Believe it or not but right now Ruan Pienaar is South Africa’s third most experienced player. The former Sharks man will earn his 61st cap on Saturday against Ireland here and coach Heyneke Meyer is hoping he will finally start showing his true class.
Meyer said he was thankful that Ulster, the club Pienaar plays for here in Europe, had helped him by picking the former Grey College pupil at scrumhalf and not moved him all around the backline.
“I’ve always thought Ruan to be a superb, superb talent, but he’s never got the chance to play in his best position. With respect to the coaches who’ve gone before me, he’s always been moved around the backline, 10, 15 and nine and he’s never been allowed to settle.
“But when he got here, to Ulster, he was able to settle in his favourite position, scrumhalf,” said Meyer yesterday. “I’m thankful to them for doing that ... and with Fourie du Preez having moved on, he’s now one of the most experienced members of the team and must take on a leadership role.
“He must also start controlling the game for us ... but I’ve got a lot of confidence he will do that for us.”
Pienaar has not only been shunted around the backline but had to stand in the queue behind several scrumhalves in the past, including Ricky Januarie.
Meyer added Pienaar, who’s been in wonderful form for Ulster, especially with the boot, was a player who needed to be backed and he would continue to do so. “He’s a confidence player and he knows his role in this team now ... I know he’s just going to grow in the next year.”
Pienaar will team up with Sharks No 10 Pat Lambie for the first time at international level. Preferred to Morné Steyn and Elton Jantjies at No 10, Lambie said he was sure things would go well with his scrumhalf partner.
“I played with Ruan in my first year with the Sharks and we were a pretty sound combination and I’m sure he’ll take a lot of pressure off me on Saturday,” said Lambie. “He’s an experienced player with a good boot and he’s sure to know the conditions well over here ... I suppose it helps that he plays his rugby up here.”