Tank Lanning

Nyakane just chopped liver?

2014-08-21 10:35
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)

Trevor Nyakane must feeling a bit like chopped liver at the moment, or perhaps more like the dressing that retailers put in their shop windows?

Not a good look in a world that sees sports minister Fikile Mbalula brushing aside the offside flag in his push for goals using his political football. But given that both loosehead props ahead of Nyakane are also both “of colour”, perhaps this will be left to slide.

Beast Mtawarira, just back from a neck injury, looked to be opting out of the scrum contest last week, and as such, took an awful hammering from an Argentinean side that put their famous Bajada technique to very good use at Loftus.

Yet loosehead cover in the Pretoria hail, Nyakane, got under 60 seconds of game time - one of those token replacements that I think should be outlawed in rugby.

And this week, under the guise of a “rotation policy”, Gurthro Steenkamp comes from Outer Mongolia to leapfrog both into the starting XV, with Nyakane holding the tackle bags.

Chopped liver ... window dressing ... rotation ... call it what you will, but none of it can be considered good for the new Blue Bulls' state of mind. If he is not good enough to start for the Boks, then why is he in the squad? Surely he must be questioning why the hell he was selected in the first place?

That said, Steenkamp is an honest, hardworking pro, who will not let the Boks down. Mtawarira made an awful hash of things last week and needed to be replaced. It’s good to see coach Heyneke Meyer making these ballsy decisions. That Beast remains on the bench, and who of the looseheads in the squad replaces him, remain questionable, but those are secondary arguments.

I also love the fact that Meyer has had the guts to stick with Handre Pollard at flyhalf, and I think the loose trio is better served, and much more balanced, with a proper blindside flank like Juan Smith replacing the injured Willem Alberts, rather than playing a second fetcher like Marcel Coetzee.

Some might suggest that the non-selection of Oupa Mohoje could also be seen as window dressing, but I am not so sure. Alberts was a last minute withdrawal at Loftus, and given Smith’s late inclusion in the squad, and the fact that he was carrying a slight tweak to his hamstring, he was probably not even available. This week he is, and given due consideration, Meyer has gone with the better balanced trio that also offers another lineout option. It also makes sense to have Coetzee on the bench as cover for François Louw given that one simply cannot play modern day rugby without a fetcher.

Yes there is an argument for the future being Mohoje and past being Smith, and that the same can be said for a few of the “dad’s army” selections, but that is a discussion for another day.

I called Argentina “An abrasive, spoiling side with a power scrum” in an earlier post this week, but I see Brendan Venter has gone one better and called them “Architects of Anti-Rugby” in a column on supersport.com. Against such a side, I would have had both Bakkies Botha and Eben Etzebeth in my starting XV to fight fire with a bit of fire, especially given the soft performance from Lood de Jager, who was also fairly non-existent come scrum time, last week.

But as with Pollard, one cannot really fault giving De Jager another run. The Boks need to sharpen up their first phase, rise above the negative niggle, and play some rugby this weekend.

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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