Jacques van der Westhuyzen

By Jacques van der Westhuyzen

Head of Sport

OPINION: Ruan Pienaar bows out at 40 after fabulous rugby career

The former World Cup winner will now enter the next phase of his rugby journey — coaching.

Only one man who was part of the Springbok matchday squad that won the 2007 Rugby World Cup final is still playing rugby today – Ruan Pienaar.

The 40-year-old is the last of that group still in action, but on Friday in his hometown of Bloemfontein it will all come to an end for the scrumhalf when he plays his final rugby match, after a fabulous career spanning more than 20 years.

Pienaar, with a big 9 on his back, will lead out the Cheetahs when they take on Griquas at Shimla Park in a SA Cup match on Friday evening. And then, from next week, he’ll become a full-time coach, helping prepare the Cheetahs’ U-21 team.

What a playing career it has been for the humble and softly-spoken Pienaar.

He was a star schoolboy player, but rose to prominence at the Sharks between 2004 and 2010, playing scrumhalf, flyhalf and fullback. He became a Springbok for the first time in 2006 and would go on to win the World Cup in Jake White’s team in 2007.

Frans Steyn and Ruan Pienaar
Ruan Pienaar with Frans Steyn during the 2007 Rugby World Cup. Picture: Gallo Images

Ruan Pienaar hangs up his boots

In all he played 88 Tests for the Boks, in a number of positions and many times from off the bench.

After his Sharks career, he joined Ulster in Ireland, where he became a cult hero, playing 141 games for them, and then later also featured for Montpellier in France.

In 2019 he joined the Cheetahs, after deciding it was time to return home. He helped the side win two Currie Cup titles and recently was named the competition’s player of the season for 2023.

While Pienaar performed brilliantly for the Sharks in his early senior days of rugby and later also starred for Ulster, one feels he never quite reached his full potential at Test level. Perhaps this is because he was never allowed to settle in one position, his versatility robbing him of the chance to grow and develop in one position, at scrumhalf, in particular.

However, he also played in the era when Fourie du Preez was regarded the best No 9 in the world, while Ricky Januarie was also on top of his game during the height of his career.

But what a joy it was to watch Pienaar when he was on top of his game. He was a magician at the Sharks in his early days, while more recently he has been a guiding hand for the younger generation at the Cheetahs.

He is a player many can look to for how a professional sportsman should go about his business. Pienaar commanded respect for his rugby-playing ability, but also because of how he did things off the field. We wish him well in the next chapter of his rugby journey.

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Cheetahs rugby team Springboks (Bokke/Boks)