Tank Lanning

Stop the Coenie experiment!

2013-06-13 08:52
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)

How the hell does Wiehahn Herbst go from pushing incumbent Bok tighthead prop for a start in the Sharks Super Rugby side to tanning a chop with Heinrich Brussow while the Boks take to the field with two looseheads on the bench in a 23-man squad designed to accommodate a full front row on the bench so we avoid those despicable granny scrums?

But perhaps it is better to be tanning a chop than being in Lourens Adriaanse’s position … Selected as the backup tighthead in the Bok squad for this quadrangular after a really good season for the Cheetahs, he is the one prop out of five who will be holding tackle bags for a month.

So perhaps it is not about whom is selected as backup to Jannie, but more about why they are merely making up the numbers?

I’ll tell you why … Because both the Cheetahs and Bok coaches believe Coenie Oosthuizen to be good enough to play tighthead prop at the highest level. Hence both sets of coaches switching the bullocking loosehead – enjoying some of the greatest form of his life from the left hand side of the scrum – to tighthead for the last 20 minutes of the game.

But it is patently obvious to me that this is a failed experiment. The Cheetahs go from having a dominant scrum to hacking to stay in the game every time the switch is made. And the Boks went from dominating the scrum against Italy to making like a chunk of turf being bulldozed at a building site in the second half. Most people put this down to the Italians bringing on an entire new front row that included tighthead legend Martin Castrogiovanni, but they are wrong … It was because of the continued experiment that sees Oosthuizen move to tighthead prop for the last 20 minutes.

Yes he played tighthead at school, and yes the legend that is Os du Randt is the man behind the move, but does this make it right? As former Bok tighthead and current Saracens scrum technician Cobus Visagie said on Twitter: “Tighthead is not a place to experiment - the team pays the price” … I rest my case.

I can understand the coach wanting to have players like Oosthuizen and Trevor Nyakane on the bench, as they are both excellent with ball in hand and have the ability to make an impact on the game. But not at the expense of a good scrum.

Look, it will make no difference against Scotland on Saturday. They were bullied by Samoa and are hacking without their Lions players. And to make matters worse, props Geoff Cross and Ryan Grant, along with hooker Pat MacArthur, have all been ruled out, while there is uncertainty over the availability of Euan Murray. A club side could probably hold their own against the Scottish scrum …

But is this not then, the perfect opportunity, to give your raw young backup tighthead prop some game time in Green and Gold?

We have loosehead props falling out of our ears (All of JC Janse van Rensberg, Steven Kitshoff and even Dean Greyling could hold their own at the highest level), yet we have only Herbst and Adriaanse as backup to Du Plessis, who is currently being played into the ground. Surely you use the likes of Italy, Scotland and Samoa to give these two some game time and test their mettle in the Bok side? Instead Adriaanse carries tackle bags, and we have no idea if he is the right man for the job.

This while the Oosthuizen experiment continues. Is this fair on the player? Remember the John Smit move to prop and how that tainted his reputation. And more importantly, is this fair on the players who get to play their Bok rugby with a weak link at tighthead?

Against Scotland, Beast Mtawarira and Jannie should have been given the week off, while Oosthuizen, Adriaan Strauss and Adriaanse started, with Nyakane, Bismarck du Plessis and Herbst on the bench. Then we might have learnt something.

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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