When you are named after Welsh rugby great JPR Williams, your destiny is pretty much mapped out for you. That weight of expectation has finally been realised for JP Pietersen.
Apart from sharing initials and playing with the same No 15 on their backs, that is where the similarities really end. Pietersen is big and fast and has his hair cropped short. Williams on the other hand was far smaller, but just as nippy and had long flowing locks accompanied by huge lamb chop sideburns.
Williams is considered by many to be one of the greatest fullbacks of all time. His devastating tackling and fierceness in defence were particularly renowned, but he also displayed great skill, speed, and agility in attack. A player with no real weaknesses, he was also a skilled kicker.
“I also have an R after the JP,” Pietersen told keo.co.za, “because my father named me after JPR Williams. It (JPR) stands for Jon-Paul Roger, but my team-mates call me JP and my family just calls me Polla.”
Pietersen will make his Test debut in the Vodacom Tri-Nations match against Australia at Ellis Park on Saturday. The 20-year-old is at the very beginning of what promises to be an excellent international rugby career. “It won’t be an easy task to make my debut against a world-class Australian team, but rugby remains rugby, irrespective of the opposition,” he said.
“I expect them to try put pressure on me because it happens at every level that a young player is targeted. But I’m ready for their onslaught. I think my strong point is probably my speed. I like to join the backline and create opportunities.”
Pietersen has been part of the Springbok set-up since the first squad was announced for the camp in Bloemfontein earlier this year. He was picked on the bench for the Tests against New Zealand in Wellington, but never got on the park.
“I’ve been waiting patiently for my chance. I knew if I just trained hard my time would come. Being on the bench in Wellington is one thing, but it’s a different story when you start a match, there is a lot more pressure. You’re more at ease on the bench.”
In the camp, Breyton Paulse and Allister Coetzee have helped guide the youngster, but he has also been influenced by former Australian Test player David Campese at the Sharks.
But his greatest rugby influence comes from uncle Christie Noble, who played for Natal in the late 1980s and early â€˜90s. Noble played left wing, but has helped mould young Pietersen. He will be at Ellis Park on Saturday to watch the Test
“He has had a big influence on my career ever since I was at school and he still helps by chatting after matches and discussing some small things in my game.”
By Andrew Hollely