New scrum and new talent

Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
I had a good giggle at a response to my tweet saying that the Currie Cup this year looks more like a mix between Varsity Cup and Vodacom Cup that suggested I was talking complete nonsense...

“Tukkies would have had more Currie Cup caps than Saturday’s Blue Bulls team playing Province at Newlands on Saturday”, tweeted the sarcastic bugger.

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Regular readers will know how negative I have become toward the Varsity Cup, given how the rules have been bent and buckled by some institutions, all without sanction. But I hear some positive news coming out of the EXCO enclave suggesting they are looking at a system that allocates points to players based on how far along they are in their studies, with each team needing to carry a certain amount of points in their match-day 23. Together with a limit on player payment, and not being able to use players contracted or capped by unions, we may well see a return to what this tournament was meant to be about - rugby played by young guys looking to start life with a degree or diploma!

And while being facetious in my tweet about the Currie Cup, it is pretty exciting to see all six unions having to mix a few old hands with plenty of new ones as they come to terms with life sans the Boks and players chasing foreign currency.

We seem a tad obsessed with experience here in SA, so when unions are forced to dig a little deeper into the talent pool as they are in the new look season structure that sees the Currie Cup become more developmental, I genuinely find it exciting.

There seem to be plenty nay-sayers already, but a quick look at the weekend’s teams sees the likes of Pat Cilliers, Elton Jantjies, Piet van Zyl, Cobus Reinach, CJ van der Linde, Waylon Murray, Nic Groom, and Craig Burden only being able to make their respective side’s benches! That has to say something about the players actually getting into the run on XV’s...

And with three of these guys being scrumhalves, having to play behind the likes of Charl McLeod, Louis Schreuder and Sarel Pretorius, one surely has to question Heyneke Meyer’s call to Fourie du Preez, who will only be available for the home games in any case.

Perhaps it goes back to our conservative nature that sees us tending to rely on experience rather than testing out the new? Hence us playing a fairly old fashioned kick and chase game rather than the more modern ball in hand variety we see from the Kiwis.

So I look forward to seeing how the next generation go in this Currie Cup. It’s bloody exciting to see an Under-21, Varsity, Community or Vodacom Cup player given a chance in a higher league.

It’s also going to be the first time we see the new “crouch, bind, set” scrum engagement process, with the hit basically taken out the game. Meyer is on record saying he thinks they will suit our props, hence him being comfortable with Coenie Oosthuizen as his only back-up to tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis.

I beg to differ. South African props have tended to rely on the massively physical hit to gain the early ascendency and then survived on grunt and gristle. The new engagement process will require not only strength, but also technique. And timing as a unit will become much more important. A straight put-in (thankfully also part of the new look) will also see front rows higher, with hookers perhaps even going for the odd strike, which then reduces the power of the scrum as you only have seven men with their feet back.

It will take time to settle, and initially I think we will see scrums used as mere resets. But over time, the scrum will again become a weapon, and one that will require technical nous to master.

Bring on the Currie Cup!

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

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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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