All Black scrumhalf Piri Weepu believes that the Springboks should have been playing the talented Sharks halfback from day one.
Weepu spoke out on Tuesday about how the South Africans should have included Ruan Pienaar in the June Tests to give him more exposure to Test rugby. Instead he is set to be blooded against the All Blacks, the No 1 team in the world.
“It would have been ideal to let him have his first taste of Test rugby against a team such as Scotland,” Weepu told The Beeld’s Hennie Brandt. “Now, out of the blue, he is on the bench for Saturday. I hope he gets an opportunity to go out and show what he can do,” Weepu said.
Pienaar was included in the pre-season Springbok training squad and played in the game against the World XV on 1 June. From then on, Jake White favoured Fourie du Preez and Ricky Januarie and left Pienaar at home when the Boks toured Australasia.
The Sharks benefitted from this exclusion, having Pienaar return for their Absa Currie Cup campaign. The gifted No 9 also had an outstanding Vodacom Super 14 this year, and as Weepu said, deserved a spot in the national side.
“Pienaar has the best attacking abilities of all the South African scrumhalves I saw in the Super 14,” said Weepu. “He is very good on his feet. If he spots a gap, he takes it. He breaks the line most of the time and looks for support, although he sometimes goes on his own.”
While Du Preez is favoured for his technical superiority and handy boot, Januarie is said to be the better attacking player. But Pienaar seems to have it all, and his versatility always gives White another option at flyhalf, a position he has played for the SA U21s and for the Sharks.
Weepu cannot understand why the Springbok coach doesn’t utilise this rare talent.
“Now he has to play from the bench. It is completely different to the way the All Blacks do things. If you play well (in a New Zealand team) you get a chance to take the next step towards international rugby.
“Apparently, things work differently here,” he said.