The last time the Boks played, they beat
the All Blacks! The week before that, they left it late, but powered to a
convincing win against the Wallabies. Prior that that, they ran both sides
properly close in their own back yards.
They are embracing a more ball in hand
approach that sees players playing what’s in front of them rather than what is
in the playbook, yet maintaining that industrial physical presence the men in
green and gold are famous for, they have world class human being as a captain,
and they are playing with smiles on their faces again.
There is so much to like about Springbok
rugby right now. Yet all I want to do tear up my tickets for the game on
Saturday evening at the Aviva Stadium and instead head to the Temple Bar to try
and temper my anger with a few swiftly taken Guinness!
From a balanced bench that saw specialist
props Trevor Nyakane and Marcel van der Merwe covering the stalwart all Shark
front row, we are now back to playing Grade 5 mad scientist experiments with
Coenie Oosthuizen as the backup tighthead prop! Truly unbelievable!!
Post team announcement, Heyneke Meyer was
quick to remind us that the Boks have lost two quality tightheads in the space
of a few months, those being Frans Malherbe and Marcel van der Merwe. Spot on
Where he was less spot on, though, was in
his belief that there aren’t many tightheads performing for their respective
provinces at present, and that South Africa has a dearth of Test-quality No 3s.
Apart from Julian Redelinghuys, who is on
tour and should have been an automatic selection this week, what the hell has
Ruan Dreyer been doing in the Currie Cup? Destroying the likes of Thomas du
Toit, Dale Chadwick and Oosthuizen according to my TV. Lourens Adriaanse might
not be the world’s most dynamic player, but there he was shoring up a BaaBaas
pack against the Wallabies on Saturday. Perhaps the coach gets a different
signal via his sponsored Explora decoder?
Meyer’s reason for not picking Lions scrum
guru Redelinghuys is that he hasn’t spent much time with the squad and doesn’t know
the calls or the systems just yet. How many calls or systems do you need to
know to scrum the crap out of the Irish in the last 20 minutes of a game?
Yes, you tend to get fewer scrums in the
last 20 minutes (another reason for front row experimentation given by the
coach), but what happens if it’s the single scrum the Boks turnover on their
own line that leads to the game winning try?
But what really gets my goat is that Meyer
is happy to admit that Oosthuizen’s best position is loosehead, yet he has faith
in him given his ability to make an impact outside of the set piece.
There is no disputing Oosthuizen’s amazing
ball carrying, tackling and turnover skills. I would also have him on my bench,
or even in my starting XV. But as a loosehead prop!
Meyer believes that at 25, he has time to
develop into a good tighthead, and if he is going to be considered for the
World Cup, he needs game time there now. But development does not happen in the
national side. It happens in the Vodacom and Currie Cup, where you prove to the
coach that you can do the job asked of you. Oosthuizen still looks like a fish
out of water on the right hand side of the scrum at that level.
It’s a classic coach trap. Gifted a few
world class players in one position, instead of having the balls to let them
fight it out, you try and fit one of them into another position. Not only do
you prejudice the player being asked to play in an unfamiliar position, but you
also stifle development of specialists in that position.
No specialist tightheads in South Africa?
How would you feel if the national coach was picking a retreaded loosehead who
can’t scrum ahead of you?
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.
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