Cape Town – If the Springboks stick to their current pecking
order, utility prop Coenie Oosthuizen faces probably the most acid examination
of his scrummaging ability as a tighthead against Italy in Padova on Saturday
(16:00 SA time).
Coach Heyneke Meyer has already said that first-choice No 3
Jannie du Plessis, who hobbled off in the 65th minute of the 31-28
victory over England at Twickenham, is unlikely to be ready for the Italian
The Boks will be heavily tipped to beat them – whether they
put out an experimental sort of combination or not -- but the one area where
the Italians traditionally provide fierce opposition is at scrum-time, and this
weekend is expected to be no different.
As former Italy coach Nick Mallett pointed out in the
SuperSport studio on Saturday, they have a strong and experienced front row,
especially with that burly cult figure Martin Castrogiovanni back in the mix on
the tighthead side, where he should earn his 98th cap on Saturday.
The 33-year-old “Castro”, perhaps a little past his prime
but still a destructive force when the mood grabs him, anchored the scrum in
the narrow 20-18 loss to Argentina, the land of his birth, last time out.
With Du Plessis almost certainly unavailable for selection,
Oosthuizen, who was busy in open play for his 15 minutes of late action at
Twickenham, is being favoured to grab the tighthead role for the Boks, even
though both Golden Lions specialist No 3 strongmen, Julian Redelinghuys and now
also Ruan Dreyer, are among the greater touring squad.
Should he crack the nod, it would be just the big Cheetahs
player’s second start at tighthead for South Africa, after doing the job on
last year’s equivalent European tour against France in Paris, when the Boks won
19-10 and he was solid against home loosehead Yannick Forestier.
But he is still far more used to an impact role for the
Boks, and some domestic scrum gurus will be nervous about how he holds up if
selected against the Italians, who should field another veteran
Argentinean-born prop as his direct rival at scrum time on the loosehead side,
The current first-choice Italian hooker, 69-cap Leonardo
Ghiraldini, plies his trade in the rugged environment of the English
Premiership with Leicester Tigers, so he will also hardly be a shrinking violet
of the front row when the Boks tackle them.
Given the absence of Du Plessis at No 3, Meyer may be less
likely now to rest his first-choice on the other side of the front row, Tendai
Mtawarira, even though “Beast” could probably do with a mental and physical
break ahead of the final tour challenge of Wales a week later.
Trevor Nyakane is the main back-up loosehead at present,
although his 11 Bok appearances thus far have all been off the bench and he got
only six minutes against England.
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