Tank Lanning

Brilliant to have Boks back

2013-10-10 09:48
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, and Beast Mtawarira, fresh from taming every front row in the Rugby Championship, are a national treasure - the rock that Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer uses as his foundation to build a side with a more attacking intent.

Few would argue against this unit being the best in world rugby right now. That they play for the same province, and will indeed be trotting out in black and white this Saturday to take on the mountain goats of the cape, borders on gob smacking!

Throw in the fact that luminaries like Pat Lambie and Jean de Villiers can only make the respective benches, that Pieter-Steph du Toit and Eben Etzebeth will be going head to head in the lineouts, as will Siya Kolisi and Marcell Coetzee at the breakdown, while Keegan Daniel will need to get past Duane Vermeulen when he decides to pick and go from a scrum on the WP tryline, and one can understand why SANZAR are keen make derbies the mainstay of Super Rugby.

But this is not Super Rugby. This is the final round of that grand old dame of SA rugby, the Currie Cup, and I cannot remember when I was last this excited about a round of domestic matches. The Free State Cheetahs v Blue Bulls match boasts similar head heads, and comes with an extra dose of caffeine given that the Bulls need to make like the Boks needed to do against the All Blacks last week and score four tries in a win to make the semis.

It is tremendous to have the Boks back in the Currie Cup!

I have seen much grumbling about the Boks needing time off, but until SARU get it right and put central contracting of players in place, this is simply not going to happen. The provinces pay the players’ salaries (and they are not eating out of tin cans) and deserve their pound of flesh. As do the sponsors of the Currie Cup, and us fans.

I also happen to believe that it makes a lot more sense for these guys to be playing now, and then taking a longer break over the SA summer.

Taking three weeks off now and then going on an end of year tour does not constitute player management. Prof Noakes has volumes of research proving that the players need an extended break from the game every season, not mini breaks over an all year season.

It would also give the coach a chance to do something that he is yet to do effectively, and that is take a look at the next tier of players on the end of year tour in order to make a few definitive calls re backup to the incumbents.

To my mind, positions that need a little scrutiny are tighthead prop (is Coenie Oosthuizen really the next in line should Jannie get injured), No 5 lock, flyhalf and fullback. So the end of year tour is an ideal opportunity to start the likes of Oosthuizen and Lourens Adriaanse at tighthead, Du Toit and Franco van der Merwe at 5, give Lambie a run at both flyhalf and fullback, take Johan Goosen and Handre Pollard on tour, and try the likes of Willie le Roux and Gio Aplon at fullback.

There is absolutely no way that De Villiers (also a good opportunity to test a few new captains), Jannie Du Plessis, or Beast should be touring. All of Etzebeth, Bismarck du Plessis, Willem Alberts and Vermeulen have had extended breaks from the game through injury, but perhaps even they could do with an extra dose of turkey this year...

Who the hell remembers the end of year tour results in any case? Most eyes will have shifted to the Indian cricket tour, should that actually go ahead! It is an ideal opportunity to rest the over worked stalwarts, and mix a few youngsters with some older heads to take a look at options should one of these stalwarts get injured.

Now that would be player management, and given the lack of central contracting, it is the only player management tool at SARU’s disposal. But it would take some gumption and planning from both the national body and coach, and require a break from the old routine. And I do not see that happening any time soon.

Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop and editor of the recently launched free monthly digital rugby magazine called SCRUM

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