Tank Lanning

Smit at prop is a shocker!

2008-10-27 13:18
Sport24 editior Tank Lanning (File)
Tank Lanning

A few of us decided to have some fun at a braai held at a mate’s house on the weekend for the Currie Cup final. Into a closed envelope we were asked to put the 28 names we thought the Bok selectors would come up with after the game. And then for every incorrect name written down, you were penalised two fat fingers of beer from the glass you were holding at the time …

The cops at the roadblock staged in Hatfield after the final would have been OK with me given that it was just the six fat fingers I had to drink. In the team I thought they would select I had Peter Grant ahead of Earl Rose at flyhalf, Cobus Grobbelaar ahead of Heinrich Brussow, and Jannie du Plessis in the side instead of Chiliboy Ralepelle.

But that was in the side I thought they would select! If I were the chief selector - and if I had been brave enough to put the side I would prefer to have been selected into my envelope - the roadblock cops might not have seen the funny side. I would have found space for Heinke van der Merwe ahead of Gurthro Steenkamp at loosehead prop, Du Plessis ahead of Ralepelle, with John Smit as the first choice hooker and captain, Tonderai Chavhanga or Wynand Olivier ahead of Odwa Ndungane, Grant ahead of Rose, and probably gone with Grobbelaar ahead of Brussow as a spare flank. Ten fat fingers please Mr fines master …


In my mind, given the talk in the build up to the selection, I thought there might be a chance of a surprise with a Rose or Brussow selection, especially given that Luke Watson had had the audacity to pull out from something he had not yet been included in! But Smit as first choice tighthead prop, with Ralepelle ahead of incumbent, Adriaan Strauss, was straight from left field! Sure there had been murmurings of playing Smit at prop, but since when do you do your experimenting at international level? 

I would love to see Van der Merwe doing some damage at international level, but Steenkamp has been more than solid in the Currie Cup, and it would be as the back up to “Beast” in any case, so it cannot be seen as a biggie. The same can be said for my want to see Olivier or Chavhanga ahead of Ndungane. The top wings and centres are established, and on a three match tour, all this person will do is carry bags. And on the flank, I think Grobbelaar has done more than enough to warrant a selection, but I have absolutely no issue with the Brussow selection. He is a younger player who has been in sensational form in the Currie Cup this year. To be honest, just seeing any name other than Watson is a relief …

But, and I quote our chief writer, Rob Houwing, “In the UK (winter), you generally hope your flyhalf is one seriously educated in the art of keeping the ball in front of the forwards, and that your tighthead prop is a particularly meaty, seasoned fellow who will ensure a crucial, front-foot bridgehead at scrum-time”

Underfoot is heavy

Ruan Pienaar might be the answer at flyhalf, and given that the selectors have said that he will get an extended run, perhaps the selection of Rose ahead of Grant as his back up will end up being a bit of a damp squib. But Grant has not exactly been given a real shot at the position as yet, and to say that Rose has done enough to jump him in the queue this Currie Cup is very questionable indeed. I presume Mr Grant will now be eyeballing those oversees offers he has received and we might lose yet another talented player!

But Smit as the first choice tighthead prop ahead of Du Plessis borders on the insane! Many coaches believe that the first player you pick is your tighthead prop. It is the cornerstone around which you build your scrum, and pack – especially up north where the going underfoot is heavy. And even more especially against Andrew Sheridan at Twickenham! What has Smit done to make us believe that he is our man?

Nothing, obviously, because he has not been selected at tighthead prop since his Under-21 days! And anyone who has taken an interest in his performance when he has been moved to prop late in a game, will not be drinking from the cup of enthusiasm. This is no disrespect to Smit, who I think should be first choice hooker and captain, but it smacks of either cowardice or malice on behalf of the selectors.

Cowardly in that they are not brave enough to drop Smit from the side completely given that Du Plessis is their new first choice hooker. Or malicious (and even more cowardly) in their attempt to set Smit up for the fall, given that they know he will not be able to handle the heat of the No 3 jersey?

Either way, not exactly the way I would like to see the selectors handling the current World Cup winning captain … 

- Tank is a former WP tighthead prop and now Sport24 editor and the author of the blog, Front Row Grunt.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24. 


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