Ruan Pienaar in action for South Africa during the South Africa v World XV Rugby match in 2014 Photo: Barry Aldworth/BackpagePix
JOHANNESBURG - As if the Lions’ task against the log-leading and free-scoring Cheetahs wasn’t hard enough, they will now also have to contend with seasoned former Springbok scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar, who has been included in coach Franco Smith’s team for today’s Currie Cup fixture in Bloemfontein.

The 35-year-old former World Cup winner will fill a place on the bench for this fourth round match following his return “home” after spells at Montepellier, Ulster and the Sharks.

“I’m very excited to be here, there’s a special vibe,” said Pienaar. “A year ago I would never have thought I’d be here. I left Bloemfontein 15 years ago, so it’s been a long time. I’m thankful the Cheetahs have given me a chance to continue playing.

“I’m really looking forward to playing here again, the place where it all started for me. I know this stadium (in Bloemfontein) inside out ... I spent a few days here every week when my dad (former Bok assistant coach and Cheetahs boss Gysie Pienaar) was coaching here. It’s obviously changed a bit over the years, but I’ve still got a lot of fond memories of watching games here and supporting the Cheetahs.

“I hope to make a lot of new memories here where the people are passionate about their rugby. And, my dad can now come and watch me play for a change again.”

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Pienaar’s last Currie Cup game was way back in 2010, when he ran out for the Sharks against, believe it or not, the Cheetahs, in Bloemfontein. “That was the game Coenie Oosthuizen tackled me so hard I injured my shoulder,” reminisced Pienaar.

Both the Cheetahs and the Lions are unbeaten after playing two games each. The Cheetahs though have hammered the Bulls (43-27) and Griquas (68-14) for a full-house of 10 points, while the Lions have squeaked past the Pumas (38-37) and Western Province (30-28), for nine points.

Lions boss Cash van Rooyen said Pienaar’s inclusion in the Cheetahs squad would boost the Bloemfontein-based side. 

“Obviously you can’t buy experience, and Ruan has loads of it,” said Van Rooyen. “He’s an exceptional player ... he has a great passing and kicking game, and he comes from there (Bloemfontein) so he knows the culture. He’ll be a great benefit to them.”

While the Lions have made just one change to the side that won in Cape Town last week; lock Wilhelm van der Sluys coming in for Marvin Orie, who has re-joined the Springboks in New Zealand, there are a few changes in the Cheetahs side. Flank Marnus van der Merwe moves into the starting team after playing off the bench last week, while wing Tapiwa Mafura replaces the injured William Small-Smith. Ox Nche is also back in the No 1 jersey.

The teams 

Cheetahs starting XV: 

Darron Adonis, Tapiwa Mafura, Benhard Janse van Rensburg, Dries Swanepoel, Rabz Maxwane, Tian Schoeman, Tian Meyer (capt), Henco Venter, Junior Pokomela, Marnus van der Merwe, Walt Steenkamp, Sitno Manjesi, Aranos Coetzee, Joseph Dweba, Ox Nche; Replacements: Jacques du Toit, Charles Marais, Reinach Venter, JP du Preez, Abongile Nonkontwana, Gerhard Olivier, Ruan Pienaar, Louis Fouce

Lions starting XV: 

Tyrone Green, Madosh Tambwe, Wandisile Simelane, Jan-Louis la Grange, Stean Pienaar, Shaun Reynolds, Ross Cronje (capt), Hacjivah Dayimani, Vincent Tshituka, Marnus Schoeman, Wilhelm van der Sluys, Ruben Schoeman, Johannes Jonker, Pieter Jansen, Sti Sithole; Replacements: Jan-Henning Campher, Leo Kruger, Jacobie Adriaanse, Rhyno Herbst, James Venter, Len Massyn, Dillon Smit, Manuel Rass


The Star