Meyer’s assistants back Oosthuizen at tighthead against France

2013-11-20 00:00

THE final decision on selection rests with Springbok head coach Heyneke Meyer, but his assistants agree that Coenie Oosthuizen is ready to start Saturday’s Test against France in Paris.

The Springboks lost specialist tighthead Frans Malherbe to a rib injury against Scotland on Sunday and team doctor Craig Roberts yesterday ruled the young prop out of this weekend’s international.

“He popped a rib cartilage against Scotland and you can’t scrum with that injury. He is definitely out for Saturday,” said Roberts in an audio link from Paris.

Oosthuizen replaced the injured Malherbe at Murrayfield but another tighthead, the Sharks’ new signing Lourens Adriaanse, is in the tour party while Frik Kirsten (Blue Bulls) has flown over to join the squad.

Oosthuizen has played most of his rugby on the loosehead for Free State but Meyer has used him as an impact player off the bench on the tighthead.

Both Springbok forward coach Johann van Graan and scrum guru Pieter de Villiers said yesterday that they believed Oosthuizen could start against France.

“Luckily, Heyneke makes the selections,” said Van Graan, “but Coenie is good enough to start at tighthead. He had 46 minutes [at tighthead] against Scotland and did very well, making 15 tackles in that time and scoring a try. He has gained experience in that position and he can either start or play off the bench.”

De Villiers, a former French tighthead prop, agreed.

“It is not our decision but Coenie is a powerful prop who has grown as a tighthead, both technically and in experience.”

De Villiers said that the French had an exceptionally strong scrummaging unit.

“France are always a tough challenge and they are rated the most successful scrumming unit around the globe. In the past year they gave away the least scrum penalties and won the most.

“It will be great to end off the tour against one of the better scrums in world rugby and see where we stand.”

Bok team doctor Roberts said he was optimistic that flanks Francois Louw (neck) and Willem Alberts (shoulder), who both left the field early on Sunday, would be fit for Saturday’s Test.

“Francois pinched a nerve in his neck and lost feeling down his one side. In a situation like that you always take precautions, which was why Francois’s neck was immobilised and he was taken off on a stretcher,” said Roberts.

But the Bok doctor said that the flank had seen a specialist immediately after the game and the news was positive.

“We will see what happens over the next 48 hours, but I’m optimistic that he will be ready.”

He said that Alberts had a grade one strain of the AC joint and the plan was always for him to play one half against Scotland so that he would be ready for the Paris Test.

Meyer will name his team today and the indications are that he will field much the same team that started against Wales. The change at tighthead is likely to be the only one in the pack while Ruan Pienaar will take over from the unavailable Fourie du Preez at scrumhalf.

Morné Steyn seems certain to return at flyhalf and Meyer’s most difficult selection will be at fullback with Willie le Roux, who was named man of the match at Murrayfield, and Pat Lambie, his first-choice against Wales, in contention.

The match kicks off at 10 pm on Saturday (SA time) and Wayne Barnes (England) will be the ref.

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