Pienaar’s future at No.9

Mon, 14 Jan 2013 16:45
Large ruan pienaar h s 630 Large ruan pienaar ulster passes Large ruanpienaarireland

Ulster coach Mark Anscombe believes Ruan Pienaar’s future lies at scrumhalf following calls for the Springbok to be switched to flyhalf.

Ulster coach Mark Anscombe believes Ruan Pienaar’s future lies at scrumhalf following calls for the Springbok to be switched to flyhalf.

Which position is best suited for the versatile Pienaar has long been debated by several of his coaches, who have had contrasting opinions on where the 28-year-old is most effective.

Although primarily a scrumhalf, where he has played 37 Tests for the Springboks, Pienaar has also featured at flyhalf (13), fullback (10) and wing (3) in his 63-Test career to date.

The son of former Springbok fullback Gysie Pienaar was compared by World Cup-winning Springbok coach Jake White to Wallaby flyhalf Stephen Larkham and was a revelation in the No.10 jersey in South Africa’s unbeaten end-of-year tour in 2008.  

The following year he started the first two Tests against the British and Irish Lions at flyhalf but lost the position to Morné Steyn after the Bulls pivot had kicked the series-winning penalty in the dying minutes of the second Test at Loftus Versfeld.

With Fourie du Preez entrenched as first-choice scrumhalf until his retirement from Test rugby after the 2011 World Cup, Pienaar was given an opportunity at fullback before being relegated to the role of impact player.

His move to Ulster in 2010 allowed Pienaar an extended run in his preferred No.9 jersey and saw him usurp Francois Hougaard as starting scrumhalf for South Africa last year.  
Pienaar’s all-round skill set has led to new calls for a shift to flyhalf at Ulster with Paul Marshall starting at scrumhalf considered by many in the Irish media to be in the club’s best interest.

Anscombe, however, feels Pienaar belongs at scrumhalf.

"Arguably, he is, if not the best, one of the best nines in the world," said Anscombe.

"He is such a good footballer he could play a number of positions. And he has done that at international level.

"But the fact is you have to ask yourself, when you have got someone who is world class in one position, why would you play him somewhere else?

"Yes he could do it, but the fact is that his kicking game from the base of the scrum and the ruck is just outstanding, he is second to no man."

Anscombe also spoke of his belief in young flyhalf Paddy Jackson.

"We have Paddy Jackson, who we have a lot of confidence and faith in.

"We think he is a good young man and he is only getting better as a footballer. Yeah he's not perfect but he is 21 years of age."

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