RICHARD FERGUSON wonders who will be wearing the nine jersey when the Springboks kick off against Italy.
The Springboks start their 2013 season off against Italy in less than two weeks and while there is some debate as to who should wear the ten jersey, my concern is rather the one who feeds the flyhalf.
South Africa has been blessed with some superb scrumhalves in recent times, but within the current crop there is not one that jumps out and secures himself a starting spot. Within the borders, we have the likes of Francois Hougaard and Jano Vermaak who made the training squad.
While Vermaak is the form player between the two Bulls, I am not entirely comfortable with him as the starting scrumhalf. We might be playing lesser opposition during this test series, but this build towards the Rugby Championship starting later in the year.
With only two scrumhalves selected in the training group, it is clear that Ruan Pienaar will join the squad from Europe, once it is selected. Pienaar might not be a favourite amongst South Africans, but is has to be the best bet currently available. Pienaar has been in good form for Ulster, and while the game there is slightly slower, a bit of confidence and his settled nature will go a long way in getting the Springboks on top.
The most important thing is that the scrumhalf fits in with Heyneke Meyer’s plan for the Boks. He would in all likelihood be required to do a fair amount of kicking. Looking at the three options available, Pienaar is again the best of the bunch. Vermaak has the ability to play to Meyer’s plan, Hougaard not so much. Hougaard is an attacking player and would best be suited to a New Zealand style of running rugby. In his favour though is the fact that he can cover wing from the bench, which would see him included rather than Vermaak.
Considering the scrumhalf situation in South Africa at the moment, one has to wonder whether Cobus Reinach would have been called up to the training squad had he been fit. Although Reinach has had an up and down season, he would in my mind be third in line if you exclude the foreign Pienaar.
The future looks good though, with the likes of Reinach, Shaun Venter who is 27 and Piet van Zyl who is only 24. They might not seem the ideal scrumhalves right now, but another year of Super Rugby for each of these players will stand them in good stead.
For now though, we wait on Heyneke Meyer to announce his final squad. We are sure to see these three fight it out for the starting nine jersey, my front runner and best bet being Ruan Pienaar.