VIDEO: The pivotal move that secured Cheetahs a win
REACTION: It was by misfortune, rather than being a masterstroke, but Ruan Pienaar’s move to flyhalf was pivotal in the Cheetahs keeping their Currie Cup play-off hopes alive.
The Cheetahs hung on for a thrilling 33-32 bonus-point win over Griquas in Bloemfontein on Wednesday.
Pienaar, the team’s captain and regular scrumhalf, was moved to flyhalf at half-time.
The Cheetahs’ starting No.10 Reinhardt Fortuin pulled a hamstring while chasing Griquas flank Hanru Sirgel just before the break.
Pienaar was moved out one position – from No.9 to No.10 – and sparked the Cheetahs backline, using the spaces to manipulate the Griquas defenders.
Griquas held a 10-point (29-19) lead at the end of the first half and the visitors’ only second-half points were a George Whitehead penalty in the 64th minute – which extended the lead to 32-19.
Two tries – one from the restart by replacement prop Conraad van Vuuren and the other, after series of phases, by flank Junior Pokomela – secured the hosts the win.
It was in the Pokomela score where Pienaar’s role was best illustrated.
“He asked some questions of their defence and that brought us back into the game,” coach Hawies Fourie – in his post-match analysis – said of Pienaar’s influence.
Pienaar said he always enjoyed playing at flyhalf, having featured in the No.10 jersey for numerous teams – most famously in the first two Tests of the Springboks’ two-one series win over the 2009 British and Irish Lions.
Six of his 88 Tests for the Boks were at flyhalf.
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“I train there quite a bit,” Pienaar told @rugby365com, when asked about taking over at No.10, adding: “I know that I cover flyhalf if the No.10 gets injured and we [the Cheetahs] are on a six-two split [with a forwards-heavy bench].
“I know what my job is and that helped a lot,” he said of his move to flyhalf in the second half.
Pienaar also praised the forwards for their role, saying the pack made a big step up and created the platform for the backs.
“I thought our [replacement] bench made a big difference and gave us the front-foot ball.
“As always, when you are asked to do a job somewhere, you try and do it as best as possible.”
It may not be a consideration for Bok coach Jacques Nienaber, but the 37-year-old Pienaar showed he would certainly not let the national team down.
He made his Bok debut off the bench against New Zealand in August 2006 and played the last of his Tests as a scrumhalf against Argentina in 2015.
Pienaar played in more than 100 games for the Sharks, between 2004 and 2010, before moving to Ireland – when he played more than 140 games for Ulster.
In 2017 he moved to France and featured in 28 games for Montpellier, before returning home to Bloemfontein in 2019.