'Clean slate' for Coenie

Coenie Oosthuizen (Gallo Images)
Coenie Oosthuizen (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - Springbok Coenie Oosthuizen may be seen as a gamble in many people’s eyes as he enters a long-term plan of becoming a tighthead at test level, but one person who isn’t as concerned is the Springbok scrum coach Pieter de Villiers.

According to the supersport.com website, De Villiers anchored many a French scrum that held their own against the best in the world and while many have questioned the wisdom to move Oosthuizen to tighthead ahead of his natural loosehead ability, the Bok management clearly sees something with him and the new laws that they feel they can exploit.

The new scrum laws have changed the outlook of the setpiece in the short time they have been around and it is clear almost immediately that teams will need to use power and technique better and less manipulation of the referees if they are to get the advantage.

Oosthuizen therefore, is perhaps a hybrid concept of the new tighthead and the Bok management are keen to see if their plan with the promising prop works.

"Either way, with a dearth of top quality tightheads in South Africa, and small margins at international level being a given, who can blame them for wanting Oosthuizen as part of a match 22, especially with his excellent play as a ball carrier and his ability to steal ball at ruck time.

De Villiers was asked about the plan with Oosthuizen, and replied that with the new laws, everybody - including Coenie – starts with a 'clean slate'.

"Everyone starts from a clean slate with the new laws and its important for us to have a new look at all our players and see how they adapt to the new laws.

"We believe that both our tightheads can do well but even for a top tighthead, you have to start from a clean slate and you have to progress from there bit by bit and adapt to the new laws," De Villiers explained.

The Boks haven’t had much time together in the setpiece.

While they’ve done the theory, the big men in the front row need time doing live scrums to iron out the intricacies of the scrum before they attempt the real thing in a test match arena.

But being professionals, De Villiers is confident the best props in the country can pick it up very quickly.

"Players learn very quickly at this level.

"A day or two at this level might be enough for certain players.

"We might also pick up on a technical error or two that we have never been exposed to with the old laws.

"Things will come up as we go along, certain things will be quick to fix, some won’t be a problem after all and others can pose problems.

"We’ll have to see as the games progress," he added.

But for those teams that get it right, there will certainly be reward.

"Scrums have become a lot harder than before.

"It is a tougher battle, technically you have to be more sound, more enduring and the pack needs to scrum together as a unit more than before.

"It has upped the strength and endurance factor of the game even more, which is very exciting.

"Teams that are willing to work hard at scrum time will get the options and possibilities from the base and inside of the scrum.

"It all comes, of course, from hard work, but those teams will get the reward."

And that is what the Boks are aiming for.

Time is against them, and the new laws don’t help.

But if they’re smart and use their natural ability well, and work as a unit, they have little to fear.

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