Oosthuizen lov­ing Boks’ style

‘Franco’s im­proved our at­tack, he’s brought each player into the struc­ture’

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - JAC­QUES VAN DER WESTHUYZEN

YOU’D think all Coe­nie Oosthuizen would want to talk about is scrum­ming. You’d be wrong.

Oosthuizen, it seems, is more ex­cited about the way the Spring­boks are play­ing their rugby at the mo­ment and what Franco Smith has con­trib­uted in help­ing the Boks be a bet­ter at­tack­ing team, with more skills. He wants to talk about run­ning lines … and, of course, that try he scored against France in the sec­ond Test in Dur­ban last Satur­day.

“It’s al­ways so spe­cial scor­ing a try in the green and gold. It’s a mo­ment you never for­get,” said Oosthuizen.

“It was a last-minute, split de­ci­sion, to run over that guy. I sup­pose I could have stepped him, but for me, run­ning a straight, hard line has al­ways been best.”

France re­place­ment back Nans Du­cu­ing will al­ways re­mem­ber that mo­ment, when the 130kg Oosthuizen powered over him in the 67th minute to help seal the win for the Boks.

The 28-year-old was a sur­prise se­lec­tion when coach Al­lis­ter Coet­zee picked him in his squad be­fore the se­ries, but in his two ap­pear­ances from off the bench in the last fort­night it is clear Oosthuizen still has plenty to of­fer the Boks. He may at this stage just be a back-up player, but he’s lov­ing the new Bok en­vi­ron­ment.

“I was out of the mix for a year and that was a very bad time in my life,” he said this week. “Only when you’re out of the Bok team do you re­alise how much you’re miss­ing. Not be­ing se­lected last year hurt me, it was dis­ap­point­ing, even if the team didn’t do so well. It makes one work harder.”

And that he did. Oosthuizen found a new gear at the Sharks this year, with his scrum­ming and all-round con­tri­bu­tion catch­ing the eye, but cru­cially he has also been in­jury free.

He goes back to last Satur­day’s try and the gen­eral im­prove­ment in the Boks’ at­tack­ing game, prais­ing the work done by Smith.

“Franco has made a huge im­prove­ment to our at­tack. He’s brought each player into the at­tack­ing struc­ture and he wants every per­son to be the best per­son they can be. He likes to fo­cus on the things that make you a bet­ter player,” Oosthuizen said. “Yes, de­fence is im­por­tant, but you en­joy the game so much more when you’re scor­ing tries. It’s some­thing Franco’s got right ... for South African rugby it is phe­nom­e­nal that a guy steps in and ev­ery­one buys into what he is sell­ing.”

But rugby is also about de­fence and in this de­part­ment the Boks have also stepped up and bought into what Bren­dan Ven­ter has been sell­ing. The Boks have made hun­dreds of tack­les in the last two Tests against France and shown a re­silience not seen in some time by the national side; it is what has helped them to a se­ries win with a game to spare.

“Re­mem­ber one thing, you can’t buy de­fence,” said the big loose­head prop. “It’s some­thing you have got to work on, it’s a thing of per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity. It’s a pride thing, too … I’m not go­ing to let the guy down next to me and he’s not go­ing to want to let me down. It’s about work­ing for your mate, get­ting up off the ground and mak­ing an­other tackle … that’s what good de­fence is, it’s about work­ing for the guy next to you.”

Hav­ing earned 25 in­ter­na­tional caps over six years, Oosthuizen has been a part of a few Bok teams and ex­pe­ri­enced many highs and lows in Test rugby, but he says the cur­rent crop of play­ers has some­thing spe­cial about them.

“This team has the po­ten­tial to go very far. The play­ers care about more than them­selves; it’s what we stand for,” he said.

“From the be­gin­ning of the year, at the first camp, there was a feel­ing that was shared that this is not about us, it’s for South Africa and the (Spring­bok) badge.”

RUN­NING HIS LINES: Coe­nie Oosthuizen is a changed man af­ter miss­ing out on Bok se­lec­tion last year.

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