Ruan ready to rumble

Sharks scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar is eager to make up for a disappointing loss against Griquas by defeating the Vodacom Blue Bulls at Loftus on Friday night.

“All the guys are positive despite the setback,” Pienaar told keo.co.za. “I am really looking forward to the Bulls game.”

Pienaar’s superb performances in the Vodacom Super 14 earned him a call-up to the pre-season Springbok training camp and subsequently saw him play for the Springbok XV against a World XV.

But now Pienaar faces his sternest Absa Currie Cup test against a side who have the ability to make a scrumhalf’s job difficult by sending his pack backwards. The 22-year-old is under no illusions about the challenge that lies ahead.

“When you go to Loftus you have to be at your very best. If not, it’s going to be a long and hard game for you.”

With Butch James’s emergency Springbok call-up in the wake of yet another flyhalf crisis, Pienaar finds himself with a new halfback partner in the form of the highly rated Brad Barritt. The combination have operated before at Super 14 level and Pienaar speaks in glowing terms of his 19-year-old flyhalf.

“I think Brad has loads of potential. He is a gutsy player but at the same time has awesome skill with the ball in hand. Playing with Butch is always great but Brad brings something different, so it’s exciting.”

Sharks coach Dick Muir hinted midweek that he was considering playing the versatile Pienaar at No 10 but Pienaar insists his preferred role is at 9.

“Ja, I like playing flyhalf. It’s a nice position in terms of your involvement in the game and I don’t mind covering if the team needs me to. But I see myself as a scrummie first and foremost.”

With the introduction of a dual squad system Pienaar has had a week long break from rugby (he came on as a substitute against the Griquas), and has been concentrating on improving his strength and conditioning. He said the system has been extremely successful.

“Obviously I’d like to play every weekend if I could but it’s good for the guys and helps us get over little niggles and build strength. The benefits will show in the long run. Watching on TV or from the bench has also made me more hungry to get out there and perform for my team.”

Expect the Sharks to play the attacking style rugby they’ve become associated with under the tutelage of their innovative coach, but don’t be surprised if they take the Bulls on with the forward game that has become synonymous with the team from Pretoria.

For Pienaar one factor will determine whether his side will be responsible for a huge post match Pretoria party or silencing the Bulls faithful. “Our forwards are going to be the biggest factor in this game. If they can lay the foundation for us well take them on with our backs.”

By Ryan Vrede