It’s amazing what
you can pick up via some idle banter on Twitter ...
After few tweets
about the Baby Bok scrum taking a hammering against the Varsity Cup Dream Team,
former WP flyhalf Anton Chait made the point about how significantly bolstered the
Baby Bok scrum will be through the arrival of Sharks prop Thomas du Toit as a “tighthead”.
Yet another bloody
backline player who does not know the difference between tighthead and loosehead
I thought. But then came the following response from Du Toit: “Dis reg ja!
Vaskop een van die dae”.
Not one to let
something as big as this lie, I asked if he was joking or seriously thinking
about making the switch. “Yes I am. Will see in a few months” was his reply ...
Those three poor
sods who regularly read this column will know how sceptical I am about
looseheads making the switch to the other side of the scrum, with the Coenie
Oosthuizen experiment having scarred me for life. They are just so different,
requiring not only different skills, but also different strengths and body
But at 135kg, Du
Toit is big and powerful, and has the perfect build for a tighthead. And with
the IRB’s seeming intent to raise the scrum, a return to the hulk like Carl
Hayman type tighthead props is on the cards, which would suit the young Baby
Should he choose to fulfil
his Twitter prophecy – and his Twitter handle (@1Thomasdutoit3) certainly
suggests intent – then let’s just hope the process is managed carefully and
professionally - using club and provincial rugby to gauge success, and not
carried out in Green and Gold, which is my biggest bugbear regarding the Coenie
But just imagine a
future Bok front row of Oli Kebble, Akker van der Merwe and Du Toit!
He would have to
work bloody hard for that number 3 jersey, though. One of the primary reasons
for the Coenie experiment, apart from coach Heyneke Meyer wanting his obvious
skills round the park in the Bok mix, was a lack of obvious successor to
stalwart and incumbent tighthead Jannie du Plessis.
But that has changed
The star of the show
in this year’s Super Rugby has been Vincent Koch. On loan to the Stormers from the
Pumas (after having slipped through the Boland and Bulls nets), Koch has been
far and away the most destructive tighthead in the competition, and simply has
to be not only a contender for the Bok number 3 jersey, but a front runner.
After a sluggish
start given his return from a long injury break, Koch’s partner in blue and
white, Frans Malherbe, clearly benefitting from a tweak to their scrumming
technique by Stormers forwards coach Matt Proudfoot, is fast getting back to
his very best. Not intent at just holding his own, he is showing signs of
wanting, and being able to, mangle his opposite number, which is what you want
from your tighthead.
Perhaps given the
move to raise the scrum, and other teams taking on a similar technique of using
an 8 man shove rather than a strike for the ball to secure possession come
scrum time, the two Lions tightheads, Julian Redelinghuys and Ruan Dreyer (both
quite short in stature), have not been as destructive as they were last year.
But neither would let a Bok side down.
Bulls and Bok
strongman Marcel van der Merwe has endured a few tough days at the office, but
I still think he could do a job in a well-coached big Bok scrum. And while
incumbent Du Plessis comes in for some stick regarding his tackling and general
play, he has never ever let the Bok scrum down – the exact thing a coach wants
from his tighthead prop.
The bottom line is
that things look a whole lot rosier on the block of granite front. Du Plessis not
only has his work cut out for him to keep his spot, but I see absolutely no
need to risk Coenie against Wyatt Crockett in a defensive scrum in the last five
minutes of a World Cup semi-final at Twickenham later this year.
Make the switch to
tighthead by all means, but know that it is no longer the easier route to Green
and Gold, and that is fantastic news for Meyer.
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.Disclaimer:
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