Hobson’s choice or hash-up?

2014-11-08 00:00

THE last time the Boks played, they beat the All Blacks. The week before that, they left it late, but powered to a convincing win against the Wallabies. Prior that that, they ran both sides properly close in their own backyards.

They are embracing a more ball in hand approach that sees players playing what’s in front of them rather than what is in the playbook, yet maintaining that industrial physical presence the men in green and gold are famous for, they have a world class human being as a captain, and they are playing with smiles on their faces again.

There is so much to like about Springbok rugby right now. Yet all I want to do tear up my tickets for the game on Saturday evening at the Aviva Stadium and instead head to the Temple Bar to try and temper my anger with a few swiftly taken Guinness!

From a balanced bench that saw specialist props Trevor Nyakane and Marcel van der Merwe covering the stalwart all Shark front row, we are now back to playing Grade 5 mad scientist experiments with Coenie Oosthuizen as the back-up tighthead prop. Truly unbelievable.

Post team announcement, Heyneke Meyer was quick to remind us that the Boks have lost two quality tightheads in the space of a few months, those being Frans Malherbe and Marcel van der Merwe. Spot on coach.

Where he was less spot on, though, was in his belief that there aren’t many tightheads performing for their respective provinces at present, and that South Africa has a dearth of Test-quality number threes.

Apart from Julian Redelinghuys, who is on tour and should have been an automatic selection this week, what the hell has Ruan Dreyer been doing in the Currie Cup? Destroying the likes of Thomas du Toit, Dale Chadwick and Oosthuizen according to my TV. Lourens Adriaanse might not be the world’s most dynamic player, but there he was shoring up a BaaBaas pack against the Wallabies on Saturday. Perhaps the coach gets a different signal via his sponsored Explora decoder?

Meyer’s reason for not picking Lions scrum guru Redelinghuys is that he hasn’t spent much time with the squad and doesn’t know the calls or the systems just yet. How many calls or systems do you need to know to scrum the crap out of the Irish in the last 20 minutes of a game?

Yes, you tend to get fewer scrums in the last 20 minutes (another reason for front row experimentation given by the coach), but what happens if it’s the single scrum the Boks turn over on their own line that leads to the game winning try?

There is no disputing Oosthuizen’s amazing ball carrying, tackling and turnover skills. I would also have him on my bench, or in my starting XV. But a loosehead prop!

Meyer believes that at 25, he has time to develop into a good tighthead, and if he is going to be considered for the World Cup, he needs game time there now. But development does not happen in the national side. It happens in the Vodacom and Currie Cup, where you prove to the coach that you can do the job asked of you. Oosthuizen still looks like a fish out of water on the right hand side of the scrum at that level.

It’s a classic coach trap. Gifted a few world class players in one position, instead of having the balls to let them fight it out, you try and fit one of them into another position. Not only do you prejudice the player being asked to play in an unfamiliar position, but you also stifle development of specialists in that position.

No specialist tightheads in South Africa? How would you feel if the national coach was picking a retreaded loosehead who can’t scrum ahead of you?

Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row Grunt.

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