Currie Cup

Jake defends switching 'the new Os' to No 3 after tough Pumas baptism

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Chastened? Bulls tightheads Marcel van der Merwe and Jan-Hendrik Wessels (Gallo Images)
Chastened? Bulls tightheads Marcel van der Merwe and Jan-Hendrik Wessels (Gallo Images)
  • Bulls mentor Jake White was a tad surprised by how his young prodigy Jan-Hendrik Wessels struggled in the unfamiliar position of tighthead.
  • The 19-year-old, already drawing comparisons with Bok legend Os du Randt, though will be richer for the experience, White believes.
  • His Pumas counterpart, Jimmy Stonehouse, hailed the showing of Morgan Naude, Wessels' destroyer-in-chief at scrum time.

Without believing that the move backfired totally, Bulls mentor Jake White admits that he expected a better showing from his prop prodigy Jan-Hendrik Wessels in the weekend's messy 14-44 Currie Cup loss to an inspired Pumas.

The 19-year-old front rower's selection at tighthead - despite a 1.93m, 120kg frame that seems very suitable for the No 3 jersey - raised eyebrows, especially given his lack of experience in the position. 

Wessels' outing bordered on nightmarish at times as he ran into a direct opponent in Morgan Naude, who's emerged as one of the most underrated and devastating scrummagers on the local circuit.

But the Bulls' director of rugby believes it's an outing that will steel the youngster mentally as he embarks on a career many observers hope mirrors that of Springbok legend Os du Randt.

"I'll freely admit that I hoped Jan-Hendrik would perform better than he did," said White.

"However, he earned his stripes in this match. He's a kid from Grey College, so I'd venture to say he hasn't tasted many defeats in his life before. (Sunday) was a difficult day for him, but you have to earn your stripes.

"And there's no better place to do that than in the Mbombela Stadium against an accomplished side like the Pumas."

White's gamble was made all the more interesting by the fact that he had the grizzled Marcel van der Merwe on the bench.

The 30-year-old Springbok has struggled to find his rhythm to date and one school of thought might've argue he could've benefitted from a start.

"It's a difficult dynamic with him at the moment and it's not his fault," said White.

"He's had to adapt to quite a few different combinations to play in. He's not the only guy that (performed lukewarmly)."

By contrast though, Jimmy Stonehouse, the Pumas' director of rugby, raved over the continued development of 22-year-old Naude.

The compact loosehead duly scooped up the official Man-of-the-Match award with a rampant showing.

"Morgan's just amazing. He played superbly in open play and scrummed brilliantly. It's awesome to see him in action," said Stonehouse.

"We left out another local product in Dewald Maritz, who's combined well with Morgan. It's two Nelspruit kids who are playing really good rugby scrum-wise."

There's perhaps scope for Naude to bulk up just a little bit more, but his form suggests he might not stay in the Lowveld for long.   

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