Does Ruan Pienaar have Ulster to Thank?

Ruan Pienaar scoring a try
Ruan Pienaar is the only overseas Springbok to be selected for The Rugby Championship. This is strange when you see the players like arguably the best Scrum Half in the world right now, Fourie Du Preez, not being selected as he is playing in the highly lucrative Japanese league.

Ruan was undoubtedly one of the players of the year in the RaboDirect Pro 12 last term. His southern hemisphere style of reading the game opened many league and European defences, whilst his ability to slip into the ten shirt, creating an invaluable partnership with Paul Marshall, changed the pace of the game when replacing Ian Humphreys.

Ruan’s strength last season was his talking to the back row. He was constantly pushing them on and using them not only in the old fashioned way of brute force but also, delicate one touch passing that released Andy Trimble and Craig Gilroy. Even big Dan Tuohy got over the white line because of the ball work of Ruan.

Ruan is named on the bench for the Boks this weekend and I am sure he is delighted with that. I know that the adopted Ulster-man has a huge fan base there, which is purely down to his efforts on the pitch. He is a very private man, not on Twitter, as many of his Ulster and South Africans are, and he regularly attends local church in his new home town in North Down.

At a recent open day at Ravenhill he spent more time signing shirts, posing for photos and trying a ‘Norn Iron’ accent with the younger generation than the old and bald club fans. South African flags, ‘Stand Up for the Ulster-man’ written in Afrikaans, new t-shirts emblazoned with ‘You’ve been Ruan-ed’ are all down to the success of this quiet, dedicated player.

Ulster played Ruan all last season and his match fitness was exemplary, he was instrumental in possibly the best season for Ulster since ’99. Why? Ruan leads the new and old Ulster-men by example, and he uses his size (all 92kg) to intimidate opposition back lines.

He has played 59 games for the Boks in a six-year international career. Does Ruan have Ulster to thank? No. Ulster and the Celtic league have him to thank.

I believe that the Boks will use him as an impact player during The Rugby Championship and he will not disappoint. I am sure the league will join me in wishing Ruan – and Tomas Vallejos, the Scarlets and Argentina lock – well and the best of luck in the tournament.

‘Staan oop vir die Ulster Man.’

By Andy Richardson

5 thoughts on “Does Ruan Pienaar have Ulster to Thank?

  1. There is no doubt that Ruan Pienaar is a class player and is probably a much better technical scrumhalf than the Boks current No.9 Francois Hougaard, whose career has been hampered by

    1.) those trying to make him an FdP clone ( Hougaard’s a terrible box kicker, where as FdP was a master at it) and 2.) his ability to be more than a decent winger as well

    Ruan’s a much crisper passer of the ball and Hougaard and he are probably the only test level SH’s available to SA currently. Duvenhage, McLeod, Van Zyl and Pretorius aren’t in the same league.

    Pienaar’s versatility was his undoing at the Sharks- he was shunted all around the backline and PdV used him at various positions too ( I think he’s played SH, FH, Centre, Wing and FB for the Boks). He’s very much a confidence player and playing consistently at 9 will certainly help him get his career on track.

      1. He certainly has the qualities to be a decent winger, but that position seems to be unofficially reserved for players of colour.

        I also think he can be a good SH, but he needs to be allowed to apply his own style of playing. I’d love to see him at Natal currently but he won’t move from the Bulls.

        Sharks loose trio ( 3 of Daniel/Coetzee/Alberts/Deysel/Kankowski/- all of them are mighty good) + Hougaard @ 9 and Patrick Lambie at 10, Frans Steyn and Paul Jordaan at 12/13 will be a fabulous looking backline.

  2. Great comments, thanks both. Ruan did seem to come yesterday and make an instant impact. The speed at the breakdown increased and he backed himself to make decent line breaks. When Hougaard shifted he was released to make decent ground. Bokkies looking on course for the second place. I hope that Bismarck all the best and returns before the end of the year as predicted.

    1. The Boks were average yesterday and while some people will say it was just the first game of the Championship, the bonus point was there for the taking.

      The number of turnovers they conceded in the opposition half was alarming and they’ll be KO’ed by both Australia and New Zealand if they play like that. Bismarck is an integral part of their plans in that aspect and I suspect an SOS call will be on the way to Heinrich Brussow ( once his injury heals) if they continue to be slow at hitting the rucks.

      Frans Steyn and JdV didn’t quite have the same impact and while Morne kicked everything that came his way, he didn’t set the backline alight.

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