When tighthead props such as the Cheetahs' Rossouw de Klerk and the Sharks Wiehahn Herbst cannot even make their respective side’s benches, one has to believe that a position once deemed critical in terms of stock shortage, is on the rise.
Throw in the fact that Brok Harris, sure not everyone’s cup of tea, but a tighthead who can certainly do a job at Super Rugby level, can only get a game - at loosehead nogal - when all of Frans Malherbe, Steven Kitshoff and Oli Kebble are injured, and one has further proof of how far we have come in terms of stocking that giant block of granite around which a scrum is built.
It was not that long ago when pondering “life after Jannie” was a heartburn inducing occupation, with Jannie du Plessis being the only man in South Africa who could do justice to the Bok No 3 jersey.
Hence the green light on a truly unsavoury “project tighthead” for Coenie Oosthuizen … A project that is quite clearly nowhere near its completion, as proved by the Force in Bloemfontein on Saturday. The Force!
And while Heyneke Meyer, Os du Randt and Pieter de Villiers have their fun masterminding this little project, all it is doing is preventing real tighthead props like Maks van Dyk, who has been nothing short of stellar in his debut Super Rugby season, and De Klerk, a proper chunk of meat with real tighthead credentials, from developing into real Bok contenders.
Trevor Nyakane is a better tighthead than Oosthuizen! Yes Coenie’s contribution to general play is enormous (as was evident on Saturday when a break of his was so good that he outdid his support players), but bring that to the Boks via the bench, as understudy to the Beast, or if obsessed with projects, then as a hooker, as suggested on Twitter this week.
Even with Bok incumbent Du Plessis being played into the ground by Jake White, which in turn sees another tighthead contender, Lourens Adriaanse, being played out of form through not getting a single start, and Herbst thus seeking greener pastures overseas, the stocks are such that crazy projects are no longer necessary.
Apart from the names already mentioned, think Pat Cilliers, Marcel van der Merwe, Werner Kruger, and … Julian Redelinghuys!
Perhaps it is just the cyclical nature of sport, but I think these new scrum laws have also played their part.
Without the massive hit as a weapon, props have become better one on one scrummagers, using strength, technique and timing.
Also, with the straight feed (well, for the first few rounds at least) and having to wait for the ref to OK the feed, getting your own ball back has become more of an art than a given. So instead of the hookers going for the strike, and thus making it a 7 v 8 man scrum, some sides are now opting just to go for the 8-man mini shove over the ball as the scrummie feeds the ball.
The Lions were the first to start doing this, and now boast the best scrum success percentage in the tournament. They sit at 93% with the next best being the Crusaders and Stormers on 89%. The Brumbies are the worst on 76%. And for this, great credit must go to their front row, and especially their tighthead, Redelinghuys.
From unknown, to best in Super Rugby, Redelinghuys leads a charge of exciting young tighthead props that render “Project Coenie” superfluous to company requirements, Jannie no longer guaranteed a start, and an exciting new dawn for Springbok scrumming.
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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