VIDEO: Veteran Bok's sage advice to SA URC teams
URC SPOTLIGHT: Ruan Pienaar is a respected figure that has made his mark on the international stage, so any advice he hands out is worth taking on board.
Apart from a celebrated Springbok career, which includes a win over the British and Irish Lions, Pienaar has almost 300 first-class games to his credit.
That includes 130 games for the Sharks and Cheetahs, along with 170 in Europe – between Ulster and Montpellier.
It was not a surprise when the Sharks struck a deal with the Cheetahs late last year to take Pienaar ‘on loan’ for their month-long URC tour to Europe.
His mentoring of the younger players in the Sharks squad was invaluable, an exercise Pienaar thoroughly enjoyed.
He said he was “grateful” for the Cheetahs, when they gave him an opportunity to have a run with the Sharks during their four-match European tour.
“At my age, my body appreciates it more playing than having another pre-season,” the 37-year-old utility back said.
He said the Sharks are in a sound position with the “financial backing” they are getting from Marco Masotti’s MVM consortium.
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“You can see that,” he said, adding that the Sharks have built up a really good squad.
“They will be in a good place in the next few months.”
However, he cautioned against too high expectations in South Africa’s first full venture into a European competition.
“It will take time,” the 88-times capped Springbok said.
“It is different.
“When I went abroad first, people thought the game in the Northern Hemisphere is boring, ponderous and all those things.
“That really is not true.
“The teams are well-coached. They have really good players.
“Some of the best players in the world play in the URC.
“It will be a big challenge. It will take a year or two for the guys to adapt to the way the referees control the game and the way they [Euro teams] play.
“Obviously they put the focus and emphasis on different areas – those aspects we normally don’t focus on.”
He said the Bulls and Sharks have decent squads and if given time they will be up for the challenge.