Johannesburg - Coenie Oosthuizen’s bit in the wilderness is over, with the Springbok prop likely to be a more permanent feature on the bench from now on.
According to the supersport.com website, While the tighthead position is still very much up for debate less than a year out from the Rugby World Cup, with only Jannie du Plessis really assured of his place at this moment, the Boks are likely to return Oosthuizen to the bench in the four Tests they play overseas, even though he hasn’t been a success at tighthead.
The experiment to move him across to the other side of the scrum seemed to take a fatal blow when the highly-rated Lions front row demolished Oosthuizen in the Cheetahs’ final game of the Super Rugby season, as he was left out of the squad for the Rugby Championship.
Oosthuizen’s problems with his neck have also compounded matters and there were worries that his Bok career may be over, but Meyer seems to have thrown him a lifeline to play a massive impact role on the tour, something that Oosthuizen normally excels in.
With Frans Malherbe and Marcel van der Merwe both out with injury, the Boks are looking for a decent tighthead to back up Du Plessis, with newbie Julian Redelinghuys getting the nod to tour after some excellent performances this year.
Meyer’s main assertion is the lack of scrums in the last quarter of a game, meaning he could risk Oosthuizen in the set phase to benefit what he gets out of him in the loose.
"Just to come back to Coenie.
"I feel for him, he has struggled with his neck. I still believe his best position is loosehead but we are covered at loosehead," Meyer said this week.
"I look at test rugby and Coenie was brilliant for us when he started against France.
"The thing about tightheads is that they only start coming through at 25 or 26, and he is only 24.
"A guy like Julian (Redelinghuys) is older than Coenie, and if you think about how much experience Coenie already has.
"I saw again at training that Coenie gives a lot more than just in the scrum.
"Having said that he must be able to scrum.
"I also did a lot of research that shows that in the last 20 minutes you need impact players, and if you look at that time, there are only one or two scrums. You have to weigh that up with what a guy brings to the bench.
"It has been a slow process going there but he is only 24.
"He can play both sides of the scrum and he can bring something different to the field. But at this stage he will cover tighthead as well."
With this in mind, Oosthuizen’s ball-carrying ability and his strength in poaching ball at the ruck negates his weakness in the scrums, something the Boks are willing to risk at this moment.
If Oosthuizen can hold his own it will be fine, but the worry over his neck and his ability at tighthead haven’t gone away.
The Boks will be hoping both don’t return to bite them either on this tour or in the next year.