New scrum and new talent
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
I had a good giggle at a response to my tweet saying that the Currie Cup this year looks more like a mix between
Varsity Cup and Vodacom Cup that suggested I was talking complete nonsense...
“Tukkies would have had more Currie Cup caps than Saturday’s Blue Bulls team
playing Province at Newlands on Saturday”, tweeted the sarcastic bugger.Click HERE for the latest, breaking Currie Cup news, fixtures, results and logs!
Regular readers will know how negative I
have become toward the Varsity Cup, given how the rules have been bent and
buckled by some institutions, all without sanction. But I hear some positive
news coming out of the EXCO enclave suggesting they are looking at a system
that allocates points to players based on how far along they are in their
studies, with each team needing to carry a certain amount of points in their
match-day 23. Together with a limit on player payment, and not being able to
use players contracted or capped by unions, we may well see a return to what
this tournament was meant to be about - rugby played by young guys looking to start
life with a degree or diploma!
And while being facetious in my tweet about
the Currie Cup, it is pretty exciting to see all six unions having to mix a few
old hands with plenty of new ones as they come to terms with life sans the Boks
and players chasing foreign currency.
We seem a tad obsessed with experience here
in SA, so when unions are forced to dig a little deeper into the talent pool as
they are in the new look season structure that sees the Currie Cup become more
developmental, I genuinely find it exciting.
There seem to be plenty nay-sayers already,
but a quick look at the weekend’s teams sees the likes of Pat Cilliers, Elton
Jantjies, Piet van Zyl, Cobus Reinach, CJ van der Linde, Waylon Murray, Nic
Groom, and Craig Burden only being able to make their respective side’s
benches! That has to say something about the players actually getting into the
run on XV’s...
And with three of these guys being
scrumhalves, having to play behind the likes of Charl McLeod, Louis Schreuder
and Sarel Pretorius, one surely has to question Heyneke Meyer’s call to Fourie
du Preez, who will only be available for the home games in any case.
Perhaps it goes back to our conservative
nature that sees us tending to rely on experience rather than testing out the
new? Hence us playing a fairly old fashioned kick and chase game rather than
the more modern ball in hand variety we see from the Kiwis.
So I look forward to seeing how the next
generation go in this Currie Cup. It’s bloody exciting to see an Under-21, Varsity,
Community or Vodacom Cup player given a chance in a higher league.
It’s also going to be the first time we see
the new “crouch, bind, set” scrum engagement process, with the hit basically
taken out the game. Meyer is on record saying he thinks they will suit our
props, hence him being comfortable with Coenie Oosthuizen as his only back-up to
tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis.
I beg to differ. South African props have
tended to rely on the massively physical hit to gain the early ascendency and
then survived on grunt and gristle. The new engagement process will require not
only strength, but also technique. And timing as a unit will become much more
important. A straight put-in (thankfully also part of the new look) will also
see front rows higher, with hookers perhaps even going for the odd strike, which
then reduces the power of the scrum as you only have seven men with their feet
It will take time to settle, and initially
I think we will see scrums used as mere resets. But over time, the scrum will
again become a weapon, and one that will require technical nous to master.
Bring on the Currie Cup!
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 …
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