Bench abuse tripping up Boks

Tank Lanning

Wilco Louw should be starting at tighthead prop for the Boks on Saturday.

It’s highly unlikely that he will, so the Boks miss out. This, in my humble opinion, is due to misuse of the bench and poor player management.

Tighthead prop is a position that should have been thought through very carefully following Coenie Oosthuizen’s injury, which came after the long-term neck injuries suffered by Julian Redelinghuys and Frans Malherbe. There is a reason Jannie du Plessis and Lourens Adriaanse are paid the salaries they deserve overseas for doing little more than scrum!

Already understocked at the position, coach Allister Coetzee’s first error was to pick a second retreaded loosehead in Trevor Nyakane as his reserve tighthead. A poor call made worse given that Coetzee clearly does not trust him to start – he was leapfrogged by Ruan Dreyer when Oosthuizen got injured.

Dreyer was then found wanting against the All Blacks in the Albany hammering (the reasons for which are for another column, but it was pretty clear that it was not going to be a quick fix), but instead of making a change against the Aussies last week, he gave both Dreyer and Nyakane another shot.

This while Louw – one of the form Super Rugby tightheads – was making merry on the WP bench at Loftus.

Surely giving Louw 30 minutes off the bench was the way to go in Bloemfontein against an Australian pack renowned for having to come up with tricks in order to combat their lack of scrumming prowess? And perhaps it was also an opportunity to give Nyakane a start? How else does one learn about the player’s capabilities at this level?

Instead, the Boks now head into the prime home Test against the All Blacks very precariously positioned at tighthead.

If Coetzee drops Dreyer, can he really leapfrog Nyakane again with Louw? My word that would be poor form!

And if he starts Nyakane with Louw on the bench, how does he explain waiting until this Test, against the world champions, to do so? Rock and a hard place …

While I wish this column was only about tighthead props and scrumming, I use the above example to raise a concern about Coetzee’s use of the bench, and his ability to grow squad depth.

After vociferously defending Handre Pollard’s readiness to play international rugby, Coetzee has given the Bulls pivot all of 23 minutes of game time! None of which were on Saturday in a game crying out for some straight running off a flyhalf taking the ball flat.

Chiliboy Ralepelle also suffered an egg against the Aussies, this after replacing Bongi Mbonambi on the bench, who prior to Saturday, had enjoyed just 34 minutes of rugby in four Tests. Centre Damian de Allende has played just 35 minutes of rugby in this year’s tournament.

“How much do you bench, Rudy?” asks Arnold Schwarzenegger on a Twitter meme … “80 minutes” comes the reply from the ever-smiling Paige. It’s not far off – Paige got five minutes on Saturday for 49 in total while Ross Cronje and Francois Hougaard rotated ahead of him.

That’s 141 minutes of game time across four positions in five Tests, which is seven minutes per position, per game.

This at a time when most coaches are trusting the bench to inject some much-needed Vooma in the last 20 minutes of a Test, and grow squad depth by giving exciting, young players some invaluable Test experience via the less-pressurised later entry to the game.

I know Coetzee has many, many fish to fry, and I really do applaud his desire to get the Boks playing a more ball-in-hand brand of rugby (good on you, Oom Rugby, for raising this), but my oath, this aspect of his resource management currently leaves a lot to be desired.

- Tank Lanning

Let's chat

  • Barry Smith

    Yes, some great points. Daniels Du Preeze is another, that has been in the mix for 8 weeks without a minute of game time, was leapfrogged by Louw and now is likely to debut against the All Blacks!!!

  • Wynand Potgieter

    The main job of a prop is to scrum, END OF STORY!!!

    These days props get chosen for what they can do around the field rather than their scrumming abilities.
    “Because having a mobile prop/hooker is an extra loose forward” BULLSHIT!!

    A prop should priorities his scrumming ability and not how well he can do a goose step. Let each guy do the work expected of his position and just let the props SCRUM!!!!!

  • Al

    and can anyone tell me why he never made any changes against the AB’s in Albany when after 20 minutes it was obvious to anyone with eyes that Hougaard and Rhule were having a nightmare? Surely a coach/manager with a bit of sense would have moved Hougie to the wing and brought Paige on?

    • Wynand Potgieter

      Agree on Rhule, I can clearly remember 4 missed tackles by Rhule in the first 20 minutes. Unacceptable.

  • Sharky

    Apart from AC’s poor bench (and squad) management failing to give players the game time needed to develop, he has also failed to bring in experienced players to help nurture the young’uns. I would definitely have had the likes of Jannie du Plessis or Lourens Adriaanse in the squad from the get go. In fact I would advocate having one 30-odd cap player available for most positions. And that’s not hard to do. Consider the following players:

    Jannie du Plessis / Lourens Adriaanse
    Marcell Coetzee / Frans Louw
    Duane Vermeulen
    Ruan Pienaar
    Pat Lambie
    Frans Steyn
    JP Pietersen

    These guys are all still international standard players whi would add valuable experiance to any squad. And considering how green our team is atm (and the backline in particular) these guys’ presence could help ground our current crop of youngsters.

    But it’s just occurred to me that the guys I listed are mostly white…

  • Tiaan Janse van Rensburg

    Nyakane – We all know why he is in the team

    • Herman

      Because he immediately stabilized the scrum after he came on for banana peel Dreyer?

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