to play in the (Rugby)
Championship after that … I don’t want him just for those three (Irish) Tests.”
Yet Stransky was unmoved: “It’s Test rugby
… we do need some experience.”
In fairness, too, he wasn’t suggesting
Pienaar be the first choice in the berth: “Paige is probably the incumbent (as
last home-based player to operate there for the Boks); I would say that of the
guys playing locally (he) is the one who has put up his hand the best.
“Up until last week, we might have said Faf
de Klerk. But right now we’re not sure if he and (Lions colleague at flyhalf)
Elton Jantjies are as good as we thought – under pressure they went to pieces a
bit at the weekend (against the Hurricanes).
“Allister will have tough decisions to
make. The one thing he may say is ‘look, they had a bad game; they’ll come
back’. Everyone does from time to time.
“They just unfortunately had it in a game
where they took 50!
“They probably came unstuck because of
back-foot ball, turnover ball … a whole lot of reasons. But they weren’t good.”
*Bok scrumhalf options are further
stretched now by the absence of the Sharks’ injured Cobus Reinach, who already
has 10 Test caps, for an anticipated nine months.
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing