A few obvious concerns around the new boy at tighthead, and how returning soldiers Jaque Fourie and JP Pietersen will fit in, both in terms of form and playing the slightly more attacking game that coach Heyneke Meyer has been trying to implement, but it is a big (perhaps the biggest ever?), physical side that should have enough in the tank to deal with anything that the Northern Hemisphere can throw at them.
The surprise package comes at the back in the form of Pat Lambie. A class player, and more than deserving of a start, but why in the wet at Cardiff, in a position he has not played for a long time, in a team that will probably revert to a more conservative game plan? The irony being that it would probably be one of the few games where the selection of Zane Kirchner would be understood, if not accepted!
But selection logic aside, and even if lacking in outright pace, I will take Lambie over Kirchner any day. And I would have been tempted to go a step further and keep game breaker and excitement machine Willie le Roux in the run on team at the expense of Bryan Habana, who has done nothing wrong, but also nothing particularly earth shattering. That said, having Le Roux as an impact option from the bench, is also pretty exciting.
Up front I definitely would have started with Lourens Adriaanse at tighthead ahead of Frans Malherbe. Look, with Flip van der Merwe and Willem Alberts on each butt cheek come scrum time, and being part of one of the biggest packs to ever set foot on a rugby field, any provincial class tighthead prop with a straight back and a modicum of form should be able to at least hold his own, even against the highly rated Welsh scrum, but it is the selection logic that troubles me.
That Coenie Oosthuizen is not getting the start after being back up to Jannie du Plessis all season proves the lack of logic. And also proves that coach Meyer does not truly believe Oosthuizen capable of anchoring the Bok scrum. Yet he is happy to have him as back up in a tournament and season defining game against the All Blacks? And now he is happy to have him as back up to a young guy making his debut for the Boks. Talk about throwing Malherbe into the deep end!
“Coenie is a long term project at tighthead” says Meyer. At Springbok level? Surely that cannot be right? “Projects” should not even be happening at provincial level, let alone in the side chosen to represent our country. Keep that for club rugby please coach.
The saddest thing about this little project is that Oosthuizen could actually be one of the best loosehead props in the world. With his brute strength, pace, great defence, ability to turn the ball over at the break down and bust tackles with ball in hand, he is the perfect mould for a game changing loosehead prop. Why mess with that by trying to turn him into a tighthead, a notoriously difficult position to play?
Rotate Oosthuizen with Beast Mtawarira at loosehead, start Adriaanse at tighthead, and introduce Malherbe from the bench. I see very little value in muddying the prop waters with French based Gurthro Steenkamp, and this way we get to use Coenie as he was designed to be used, and develop two good young tightheads as real backup to Jannie. It just seems so logical.
Why Adriaanse ahead of Malherbe? Primarily because he has proven himself as a game changer for both the Cheetahs and Griquas (hence the interest from the Sharks), while Malherbe is yet to do so for WP or the Stormers, and because he has been part of the Bok squad all season. He deserves the start. Much talk about Malherbe being the future, but has he done enough for WP since coming back from injury to oust Adriaanse? I think not.
That said, I do think he will be absolutely fine on Saturday. His battle with Gethin Jenkins will have us flat eared folk stocking cooler boxes with vigour!Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop and editor of the recently launched free monthly digital rugby magazine called SCRUM
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