Ricky Januarie says constant comparisons between himself and Ruan Pienaar are ridiculous.
Januarie will travel to the World Cup as the official back-up to Fourie du Preez, but there continue to be questions around whether he is a better option off the bench than Pienaar.
The Sharks man had an outstanding season, playing a key role in their march to the Super 14 final. While his performances in the Tri-Nations proved that he remains a raw talent in need of polishing, they were still impressive.
Januarie conversely had a trying season at the Lions, surrendering the No 9 shirt to Jano Vermaak then failing to impress in the incoming tour matches against England and Samoa before injury ruled him out of the Tri-Nations.
He has however grown tired of the incessant criticism, and stressed that coach Jake White’s opinion is the only one that really matters to him.
“I used to be affected by the talk but I just ignore it now,” he told keo.co.za. “I don’t read the papers or watch rugby shows on TV anymore because that’s all you seem to read or hear: ‘Ruan’s better than Ricky’. It’s ridiculous.
“Everybody has something to say but Jake knows my ability, we’ve worked together since age group rugby, and he is the only person who I need to impress.”
The primary point of criticism is that Pienaar’s kicking game is far superior to Januarie’s, something that takes on added importance in northern hemisphere conditions that are expected to suit game plans which include probing box kicks.
In addition, Pienaar’s ability off the boot eased the pressure on flyhalf Butch James in the Tri-Nations and will do so again in France should they be paired as the half-back combination for whatever reason.
Januarie concedes that Pienaar’s ability off the boot trumps his, but insists that his success has never laid in the ability to put boot to ball.
“Jake has defined my role in the side and that takes into account my strengths,” Januarie said. “Defensively he expects me to be putting pressure on the opposition scrumhalf and flyhalf, while on attack he prefers me to keep ball in hand and make breaks around the ruck and maul fringe.
“I play the game Jake asks me to and that has brought success for me in the past. I’m not going to try and be something I’m not just to please some people.”
But Januarie is not content to sit back and play second fiddle to Du Preez. He is determined to push the Bulls man for a starting berth at the World Cup.
“I wouldn’t be playing if I didn’t want to start. I want to be the first-choice scrumhalf and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with me saying that,” he explained.
“It’s my job to keep Fourie sharp, competition is healthy.”
By Ryan Vrede
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