The Bok’s overall record against France is
not too bad: Played 38, won 21, lost 11, drawn 6. And for games played in
France the record is fairly similar: Played 17, won 11, lost 5, drawn 1.
However the last 4 games played in France
have been won by the Les Bleus, meaning that the Boks last won in France in
1997, when the Boks hammered the home side 52-10 at Parc des Princes. And at
the venue for Saturday’s Test, the Stade de France, France have won both Tests
played there, 20-10 in 2001 and 26-20 in 2005.
In the French internal league, the Top 14, after
11 rounds of competition this year, only 5 points separates the top 10 teams,
with most teams having won 6 and lost 5. And out of the last 10 results, the
home side has won 9 of them, the anomaly being a 22 all draw between Castres and
Clermont on November 1.
Point being … The French do not lose at
In fact, for a long period of time, there
was a not so gentlemanly agreement between clubs that basically guaranteed a
win for the home side … And woe betide anyone who tried to break the agreement.
Players would literally fear for their lives at some away games.
Sure things have moved on a little, but the
French still guard that home record fiercely. And while they are often “Shit or
Champagne” out back, they continue to breed industrially physical tight
forwards that look like chunks of granite smeared in Vaseline. Chunks of
granite who regard the scrum as the ultimate physical challenge.
And at the Stade de France, against one of
the better scrums in world rugby, we unleash Coenie Oosthuizen as the starting
Springbok tighthead prop for the first time. Not good enough to start against
Wales and Scotland given that he was a “Work in progress” in terms of his
conversion from loosehead to tighthead, after 20 minutes on the skating rink
that was Millennium Stadium, and 43 minutes on the cabbage patch that was
Murrayfield, he is now good to go?
“It’s unfair to keep starting props ahead
of him” say the coaching staff this week … No bloody kidding! Surely if you are
good enough to bench for the Boks, you are good enough to start? What happens
if the tighthead pulls a hamstring running onto the field? Don’t laugh, it’s
been done before …
As the poor 3 of you who read this column
regularly will know, I am not close to being convinced that Oosthuizen is the
man for the job, but given that Heyneke Meyer is, it is only fair and just that
the burly Free Stater be given a chance to prove his coach right or wrong.
Prove him right, and I will suck eggs while eating humble pie, and more
importantly, shut the hell up on the subject. Prove him wrong, and I will hold
back on the “I told you so’s” for as long as possible.
And given Meyer’s obsession with having
Oosthuizen as the tighthead cover on the bench, the Boks now head into the final
game of the year with a player starting at tighthead for the first time, and a
debutant tighthead on the bench. How Lourens Adriaanse has not been given a
single minute of game time in his months with the team this year is beyond me.
Tighthead prop is probably the only
position in which we do not know who our backup players are. So at least we
will get some answers to some pretty important questions on Saturday. That the
answers might dictate the outcome of the game is a bit of a worry.
Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop and editor of the recently launched free monthly digital rugby magazine called SCRUM
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