Peter de Villiers believes Ruan Pienaar won’t be underdone come the Test series and reckons the Springboks are spoiled for choice at fullback.
Pienaar has been sidelined with injury for the majority of 2009 and only played three Tests for the Boks at flyhalf in 2008. In preparing him for the Tests, it may have been an option to give him a run for the Sharks against the tourists on 10 June. But when presented with this idea, De Villiers aggressively rebuked suggestions his chosen one would be underdone.
‘I never make decisions unless I’m convinced, I would never play with players’ lives,’ the Bok coach snapped. ‘I don’t need [that match] to justify decisions. I’m sure Ruan will stand up to the challenge.
‘Ruan is the Tiger Woods of rugby and I believe Earl Rose is in the same class.’
Rose will play off the bench for the Golden Lions when they face their British & Irish counterparts on Wednesday. It’s a familiar position for the Lions’ utility player, but De Villiers says this is no reflection on his ability.
‘We took Earl on tour last year and also played him against Namibia, so he knows our structures. His decision-making is brilliant and that was apparent [when he moved to flyhalf in the Namibia XV game].
‘I believe in him and he’s definitely a player we will be looking at in the build up to 2011,’ De Villiers added.
The Bok coach did, however, intimate that Morne Steyn could be Pienaar’s understudy in the Test series. The Bulls’ flyhalf was largely responsible for the Pretoria franchise’s recent success, and his tactical appreciation could be a big boost in a series of this nature.
‘He’s earned his spot by performing week after week. He never let the Bulls down. There are a few things we’ll have to work on so that he fits in [to our game plan], but he has really made this selection possible through his consistent performances.’
De Villiers said Zane Kirchner was unlucky to miss out, but at the same time believes the Boks have enough options at fullback. No specialists have been selected, but De Villiers sees no problem.
‘A few years ago JP Pietersen burst onto the scene as a fullback and was seen as a great prospect. Earl has not been bad when he’s got a chance [at 15], Frans Steyn has played there and if we work with Morne I’m sure he could also be an option.
‘Ruan has already played fullback for the Springboks, so I don’t know how much of a ‘recognised’ player you have to be to play there.’
De Villiers also alluded to what he calls ‘total rugby’. Asked about how vital tactical kicking will be in this series, the Bok coach said it is merely one aspect of the game.
‘We have some great ball carriers and some great runners in our team. The challenge for us is to get the mixture right to play total rugby.’
By Jon Cardinelli, in Johannesburg