JP backs his No 15 chances

JP Pietersen believes his game has evolved to the extent that he can be a success at fullback against the Lions.

With Peter de Villiers ommiting a specialist fullback in his 28-man squad, Pietersen is the coach’s favourite to fill the last line of defence. Other options include Frans Steyn, Earl Rose or Odwa Ndungane, but Pietersen is confident he has the all-round game to succeed.

The Sharks’ winger made his debut for both province and country in the No 15 jersey, the latter case against Australia at Ellis Park in 2006. He last played this position two years ago but asserted he can make the transition once more.

‘I don’t think it will be a problem moving back to fullback,’ said Pietersen. ‘I started my career for both the Sharks and Boks there. It is ultimately the coach’s decision, but I will play there if needed.

‘The last time I played there was against the All Blacks in Christchurch in 2007 and I think I’m definitely a more mature player than when I started my career.’

Pietersen has enjoyed a stellar Super 14 on both attack and defence and is solid under the high ball, but his major weakness is his line-kicking game. The last time he played No 15 the ELVs weren’t in place, and since then this area has become an even more crucial facet of play, along with the breakdown.

‘I have been training my kicking for four years, so it must be better than the earlier stages of my career. I don’t think it will be a problem readjusting.’

Focusing his attention to the British & Irish Lions, Pietersen noted their impressive offence in racking up 74 points against the Golden Lions on Wednesday. However, he highlighted their rush defence as the most impressive part of their play.

‘They brought their blindside wing in quite a bit, while the two centres [Jamie Roberts and Brian O'Driscoll] went well. The positive for them was how they took the majority of the chances that came their way.

‘I wasn’t surprised they used the rush defence,’ he continued. ‘We will have to try a few things to break them down, especially going through the inside channels first. Maybe a few grubbers will also keep them guessing.

‘We can take a few pointers from how sides attacked us a few years ago when they broke our rush defence down. I know the coach has a few tricks up his sleeve.’

By Grant Ball, in Johannesburg