Bok front row trial at Newlands

Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)

A week or two back, colleague and Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing equated the final game of the round robin stage of Super Rugby between the Sharks and Stormers to a Springbok front row trial.

Rightfully so given that Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis and Beast Mtawarira are the incumbent Bok front row.

However, fast forward one week to this Saturday’s coolerbox emptying encounter at Newlands between the Stormers and Lions, and you have a contest between the form scrums of not only the South African conference, but the entire tournament.

If forced to pick a Bok front row for the World Cup from just Saturday’s protagonists: Tightheads Julian Redelinghuys, Ruan Dreyer, Vincent Koch, Frans Malherbe, and looseheads Schalk van der Merwe, Jacques van Rooyen, Steven Kitshoff, Oli Kebble or Alistair Vermaak, not only would Heyneke Meyer be served exceptionally well in London, he would really struggle to decide which three he would need to leave behind!

I have no doubt that Meyer, slightly conservative and a big fan of continuity, will stick with the Sharks duo, meaning that he will need to leave at least five of the abovementioned list at home in September. This even before considering the Bulls trio of Marcel van der Merwe, Trevor Nyakane and Dean Greyling.

In short supply until recently, hence Meyer’s eagerness to move Coenie Oosthuizen from loosehead to tighthead, it is amazing to see the depth in the blocks of granite department. This even with a good few earning their crust in Europe.

My six for London would be Mtawarira, Kitshoff and Van der Merwe at loosehead, and Redelinghuys, Koch and Malherbe at tighthead. Jannie, a proper Bok stalwart, has been off his game this year, and with Koch in the form of his life, I think the time has come to make the switch. Not that he would let the team down if he were to remain part of the squad, though.

So with the likes of Dreyer, Van der Merwe and Jannie not even able to make the World Cup squad, one thing I am sure of, is that there is definitely no need to continue the Coenie experiment.

Speaking of experiments, I see Baby Bok coach Dawie Theron is at it again. First it was Kebble in Cape Town a few years back, and now it is Thomas du Toit being used at tighthead in the Junior World Cup being held in Italy.

Seeing this one coming given Du Toit’s tweet about the move a few weeks back, at least we know the monster Sharks prop is up for the move. And given that back-up tighthead, Frans van Wyk, is also a loosehead making the move to the other side of the scrum, I must presume that we are pretty hard up for tightheads at that level.

Du Toit is hugely powerful and on the opposition ball on Tuesday night, when the Italians were forced to hook a straight feed and thus scrum a bit higher, the Baby Bok scrum was immense. But on their own feed, Du Tout took a lot of strain, once even being unceremoniously popped like a champagne cork. His hit is not quite there and his hips are a bit high (always a tough thing to get right as a tall prop). This move could work, but he certainly remains a work in progress.

It’s an exceptionally tough switch to make. The two positions are massively different. And I am not sure these experiments should be happening in Green and Gold. Surely you prove yourself at club level before being selected for the national side?

Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who now heads up Tankman Media, and sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row Grunt.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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