Morne Steyn’s recording-breaking feats at King’s Park have ensured that he starts at flyhalf against Australia.
Before the Durban Test head coach Peter de Villiers told the media that they were resting Ruan Pienaar, who had suffered an ankle injury playing against the All Blacks in Bloemfontein, so that he could ‘play the next five Tests’.
Prior to the start of the British & Irish Lions series he called Pienaar rugby’s equivalent to Tiger Woods. Now ‘Tiger’ has missed the cut, and looks to be kept captive until Steyn’s form drops off or he is injured.
De Villiers must have been in a difficult position, as he was the one who requested that Pienaar shift from scrumhalf to flyhalf in 2008.
Pienaar consented, despite his strongly held belief that he is better suited to No 9, because he was given the assurance that he would get an extended run in the position. However, Pienaar now finds himself on the outer with the prospect of watching from the wood for the foreseeable future.
‘Ruan Pienaar has always been part of our plans, but I think it would be doing the players who played last week an injustice to change the side,’ De Villiers told keo.co.za.
‘In the current environment, if you lose you spot through injury it’s hard to win it back. That’s the sort of competition in the side at present and it’s healthy.’
De Villiers didn’t have the option of going with a five-two bench split and omitting scrumhalf Ricky Januarie, given that Pienaar covers 9 and 10, because they don’t have another forward in the squad.
He did, however, have the option of selecting Wynand Olivier and dropping Januarie, but he justified the retention of Januarie by saying, ‘Ricky has worked hard on his game and he showed when he came on last week that he deserved to be in the team.’
Januarie came on in the 77th minute.
‘Ruan Pienaar is one of our better players. But it’s a big mindset switch from flyhalf to scrumhalf. When we need to we could go with a 5-2 split on the bench but we didn’t need to this time,’ De Villiers continued.
Asked what the primary tactical differences between the Wallabies and All Blacks would be, De Villiers said, ‘They’ll be patient and keep the ball through the phases.
‘That’s just one element of their game though. They’ll also be difficult customers at the scrums. They would rather give away a penalty there than be dominated. They’ll also be good at the lineouts and breakdowns.’
Skipper John Smit added, ‘The scrums are an area they’ve stepped up in a great deal. In the Super 14 the Waratahs were the most improved pack and many of those players will feature for them on Saturday, so it’ll be a tough for sure.’
Smit said they were acutely aware of complacency following successive victories over the All Blacks, but was confident that his side would lift their intensity level.
‘The pressure not to let ourselves down is stronger within the team than it is from the outside. We have to empty the tank out there and the boys will be up for the challenge again,’ he said.
De Villiers said they wouldn’t reflect on the drubbing of the All Blacks and neither would they look to take lessons from their excellent performance against the Wallabies at Ellis Park last year, where they triumphed 53-8.
‘We’ll start from zero on Saturday, we don’t look at past results to help us. There is so little to choose between these three sides and any one can beat the other on any given day,’ he said.
‘The margins for error are so small that if you get 90% of your game plan spot on and the other 10% wrong you could lose.’
Springboks – 15 Frans Steyn, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 John Smit (c), 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Danie Rossouw, 19 Andries Bekker, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Adi Jacobs