Tank Lanning

Thomas the Tank to tighthead

2015-05-07 11:51
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
It’s amazing what you can pick up via some idle banter on Twitter ...

After few tweets about the Baby Bok scrum taking a hammering against the Varsity Cup Dream Team, former WP flyhalf Anton Chait made the point about how significantly bolstered the Baby Bok scrum will be through the arrival of Sharks prop Thomas du Toit as a “tighthead”.

Yet another bloody backline player who does not know the difference between tighthead and loosehead I thought. But then came the following response from Du Toit: “Dis reg ja! Vaskop een van die dae”.

Not one to let something as big as this lie, I asked if he was joking or seriously thinking about making the switch. “Yes I am. Will see in a few months” was his reply ...

Those three poor sods who regularly read this column will know how sceptical I am about looseheads making the switch to the other side of the scrum, with the Coenie Oosthuizen experiment having scarred me for life. They are just so different, requiring not only different skills, but also different strengths and body types.

But at 135kg, Du Toit is big and powerful, and has the perfect build for a tighthead. And with the IRB’s seeming intent to raise the scrum, a return to the hulk like Carl Hayman type tighthead props is on the cards, which would suit the young Baby Bok perfectly.

Should he choose to fulfil his Twitter prophecy – and his Twitter handle (@1Thomasdutoit3) certainly suggests intent – then let’s just hope the process is managed carefully and professionally - using club and provincial rugby to gauge success, and not carried out in Green and Gold, which is my biggest bugbear regarding the Coenie experiment.

But just imagine a future Bok front row of Oli Kebble, Akker van der Merwe and Du Toit!

He would have to work bloody hard for that number 3 jersey, though. One of the primary reasons for the Coenie experiment, apart from coach Heyneke Meyer wanting his obvious skills round the park in the Bok mix, was a lack of obvious successor to stalwart and incumbent tighthead Jannie du Plessis.

But that has changed significantly.

The star of the show in this year’s Super Rugby has been Vincent Koch. On loan to the Stormers from the Pumas (after having slipped through the Boland and Bulls nets), Koch has been far and away the most destructive tighthead in the competition, and simply has to be not only a contender for the Bok number 3 jersey, but a front runner.

After a sluggish start given his return from a long injury break, Koch’s partner in blue and white, Frans Malherbe, clearly benefitting from a tweak to their scrumming technique by Stormers forwards coach Matt Proudfoot, is fast getting back to his very best. Not intent at just holding his own, he is showing signs of wanting, and being able to, mangle his opposite number, which is what you want from your tighthead.

Perhaps given the move to raise the scrum, and other teams taking on a similar technique of using an 8 man shove rather than a strike for the ball to secure possession come scrum time, the two Lions tightheads, Julian Redelinghuys and Ruan Dreyer (both quite short in stature), have not been as destructive as they were last year. But neither would let a Bok side down.

Bulls and Bok strongman Marcel van der Merwe has endured a few tough days at the office, but I still think he could do a job in a well-coached big Bok scrum. And while incumbent Du Plessis comes in for some stick regarding his tackling and general play, he has never ever let the Bok scrum down – the exact thing a coach wants from his tighthead prop.

The bottom line is that things look a whole lot rosier on the block of granite front. Du Plessis not only has his work cut out for him to keep his spot, but I see absolutely no need to risk Coenie against Wyatt Crockett in a defensive scrum in the last five minutes of a World Cup semi-final at Twickenham later this year.

Make the switch to tighthead by all means, but know that it is no longer the easier route to Green and Gold, and that is fantastic news for Meyer.

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.

Read more on:    super 15  |  tank lanning  |  rugby

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