Boks’ RWC health: Front row

2015-08-27 20:00
Bismarck du Plessis (Gallo Images)

Cape Town – South Africa are highly likely to keep faith, for their biggest matches at RWC 2015, in the “old faithful” front row trio of Tendai Mtawarira and the Du Plessis brothers, Bismarck and Jannie.

Their Sharks alliance is now disbanded, considering the departure of the last-named two to France, but they nevertheless have a comforting wealth of experience as a unit across all of the international arena, Super Rugby and sometimes the Currie Cup.

Between them, the three sport a swollen tally of 205 Test appearances - and a very tidy percentage of that number will have been in partnership, even if injury and other hazards have occasionally intervened.

Although all had received earlier caps, their first start together for the Boks came on November 6 2010, when South Africa, under Victor Matfield, edged Ireland 23-21 in Dublin, so by the end of the RWC 2015 campaign they will be pretty close to half a decade of service as a collective, more often than not.

Considering that they are 32 and 31 respectively, there must be a pretty good chance that this will be a swansong World Cup for Jannie and Bismarck, and if so they will want to sign off in style.

Perhaps the “Beast”, at 30, may have a more realistic crack at the 2019 follow-up scheduled for Japan, which would then mark his own third appearance at the biggest event of them all.

Making it all the more likely that coach Heyneke Meyer keeps them together for the more important fixtures at the looming World Cup, all are in sprightly enough current form.

That applies especially, perhaps, to veteran tighthead anchorman Jannie, who has had a dramatic resurrection this season after a danger existed before it that he might fade out of the picture: not only is he assertive at scrum-time, but he is pulling his weight so much more in general play and his conditioning is said to be tiptop right now.

As for his brother, a troubled tenure as Sharks captain is now well out of the way and he is back producing the kind of super-robust, dynamic rugby for which he was acclaimed before the flirtation with leadership - the hooker will also be a strong factor in Bok turnover plans at the breakdown.

It seems fairly obvious that his immediate back-up will remain that solid pro Adriaan Strauss, with Saracens-based marauder and shrewd stepper Schalk Brits also going along as third option in the hooking pecking order.

The next-cab-off-the-rank props look decent, too: expect them to be Trevor Nyakane for loosehead purposes and Frans Malherbe on the other side.

A fifth prop will be on the flight to London; initially the Bulls’ Marcel van der Merwe seemed firmly in the mix but there have been whispers – and they’re getting louder as the week develops – that barnstorming ball-carrier Coenie Oosthuizen of the Cheetahs (though Sharks-bound from 2016) is going to steal the berth.

If that is the case, there is risk involved because the hefty specimen is well short of a rugby gallop and hasn’t played a Test yet this year, but Meyer has been steadily schooling him to be a feasible option on both sides of the scrum and presumably wants to cash in on that versatility for squad purposes.

Unluckiest “loser”? That may well be the mantle landing in the lap of Steven Kitshoff, who was absolutely superb for the Stormers in 2015, but then robbed by injury of the chance to show any international credentials more recently.

There may well be some nervous fears, considering that the 23-year-old is bound for Bordeaux, that the French national team will try to cajole him to do a “Pieter de Villiers” and eventually qualify for them ...

Boks’ front row depth rating ahead of RWC 2015: 7/10 (aided by continuity and stability in their seasoned, first-pick front row)

*Front row personnel in last RWC squad (2011): The props were Mtawarira and Gurthro Steenkamp (looseheads); Jannie du Plessis and CJ van der Linde (tightheads). John Smit was captain and first-choice hooker, with Bismarck du Plessis and Chiliboy Ralepelle the next-in-lines for that role. 

Boks' RWC health: Locks

Boks’ RWC health: the loosies

Boks’ RWC health: Scrumhalves

Boks’ RWC health: Flyhalves

Boks’ RWC health: Centres

Boks’ RWC health: Wings

Boks’ RWC health: Fullbacks

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    springboks  |  rwc 2015  |  rugby

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