Springbok wing JP Pietersen is raring to return to Test rugby this weekend after missing the inaugural Rugby Championship through injury.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer welcomed the return to fitness of the Sharks speedster whose sublime form in the home Test series against England and in Super Rugby saw him being voted the Saru Players’ Player of the Year.
Pietersen was ruled out of the four-nation Rugby Championship after he fractured his thumb in the Super Rugby Final against the Chiefs in Hamilton and regained his form upon his return for the Sharks in the Currie Cup play-offs.
Following the frustrating period in the international wilderness, the 26-year-old is relishing his return to the Springbok squad.
"It was frustrating not being part of the Bok set-up at all [during the Rugby Championship]," Pietersen said in Dublin on Tuesday.
"It’s amazing to be back in the team … the feeling is one you always dream about and I feel like a little boy playing Springbok rugby again."
The try-hungry wing stopped short of calling 2012 his best-ever season but said it’s on par with his 2007 season in which he played a key role in South Africa’s World Cup triumph in France.
"As a mature player I can only get better from here. It’s been one amazing year so far," he said. Pietersen, who is set to win his 46th Test cap against Ireland at Aviva Stadium on Saturday, believes he has developed into a smarter player over the course of his six-year Test career.
"Being a mature player is getting wiser on the field and think on your feet while as a youngster you expect things to come your way," he explained. "I’ve learned from coaches and myself what is my strong points and what is my weak points."
Springbok backline coach Ricardo Loubscher said Pietersen’s return is a timely boost for a relatively inexperienced back division.
"The nice thing about JP is his attitude and the professionalism he brings to the table. As a coach I can’t ask for more than that. It’s been a real positive experience for me to work with him and the rest of the backs.
Loubscher added that there won’t be any major adjustments to the gameplan against the Irish.
"The biggest challenge is obviously the conditions. It’s not about changing too much, maybe a tweak here or there. But the most important thing for the players to understand is they need to adapt [to the conditions]."