When Joe Pietersen left the Stormers after the 2010 campaign, it’s safe to say a few eyebrows were raised. Despite making his debut in 2006, Pietersen spent multiple season biding his time for the 15 shirt behind Conrad Jantjies. However, when the Springbok went through a 14 month injury nightmare after a broken leg, Pietersen’s chance came and he played a huge role in the Stormers finishing second on the log in 2010.
Fast forward two years and after a stint with Bayonne in the French Top 14, Pietersen is back in Stormers colours and once again impressing. Mainly a full back, the 27 year old can also play both on the wing and at fly-half. His contributions have been so important due to the fact that he is an outstanding goal kicker, able to land shots from 40-50 metres with little sweat.
But where Pietersen has really shone in recent weeks has been with his attacking play from deep. Always a strong defender, going forward there is always a sense of ambition and excitement when he finds a gap. In a back three including Bryan Habana and Gio Aplon he is never going to be the quickest, yet against the Highlanders in the top of the table clash last weekend in Dunedin, Pietersen scored one of the tries of the season:
His 8th try for the Stormers will probably end up being his best, from the break he made after gathering the loose ball inside his 22 to the outstanding chip over Phil Burleigh. For those unaware of Pietersen’s potential, it was a wake up call. For those who remembered his starring role in 2010, it once again reignited discussion as to whether he could make an impact on the international stage for South Africa.
New coach Heyneke Meyer will have struggled not to notice the full back’s efficient performances this year, but a lot of Pietersen’s selection depends on where Pat Lambie turns out for the Boks. Moving Lambie to 10 would have him fighting against Morné Steyn, along with rising star Johan Goosen, whilst having Pietersen battle for the 15 shirt would put him up against the returning Frans Steyn.
Although, if the Stormer continues on this form he will have to play some part in the upcoming Test series against England and looking further ahead in The Rugby Championship. What is for definite however is that for the Stormers, it’s good to have him back.