Ruan’s big Bok chance

Springbok assistant coach Allister Coetzee admits there is a slight problem on the wings, but is thrilled with his choices at No 9.

The Bok backline for the opening international of the year is slowly taking shape, but one position which is far from settled is scrumhalf. A plethora of skilled halfbacks – amazingly all fit – present a pleasant selection conundrum for Coetzee and co.

With Fourie du Preez, Bolla Conradie, Ricky Januarie and Ruan Pienaar all fighting for the starting spot, it may be the Sharks man that gets his first Springbok cap. Pienaar has been a revelation this season and certainly deserves an opportunity ahead of more seasoned campaigners whose wares are well documented.

While the other three have been tested at international level, the World XV match presents Pienaar with an ideal chance to find his feet. “We are blessed at scrumhalf,” Coetzee told keo.co.za, “and we are still working out our options. On paper certain combinations work, but when put into practice deficiencies are shown up.”

Coetzee firmly believes the stop-gap wings – Gaffie du Toit and Andre Snyman – will not let the side down in the absence of out-and-out wingers such as Bryan Habana, Tonderai Chavhanga, Ashwin Willemse and Breyton Paulse.

It is a view shared by White, who is known to favour versatile backs. “Specialists are not essential. Pace is not a problem with these guys and they bring some extra bulk to the equation,” Coetzee said.

When questioned on the options at the base of the scrum, Coetzee produces a broad smile. South Africa is arguably better equipped in this position than any other country at the moment.

The one thing the Boks of 2006 are doing is focussing on the finer details of the game. “Jake has worked hard in the off season to find new ways to improve aspects of our play. And this year he has made it important to get the little things right first.”

Meanwhile, Cheetahs prop Jannie du Plessis, who was called to the Bok camp as a precautionary measure following the slew of injuries to front-rowers, may also get a chance to play against the World XV.

Despite not featuring in White’s original 45-man squad, Du Plessis may be used after losing CJ van der Linde to a fractured leg and BJ Botha to a sore neck. Also, Lawrence Sephaka is not match-sharp and Eddie Andrews is nursing a damaged shoulder. Os du Randt and Gurthro Steenkamp are already out.

By Andrew Hollely, in Bloemfontein