Pienaar shines at pivot

Ruan Pienaar passed his first examination as a Test flyhalf with flying colours. Keo.co.za rates the Springboks after the clash with Wales in Cardiff.

15 Conrad Jantjes (6) – His reading of the play and positional sense improves with every game at Test level, while his tactical kicking was good. He had limited opportunities to join the line or counter-attack, but didn’t make a telling impact when presented with those chances.

14 JP Pietersen (6) – Made the turnover that lead to Adi Jacobs’ try after a committed kick chase and a try-saving tackle on Leigh Halfpenny. In addition, he kept Shane Williams in check, but sadly had few chances to test the defensive line on attack. Has to up his work-rate.

13 Adrian Jacobs (6) – Powered over from close range for the Springboks’ first try and was good overall – particularly in defence where he displayed bags of bravery.

12 Jean de Villiers (6) – Assumed the role of defensive co-ordinator in Butch James’ absence and done well in this regard. He read a second half Welsh move perfectly, intercepting a James Hook pass and cruising home. Unfortunately for the Springboks other than that he had a quiet game on attack, but there were promising signs in terms of his combination with Ruan Pienaar.

11 Bryan Habana (4) – Opportunities to attack were rare for the winger and when he did get his hands on the pill he was a shadow of the player who dominated world rugby in 2007. The fact that he was substituted in second half tells the full story.

10 Ruan Pienaar (7) – After a week spent speculating about how he’d go at pivot, Pienaar delivered a performance that should have stirred confidence in the hearts and minds of the South African rugby fraternity. He varied his game very well, kicking accurately from hand and not missing any of his four kicks at posts. His distribution was slick and while it’s too soon to make an absolute judgement on his aptitude for the role at Test level, the early indication is that he could be the answer to a long asked question.

9 Fourie du Preez (7) – His distribution as typically crisp and his tactical kicking superb. However, he also delivered an outstanding defensive performance that featured acute positional sense and a try-saving tackle on Wales’ captain Ryan Jones. He’ll be a crucial member of the Springboks’ cause for the remainder of the tour.

8 Pierre Spies (5) – Anonymous in the loose but very good in the tight, which is a reversal of what he has become renowned for. Posed no threat and gained no momentum off the back of the scrums. His most significant contribution came when he chased down Tom Shanklin save a sure try.

7 Juan Smith (6) – The hard working flanker was exactly that, powerful in defence and unrelenting in his desire to contribute to the Springboks’ cause. However, his value lies is in his ability to take the ball across the gain line, but he was nullified in this regard. He did, however, make his presence felt at the lineout, where he turned over twice.

6 Schalk Burger (6) – Omnipresent around the park and scrambled desperately in defence. But like Smith, he failed to make the metres expected of him with ball in hand.

5 Victor Matfield (6) – Crucially, stole a lineout in his 22m with four minutes remaining and was committed in defence. Unflappable under pressure on his own ball.

4 Bakkies Botha (6) – Played 40 minutes before being substituted and certainly added a physical edge to the tight five that has been missing in his absence. Hit rucks regularly and carried strongly.

3 John Smit (7) – The spotlight was on the Springbok captain this week after his switch from hooker to tighthead prop. He stood up to Gethin Jenkins’ challenge well to allay fears that he may be a liability at scrum time. His leadership under pressure was superb, encouraging his team to remain calm in the face of adversity.

2 Bismarck du Plessis (6) – Accurate lineout throwing was combined with a bulldog attitude with ball in hand and at the breakdown. However, he needs guidance as far as his body position in contact is concerned, as he often enters the collision too upright and therefore increases the opposition’s chance of effecting a turnover.

1 Beast Mtawarira (7) – Powerful and dominant at scrum time and outstanding in the loose on both defence and attack. He looks a class act and given his tender age, he can only get better.

Subs:
16 Brian Mujati – not on long enough to make a fair assessment.

17 Gurthro Steenkamp – not on long enough to make a fair assessment.

18 Andries Bekker (6) – Came on for Bakkies Botha after the half-time break and acquitted himself well, particularly in the loose where his skill and athleticism proved valuable. However, he did little to dismiss the suggestion that he lacks the physicality to succeed at Test level as a starting option alongside Matfield.

19 Ryan Kankowski (5) – Had few opportunities to test the Wales defence but done well none the less.

20 Ricky Januarie (6) – Injected intensity and physicality into the Test upon his introduction. Distributed well and took good options.

21 Frans Steyn (5) – Played wing in his time on, so his contribution was limited to a handful of tackles and a failed drop goal attempt. His prodigious talent is wasted on the wing and when he is introduced off the wood it needs to be in a position where he is getting his hands on the ball regularly.

22 Jaque Fourie (5) – Sin binned within two minutes of coming on (62 mins) – in which time Wales scored six points. Upon his reintroduction defence dominated his agenda and he stood firm in this regard.

By Ryan Vrede