Springbok wing JP Pietersen proved on Tuesday that he is wise beyond his years when he kept quiet instead of confirming what everybody knows.
Instead of stating the obvious, the 28-year-old who has been capped 55 times decided not to comment on whether he would like to take back the number 14 jersey which has become the property of the team’s top try scorer Cornal Hendricks.
A smile, nod and a distant glare was all he offered when asked whether he had indicated to the incumbent that his plan is to snatch back his place in the run-on team.
Part of the reason for his silence could also be that, with Hendricks in sublime form, he may very well be targeting the number 13 jersey of young Jan Serfontein – the position he plays abroad.
Pietersen lost his place due to commitments at his club in Japan, Panasonic Wild Kings, which saw him miss out on most of the Rugby Championship.
He made his return in the team’s 28-10 victory over Australia in Cape Town last week and in the short time he was on the field, showed that he has not lost his love for the pressures involved with playing at Test level.
“We have to give credit to Cornal, he’s been outstanding from June till now, he’s taking his opportunities, he’s scored tries and I was the first guy to congratulate him when I came back,” Pietersen said.
“As a player you always want to be in the starting line-up, so it is a challenge for me and I’ll have to work hard and wait for my opportunity to come.”
While refusing to give statements that could be viewed as provocative by his team mates, Pietersen was an open book as far as his stint in Japan is concerned – highlighting that his stay in the orient has had a positive effect on certain aspects of his game.
“The move has been beneficial for my rugby, I have more time as a player to reflect on myself and on what I can improve on, while it also opens my mind about rugby in general,” he said.
Although he had already established a love for the local cuisine – Pietersen is somewhat of a Sushi connoisseur – it is the improvement to his game that excites him most.
“There (in Japan) is a greater focus on skills. They break away a bit from the physicality and skills wise they focus on both handling and aerial skills to ensure that you are a good all-round winger and rugby player,” he said.
He noted that it took some time to adapt to the culture and that he is unlikely to speak Japanese fluently any time soon, but added that he is enjoying the experience.
As for the challenge that lies ahead on the weekend, Pietersen is one of few senior players in the team that has not been part of the recent losses the Springboks suffered against New Zealand.
The last time he faced the All Blacks was in 2011 in Port Elizabeth when the Boks came out on top.
“I’m part of the nation so whenever we lose it hurts,” he said about his absence in the most recent defeats.
He added the although the All Blacks are outstanding in what they do, the bounce of the ball often went their way at key moments in the game and that there is no reason why they cannot defeat the world’s top ranked side if they manage to make less pressure promoted mistakes.
“We watched the last game we played against them at Ellis Park and in that game it came down to a few soft moments and they capitalised.
“It is going to be crucial for us to be very accurate and to grab all opportunities that come our way this Saturday.
“They are the number one team and have only lost one and drew one game since 2011.
“We know that if we stick to our structures and take the opportunities and stop giving away soft moments, we can do it.”
By Michael Mentz