Tank Lanning

Meyer walking a tightrope

2015-08-06 11:42
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)

Argentina loosehead prop Marcos Ayerza, age 32, with 59 Test caps for the Pumas since making his debut against the Boks in Buenos Aires back in 2004 v Springbok tighthead prop, Vincent Koch, age 25, with just the single Test cap after coming off the bench against the All Blacks 2 weeks ago.

Light the fire, stock the cooler box, turn on the telly at 17:00 on Saturday, sit back, and enjoy. Because this is what Test rugby is all about - Testing oneself against the very best (a fair description of Ayerza), no matter your age or experience.

One can only hope that Koch is well and truly over the rib cartilage injury that forced him from the field at Ellis Park (and caused those dastardly granny scrums), though, because believe you me, the one thing you do not want in life as a tighthead, is sore ribs while trying to tame a wild boar whose sole aim on Saturday in Durban will be to break your ribs!

Not only for Koch’s sake, but for the team. Because should Koch’s ribs not hold out, the man on the bench is coach Heyneke Meyer’s fourth choice tighthead, Marcel van der Merwe. A man who clearly struggled in Super Rugby this year, and to my mind, should be behind both Julian Redelinghuys and Ruan Dreyer in the pecking order. It’s a clear red flag against a team boasting the much vaunted ‘Bajada’, perhaps the best scrum in the world.

Speaking of red flags, it is going to be hellishly interesting to see how skipper Jean de Villiers goes on Saturday in his first Test start since that mind blowing knee injury. He is a super human being, a great skipper, a fantastic ambassador, and deserves a chance to lay claim to the jersey he has owned over the last few years.

It also makes sense to start him because if he does implode, you want it to be while there is someone on the bench to take over. Given the dip in pace since the injury, though, I do wonder if it should it be at 13?

Moving Jesse Kriel to wing is another red flag. Remember Brent Russell and Francois Hougaard? Jack of all trades, master of none! I would have had him either ready to take over from Jean, thus getting a break, or given a chance to start at fullback, the position he has played in all season.

Do Beast Mtawarira and Bismarck du Plessis need yet another start? The same could be said for Ruan Pienaar and Handre Pollard, but theirs is a much greener combination looking to solidify things prior to the World Cup.

Do we even know who our third choice hooker and scrummie are, though? And if so, should they not be getting some game time? Given the rustiness shown by Cobus Reinach at Ellis Park, this seems a rhetorical question.

On Saturday, Nehe Milner-Skudder will become the ninth new All Black in four games. Since their last game against Australia, the All Blacks have started six different halfback and five different centre combinations in seven games.

On the surface, it looks like the Boks are also mixing and matching prior to the big event, but every change made this week, bar the De Villiers inclusion and shift of Kriel, is because of injury.

I was disturbed to see this from Meyer: “If it wasn’t South Africa you probably could have played a lot of players, but in South Africa you have to win. That’s most important.”

For a game where the result is completely inconsequential in the greater scheme of things?

That said, to win the World Cup, you only have to play six games in six weeks. Perhaps putting your eggs in one basket and playing your best side every time is the way forward?

Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who now heads up Tankman Media, and sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row Grunt.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.


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