Cape Town - While speculation mounts that JP Pietersen will
be fast-tracked straight into the Springbok starting line-up for the first
match of their European tour against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday, former Bok
wing favourite Breyton Paulse cautions against tampering immediately with the
status quo in the back three.
The strong-striding, 27-year-old Pietersen, now based with
Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan, earned the last of his 48 caps in the final
match of the corresponding tour in November 2012, when South Africa pipped
England at Twickenham to ensure a three-game clean sweep.
At times in his career Pietersen – who will be available for
the Sharks again in Super Rugby 2014 – has played so irresistibly for the Boks
that many would give him the No 14 jersey for a hypothetical World XV.
But speaking to Sport24 at the launch of rugby writer
Stephen Nell’s new book "Springbok Glory: Golden Moments in the Modern Era",
Paulse, who was familiar with both fullback and wing duty during his
first-class career and earned 64 Bok appearances of his own between 1999 and
2007, said he would be reluctant to break up at this point the existing trio of
fullback Zane Kirchner and wings Willie le Roux and Bryan Habana.
“It’s a tough decision for Heyneke (Meyer). I just think the
current back three has worked well lately.
"JP brings massive experience and quality, and also his
work-rate off the ball has improved over the last two or three years in my
"It goes without saying that he’s a settled sort of player
who will never let any team down – he’s also got a rugby brain.
"But it will be tricky for Heyneke to make changes.
"I think that right wing is Willie’s best position; he can
express himself a bit more.
"At fullback you’re a bit more limited because of
cover defence needs – on the wing you get the loose trio to cover for you.
"It will be seriously tempting to start with JP against
Wales but I would stick with the present back three, with JP coming on later in
the game to make a difference if need be. Of course he has that X-factor for a
great impact role.
"I believe the current three have settled quite nicely:
Bryan’s reputation speaks for itself; he’s part of the furniture. Zane has
overcome a lot of challenges and criticism to also look more at home in the
last couple of games – so I wouldn’t fiddle with the continuity.”
Paulse feels this trip will be a great opportunity for
Kirchner to silence his critics once and for all.
"The northern hemisphere conditions suit his game well ... lots
of high balls, where he’s good under them and returning kicks, and not being
expected to counter as much with ball in hand given the (heavier, slower)
"You know, he’s seldom given me the impression that he does
lots of things wrong; perhaps people just want a fullback to look more
"He’ s been solid, he’s been good for the side when his
main strengths have been needed."
Although another Sharks favourite in Pat Lambie offers No 15
possibilities due to his versatility, Paulse fancies that he will predominantly
feature closer to the action.
"He certainly will keep Morne (Steyn) on his toes for the
flyhalf position and the good thing about Pat is that he can play both deep and
flat – that variation is very important going forward.
"I’d like to see him get another start at No 10 some time on
this tour, perhaps against Scotland in the middle game.
"He is playing with
confidence, and behind a big, solid Bok pack he should get go-forward ball."
*Springbok Glory, by Stephen Nell, is published by Tafelberg and available at leading bookstores for R175 (including VAT). Focusing on standout Bok achievements since re-admission to the international fold in 1992, it is also available in Afrikaans, titled “Bokspronge”.