Naas Botha believes the presence of Fourie Du Preez will allow Ruan Pienaar to reach his full potential against England on Saturday.
Du Preez missed the Scottish Test after a late withdrawal with a quad injury and this resulted in a very different tactical approach from the Boks compared to the Welsh match the week before. That his absence resulted in an unassertive performance from Pienaar at 10 is no coincidence according to Botha.
If Du Preez’s fitness fails him and he isn’t announced in the squad later today, the developing partnership between himself and Pienaar would only have had one match in unison before the first Lions Test.
The former Bok flyhalf noted the difference in the service and time afforded to Pienaar with Du Preez at scrumhalf.
“More of the pressure was directed to Ruan in the Scottish Test,” Botha told keo.co.za. “Ruan had to make all the tactical and kicking decisions from flyhalf, a position he’s not really used to. Tactically Fourie is that much stronger than Ricky Januarie.”
Botha felt the slow ball Pienaar received also had a negative impact on his game, but he feels no matter who is providing the service, the Bok 10 must dictate play. “Whoever plays scrumhalf needs the forwards to take control, and then they can’t take one or two steps before making a decision and passing the ball. That will result on more pressure on Ruan as he’ll have less time to work under.
“If they want Ruan to take control, which he must, the ball must be quicker. Even if Fourie does play Ruan must take the lead with decisions. Your flyhalf is the only guy who can scan the entire field and who has the necessary vision,” he said.
Botha re-iterated the role of the pack, who have had deficiencies at the breakdown the entire year, and urged the Boks to commit numbers to this area. “Halfbacks will struggle if they receive slow ball from the second and third phases. You look at a little thing like replacements, why does Andries Bekker come on for Bakkies Botha? Then you have hardly anyone fighting for the ball, who is securing the ball – Schalk and no-one else? We want to speed up play, but no-one’s doing the hard work.”
Botha feels the Boks are not dictating long enough periods of play as they don’t control possession as they should. He believes the English are vulnerable and if the visitors can play to their undoubted potential they could run away with the match at Twickenham.
“The times we do play properly we look good, but that doesn’t happen often enough. We must get the ball and start playing for a change – a lot of talking is done but nothing really happens. England are in the same boat, they talk of adventurous rugby but they don’t have the ball – they would do better if they went to the ball-boy to get it.
“England are in a serious re-building phase, if you don’t watch the Premiership you wouldn’t know many of their guys. Their media builds them up, but we mustn’t give them half a chance – we must get on top in the first 20 minutes and dominate from there because their confidence is low.”
By Grant Ball