Ruan Pienaar was wasted in his test debut as a replacement fullback. South Africa’s best scrumhalf needs to play there in Saturday’s second test against the All Blacks.
One of Jake White’s biggest criticisms has been that provincial and regional coaches play blokes out of position. Well Jake, it is a bit rich when Pienaar makes his debut as a fullback!
Play the guy at No 9 and you may just start troubling the opposition a bit more on attack. Pienaar probes the defence, unlike Fourie du Preez, who brings stability but nothing spectacular. Du Preez was effective in sticking to the game plan, but we saw in Pretoria, just like we did in Wellington, that a kicking game is not good enough to beat the All Blacks. The Boks have to go to the test armed with something a bit more spiteful than a brutish pack that can’t hold onto the ball and a No 9 whose first thought is to kick.
My criticism of White is because he simply fails to recognise his failings. When I defended him on the away leg of the Tri Nations, it was with the hope and belief that he would change his ways in South Africa and embrace the next generation of player. But he refuses to look outside of his chosen squad, insisting that the mob that disgraced South Africa on Saturday is the best we’ve got. Just like he insisted the mob in Brisbane was also the best on offer. Nonsense Jake.
There is nothing to lose against the All Blacks on Saturday, just like there was nothing at stake against the World XV or Scotland. There was also nothing to be lost against the All Blacks in Pretoria if White had entrusted players who offered something new. He lost another opportunity, giving Percy Montgomery yet another game and sticking with the same tired bunch that have failed so often this season. The coach got what he deserved.
He and his selectors (if you could call these lame ducks that) will hopefully be forced into making changes, which make sense. Play blokes in position and play guys who seem to be enjoying their rugger at the moment.
White complains about transformation issues but doesn’t select JP Pietersen? Oh, I forgot, White will tell you he is not ethnic black.
White keeps on telling us that was his B team and he throws names like Marius Joubert and Gurthro Steenkamp into the pot. Steenkamp would not have been selected ahead of Os du Randt and Joubert would certainly not make the team ahead of Jaques Fourie. White will tell you he lost Joe van Niekerk, but he wasn’t going to pick him either.
White and his selectors will have to choose between Butch James and Andre Pretorius for the Rustenburg test. They will probably go for Pretorius because he can at least throw a decent pass. James was deemed the answer after the Sydney loss against the Wallabies. But as White would tell you he was probably misquoted that week when he said James was the answer.
White may toy with the idea of playing Pretorius at fullback, but if he wouldn’t even look at Brent Russell in this position, then on what basis does Pretorius get some game time?
The Bok coach has insisted he won’t look outside of the current squad. It means Luke Watson, Warren Britz, Russell, Brad Barritt etc don’t have a chance of playing in the next two tests.
So if he is going to continue with what’s in his squad, then the following backline would at least offer something in attack at Rustenburg: Pietersen, Ndungane, Fourie, De Villiers, Habana, Pretorius, Pienaar. As for the forwards, White has an obsession with Jacques Cronje as a No 8 and only a few days ago he told us Solly Tyibilika was the best opensider in South Africa. Strange that he only plays him for 47 minutes against the world’s best opensider, but then this is a coaching team that thrives on the strange.
Don’t expect any changes in the pack. Should there be changes? Of course.
But that’s not the issue. There won’t be. As White insists, there is none better out there.