Boks call on Cheetah power
Kimberley - It appears as if the Springbok selectors have finally taken cognisance of the scrumming power of the Free State Cheetahs.
Cheetahs hooker and captain Adriaan Strauss, Free State loosehead prop Wian du Preez and former Cheetahs tighthead CJ van der Linde have all been called up to the Springbok squad for the tour of Europe by national coach Peter de Villiers.
Strauss and Du Preez travelled to Johannesburg on Sunday. Van der Linde, who is currently playing for Irish team Leinster, is joining up with the Boks in France on Wednesday.
Hooker and captain of the Bok dirt-trackers, Chiliboy Ralepelle, as well as props Gurthrö Steenkamp and Jannie du Plessis, are all returning to South Africa after they sustained injuries in the first tour game against the Leicester Tigers on Friday night.
Van der Linde’s call-up is just as big a surprise as the initial omission of Du Preez and Strauss from the Bok squad. He has not played for the Boks since August 2008 in the Tri-Nations and there will be significant interest in his performances in the Bok jersey.
Experts have long had their doubts about the scrumming ability of South African captain and tighthead prop, John Smit. De Villiers may well have set the cat among the pigeons by picking Van der Linde as a specialist tighthead.
“It’s fantastic that we can call on a player like CJ to join us. He’s a specialist tighthead prop and provides the kind of strength we need,” De Villiers said in a statement by SA Rugby on Sunday.
Du Preez’s omission from the Bok squad shocked experts, especially after his quick rise in the scrumming world.
The inclusion of Lions prop Heinke van der Merwe, who had been injured for long and did not get much game time, came as a surprise. His lack of game time was exposed against Leicester and cost the Boks dearly in the scrums.
Strauss should also have worn the Green-and-Gold a lot earlier.
He proved himself in the Currie Cup as hooker and captain and is a much better hooker than the Bulls’ Ralepelle and Bandise Maku.
“Hopefully they get the opportunities they deserve at Test level,” said Cheetahs coach Naka Drotské.
The chances appear good that Strauss and Du Preez may both find themselves on the Boks’ substitute bench for the first Test of the tour.
“France place a lot of emphasis on good scrumming and Wian will definitely be an asset to the Bok scrum. He already proved himself in the Currie Cup and while Heinke’s selection above him did not make sense, he now gets the opportunity to play his part,” said Drotské.
Strauss will also be an asset with his leadership capabilities and good general play, Drotské believes.
“He can add value, especially at international level. He’s a leader with a strong personality and surely one of the best hookers in the country,” said Drotské.