Pienaar plus pressure equals success

When Ruan Pienaar slotted an injury-time, touchline conversion at the weekend to steer the Sharks to a sensational 27-26 win over the Crusaders many experts wondered how he managed to stay so calm and collected.

The fact is that it was not Pienaar’s first time that he needed to slot an injury-time conversion to win the game for his team. He’s done it on a number of occasions before, with mixed results, and by his own admission was “quite keen” to take the pressure kick two minutes into injury time of last Saturday’s Super 12 outing.

Back in 2005 Pienaar slotted an injury-time conversion to secure a 28-27 Currie Cup victory for the Sharks over Griquas in Kimberley. Last year he was again entrusted with a crucial kick – after flank Keegan Daniel scored a three minutes after the hooter – but this time Pienaar’s conversion attempt (which would have tied the scores) drifted wide and the Cheetahs won 37-35.

Pienaar remembers that miss very well and admitted that he probably owed his team a winning kick.

Although not the Sharks’ first-choice goal-kicker, he regularly steps up when other kickers are sidelined and also practices with frontline kickers Percy Montgomery and Butch James on a regular basis.

So when he was offered the opportunity to redeem himself for last year’s miss, Pienaar did not hesitate.

“It is not often that you’re in a situation where you can do something like that [kick the winning kick in the dying seconds on the international stage], so I’m just glad that I was able to kick it,” Pienaar told rugby365.com.

“I do practice my kicking a lot with Monty [Montgomery] and Butch [James], while [former Wallaby great David Campese [the Sharks’ skills coach] also helps a lot,” Pienaar added.

However, he pointed out that no amount of training can simulate the pressure that you get when you line up a kick like that in a match.

Pienaar, who turns only 23 in a few days, said he did not hesitate for one minute when he was offered the opportunity to take the shot at goal.

“Monty had left the field with an injury and it was just me and Butch and he [Butch] asked me if I wanted to take it. I said yes I’ll take it, and then I kicked it.

“Yes, I was very keen to take it, because I was striking the ball quite well [at practice] during the week.

“I was feeling very positive about it. I missed that one against the Cheetahs [in the Currie Cup last year] to draw the game, so I knew what the circumstances would be like … except the last time I missed one.

“I was disappointed with that miss [last year] so it was very nice to have landed this one,” Pienaar said.

Pienaar also explained that the “family atmosphere” at the Sharks is one of the major contributing factors to their unbeaten run this year – with the Sharks the only side not to have lost after five weeks of this 14-team competition.

But he added that the Sharks are nowhere near the standards they have set for themselves.

“We are certainly not very happy with how we are playing,” he said of their performances to date.

“There are certainly lost of things we can work on, but I feel that at times we are playing the rugby we produced last year.

“Also it is a very tough competition and there are no easy wins, so we’ll take every win we can, even if we win with just one point. But there certainly are many things we will have to go work on and improve on, but that will come the more we play together, and the longer the competition last.”

Apart from the family atmosphere, which means “the guys are playing for each other”, Pienaar said the Sharks are now benefiting from the experience they gained in last year’s Super 14 competition – when a large number of the team played Super Rugby for the first time.

“The other difference is that last year we lost four games narrowly and this year we’ve turned that around, winning the na

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