Rugby Championship

Boks: Dreyer to curb being ‘pinged’?

2017-09-29 11:52
Ruan Dreyer (Gallo)

Cape Town – Ruan Dreyer, incumbent of the ever-important tighthead prop position for the Springboks, gets a third opportunity on Saturday to finally put his Test competence beyond doubt.

He has blown hot and cold thus far, with a developing penchant for being penalty-prone despite some flashes of promise, so a tighter all-round showing against Australia in Bloemfontein (17:05 kick-off) might be the required medicine for an ongoing presence while one or two other candidates remain side-lined.

His rival at scrum-time will be Brumbies stalwart Scott Sio; here are several one-on-ones worth monitoring closely in the Rugby Championship clash …

Ruan Dreyer (SA) v Scott Sio (Aus)

This could be a make-or-break sort of Test match for Dreyer, the Lions-based tighthead prop. In two prior appearances – against France in Johannesburg (comfortable win) and New Zealand in Albany (disastrous thrashing) – he has flitted confusingly between good and bad. Whilst there have been a few rousing Bok scrums with him anchoring, he is already earning fairly worrisome ire of international referees, especially for technical issues. He needs to nip that in the bud fast if, in the ongoing absence of rivals like Coenie Oosthuizen and Frans Malherbe, he is to cement his Bok squad berth. Up against him at the set-piece, Wallaby No 1 Sio is fairly entrenched, and bolstered by four years of experience at the premier level. Oh yes, and can Dreyer demonstrate a willingness, outside of the boiler room, to rival Big Coenie’s prolific tackle counts this season?

Francois Louw (SA) v Michael Hooper (Aus)

It was an interesting call by Allister Coetzee to reintroduce long-time Bath-based Louw to his loose forward plans. We know he is a quality player at his best, but in a generous nine appearances during the troubled 2016 year for the Boks he was more often noticeably below that level. Still, he played every minute of the 18-10 Loftus triumph over the Wallabies, an agreeable mercy at the time, and this represents an ideal opportunity for him to stamp fresh credentials for RWC 2019 (age would be just a bit against him, at 34 then). Louw will be stationed at six, the Bok fetcher berth, with Siya Kolisi returning to seven – not a shift I particularly welcome – but both flankers double anyway as strong ball-carriers, hard tacklers and pilferers. Louw’s direct open-side rival will be the durable Wallaby skipper Hooper, who carries an edge in mobility and linking potential but isn’t as physically forceful.

Dillyn Leyds (SA) v Reece Hodge (Aus)

The Springbok back three was in desperate, overdue need of a freshening … and coach Coetzee has at least partially answered the blindingly obvious requirement by installing clever, creative Leyds at right wing for beleaguered Raymond Rhule. The lean Stormers/WP man, earning his maiden start but fourth cap, is a bit more used to a No 15 or even 11 jersey, but his all-round game is solid and he should put Andries Coetzee a bit more at ease with his “extra fullback” instincts. Up against Leyds on the Wallaby left is Hodge, another versatile character just as comfortable in the last line of defence. The Aussie is not a battering-ram type of wing, so Leyds may not be too sternly tested in physical terms. But Bok fans will be hoping, nevertheless, that he shows generally better firmness and commitment on defence than Rhule did … 

Ross Cronje (SA) v Will Genia (Aus)

In a time of healthier resources at scrumhalf – think Van der Westhuizen, Du Preez etc – the gritty Cronje would probably find himself rather lower in the national pecking order. But it is a problem spot for depth these days, and the Lions player at least ticks the box for good basics and organisational sense even if he is seldom an individual match-winning factor. He was sorely missed when ill for the Albany fiasco, so his restoration is a good start to potentially crisper Bok backline play after erratic Francois Hougaard’s axing. Not that he will suddenly have things his own way as he opposes the veteran Genia, who sports 82 caps for the Aussies – including 16 against the Boks, and a decent 59 percent win record against them.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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