Ruan Pienaar’s elevation to the Springbok kicking role is likely to continue this weekend despite the fact he was successful with less than half of his kicks at goal against Australia at Loftus Versfeld.
Springbok kicking coach Louis Koen revealed on Tuesday that he was working hard on Pienaar’s kicking style as young flyhalf Johan Goosen’s bruised heel still hasn’t allowed the youngster to practise his kicking yet.
Goosen last kicked in practice more than two weeks ago, and while it won’t keep him out of the starting line-up, he isn’t likely to take kicks at posts this weekend at FNB Stadium.
The youngster’s foot problem has only compounded a headache for kicking coach Koen, who has to work with a team that has left almost 40 points on the table in their last two Castle Rugby Championship games.
Pienaar’s return of 3 out of 7 during the Loftus test match was overlooked because the team dominated so much, and were way ahead on the scoreboard, but in a tighter, more pressurised encounter as this weekend is likely to be, that could well be the difference between winning and losing.
In fairness to the halfback, he has been working more on tactical kicking than on goalkicking, as Koen pointed out, especially earlier in the international season when Morne Steyn, Goosen and Elton Jantjies were the main kickers in the side.
On Saturday though, he will have the added responsibility on his shoulders of kicking for goal, and while Koen believes his technique is nothing short of perfect, he will need to adapt to the pressure of the new role.
The other alternative is the elevation of Pat Lambie, and that is a distinct possibility with Zane Kirchner struggling with a bruised hip at the moment.
With a decision only likely later in the week, if Lambie is brought in, he may also have to shoulder some of the kicking responsibility for the side. Goosen’s injury forced the coaching staff to take a different approach with the youngster, and Koen admitted he wasn’t even able to take kicks in the warm-up, as the bruised heel – which is on the foot he plants in the ground in his run-up, was too painful.
But the Bok management decided to see if he could have a go on the field, but after two unsuccessful attempts, decided to transfer the responsibility to Pienaar.
“There was also a concern about Johan Goosen this week with his injury because his kicking is a strength of his. We had to calm him down before the game and help him to focus to play his natural game, which he did very well,” Koen explained.
“He is a great goalkicker and it is one of his strengths. He is very frustrated at the moment because he can’t train. It is one of his strengths and he feels he is a better player when he can kick well.”
While the nature of the injury is strange, it comes down to being a bone bruise which is taking a long time to heal.
“He injured his heel; it is the fat pad under his heel. He hasn’t kicked for two weeks now, because it is just too sore. When he runs, it is on the ball of the foot, so it doesn’t affect him that much,” Koen added.
“His kicking is important, because it gives him confidence. The coach decided we wanted to back him because we wanted to give him confidence against Australia. He was very keen to do it and tried a few kicks in practice, but couldn’t do it.
“We thought his technique and good experience and confidence would do the trick in the game but it didn’t.
“(As for the All Blacks game) It depends what the coach and doctor decides but I’m preparing Ruan Pienaar to take the goalkicks on Saturday. I’m doing a lot more preparation with him to do the goalkicking this week. So if Johan is not able to kick, he will definitely be able to play.”