England missing Wilkinson - Pienaar
November 23, 2008
Pienaar charges down a clearance from England fly-half Dann Cipriani during their clash at Twickenham © Getty Images
South Africa fly-half Ruan Pienaar believes England are badly missing Jonny Wilkinson's influence at fly-half.
Wilkinson started the Premiership season in prime form and was favourite to reclaim the England No.10 jersey for the autumn internationals before suffering a dislocated knee. Danny Cipriani has struggled to make the step up to international rugby and Pienaar profited yesterday, scoring 20 points as the Springboks inflicted a record 42-6 defeat on England.
Pienaar expects big things from Cipriani in the future - but he thinks England manager Martin Johnson will be counting down the days before Wilkinson is available again. "Jonny Wilkinson has been a top fly-half since he was 18. He might make a huge difference to the England set-up and he brings a lot of confidence to the players around him," said Pienaar.
"He has been unlucky with injuries. For sure, I'd like to see him back on the international stage and I think most of his team-mates would like to see that."
Pienaar scored the second of South Africa's five tries after charging down Cipriani's attempted clearance. It was the third time in six Tests Cipriani has been punished for the same mistake and Johnson expects opposing teams are targeting it as a weakness.
There was a flicker of a smile but Pienaar revealed nothing, except his admiration for Cipriani. "I just saw he lined up the kick and took a chance. Luckily it paid off," said Pienaar.
"I think he is a great player and he will improve game by game. I have watched him in the Premiership and the Heineken Cup. He is an awesome player and I have great respect for him."
England dominated possession and territory, forcing South Africa to make more than twice as many tackles and yet the Springboks ran in five tries to nil. "I don't think anyone expected that scoreline," Pienaar said. "The guys really played together in a team. Twickenham is a special place to play and to beat them by that margin is a huge honour for us.
"England are still a young team and will grow. Their backline is new to the Test match arena. England had their chances. But our guys really defended well. We managed to keep them out and it was a massive defensive effort out there."
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September