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The heat is on at number nine

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Springbok coach Jake White says he has a very good idea of what his first choice team should look like, but there is currently a raging debate about the scrum-half pecking order.

It is generally accepted that injured Bulls number nine Fourie du Preez is the best in his position in South Africa … if not in the world.

However, the debate is about who should be number two in the number nine pecking order in the Green and Gold club.

Many critics feel that Sharks scrum-half Ruan Pienaar has moved ahead of his Lions counterpart Ricky Januarie, but the Bok coach doesn’t agree with this.

Now it is feared that White might turn Pienaar into a utility back, which could be to the detriment of the player. This came after White described Pienaar as a scrum-half he is “quite talented”, but as a rugby player he is “even more talented”.

However, the Bok coach is firm in his belief on who the first choice is in the scrum-half spot.

Januarie started in both tests against England, with Pienaar only coming on in the latter stages of the games – playing the final 10 minutes on the wing in Bloemfontein and getting 10 minutes at scrum-half in Pretoria.

There has been a suggestion that Pienaar could start against Samoa at Ellis Park next Saturday, but White was giving nothing away.

Asked why he had not given Pienaar more game time, the Bok coach said he is happy that Januarie is still a better choice.

“Every guy is an impact player, but not every guy can come on straight after half-time,” White said in defence of his decision to give Pienaar limited game time.

“We gave him 10 minutes – he played well last week [in Bloemfontein] and he played well this week [in Pretoria].

“Ricky [Januarie] is the number one scrum-half at this stage, because Fourie [du Preez] is not available.

“Ricky didn’t play much rugby in the Super 14 – he wasn’t starting every week.

“I think if we are going to play him going forward into the Tri-Nations, then he needs to get as much rugby as he can.

“It is a bit hard on a guy like Ruan, but he understands … it’s a pecking order and it is nothing to be embarrassed about.

“He [Pienaar] got two test caps in two weeks and he’s beaten England by 50 points twice – I think he is enjoying his life.”

Januarie said he doesn’t feel under pressure, despite the debate about his form – which can best described as patchy.

“I enjoy the pressure of competition and I’ll handle it,” Januarie said.

“It is healthy competition between myself and Ruan [Pienaar].

“If I get to start [against Samoa] I’ll be happy, but I won’t be upset if I don’t get to start.”

Januarie said he doesn’t share the view that his game is below par, but admitted he could still work on a few things.

“I’m happy with where my game is at the moment, especially after these two tests.

“I would obviously love to get more game time, because my game improves the more game time I get, because I can work on my game every week.

“I will see what the coach’s team will look like next week.”

Januarie said that there is a confidence in the Bok camp after their two big wins over England and they are looking forward to the challenges ahead.

“Compared to last year, which wasn’t a good year for the team and Jake [White], this year we started well with two 50-point victories [over England], so we’ll have to see what happens closer to the World Cup.”

By Jan de Koning 365 Digital

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