Hawies Fourie: Why Ruan Pienaar is a perfect fit for Cheetahs
Cape Town - New Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie says the signing of Springbok scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar will be of great value for the Bloemfontein franchise.
The Cheetahs recently announced the signing of the 35-year-old veteran, who spent the past decade plying his trade at Ulster in Ireland (2010-2017) and Montpellier in France (2017-2019).
In an exclusive interview with Sport24, Fourie said he was delighted to have the 88-Test veteran on board.
"I feel he'll add a lot of value. He has so many years of experience playing in northern hemisphere conditions. He played for Ulster for a long time. He is a quality player with the needed experience and I think we need it.
"We've got good players in our system but we also lack experience. The better and more experienced players always get bigger offers from other provinces... there are times we can't always afford them... so it's valuable for us to have a player like Ruan next season," Fourie said.
Fourie will replace Franco Smith as Cheetahs coach for the 2019/20 PRO14 season, with the latter moving on to coach Italy's national team.
The Cheetahs struggled in last season's PRO14, finishing second from bottom in Conference A after winning just eight of 21 games.
They were an inexperienced team, having lost a few of their star performers from the previous season in which they made the playoffs.
But Fourie said he expected the current group to fare better this season.
"Most of the players who played in the past campaign are again available for the upcoming season. Many of them got their first taste of PRO14 rugby last season. So I believe the experience they gained will prove advantageous," he said.
Fourie did, however, acknowledge the need for more experience.
"I'm trying to further strengthen the squad. We lack depth in a few positions and we should get answers on possible new signings within the next few weeks. It's important for me that we strengthen the squad.
"We're also busy with an agreement with Griquas that we can use some of their players during the PRO14 - when they're not playing. That would give us more depth and quality of personnel."
Fourie, a former Cheetahs assistant coach, is back in Bloemfontein after four seasons with Maties in the Varsity Cup.
The Stellenbosch students flourished under Fourie's guidance, reaching the Varsity Cup final in his first two seasons before winning back-to-back titles.
But simply taking the Maties template and applying it to the Cheetahs would not be as clear-cut, Fourie stressed.
"Every coach has something that he believes in and what he wants to implement, wherever you coach... (but) for me it's also important to look at the players you have at your disposal and then to decide how you want to play and what you want to do. It's not always possible to do what you believe is the best way... until your players' skills are developed sufficiently to play the way you want to."
Smith, and not Fourie, will coach the Free Cheetahs in this year's Currie Cup but the latter will keep a close eye on proceedings.
Fourie said the Currie Cup will give him an indication of what game style could work in the PRO14, and what he can take from his success at Maties and apply it to the Cheetahs.
"It's important for me to evaluate through the Currie Cup what works and what doesn't work, what makes sense to change and what doesn't…
"I'll only have two weeks to prepare after the Currie Cup final before the first PRO14 game. So, it would be stupid to make wholesale changes. I'll only change the things in which I really feel I can make a difference and try and build on what has been working well. I hope they have a good Currie Cup so they can gain some confidence."