Spring­boks search for new strong­man

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport Starts Here -

CAPE TOWN — Mar­cel van der Merwe, Lourens Adriaanse and a dark horse in veteran Jan­nie du Plessis . . . those are ar­guably the fore­most can­di­dates for the tight­head prop va­cancy in the Spring­bok squad for the im­mi­nent end-of-year tour.

The gap has been cre­ated by the se­ri­ous, highly un­for­tu­nate neck in­jury suf­fered by Ju­lian Redel­inghuys for the Golden Lions in their broadly for­get­table 55-17 de­feat at the hands of the Chee­tahs in Satur­day’s Cur­rie Cup semi-fi­nal in Bloemfontein.

Redel­inghuys has re­port­edly had suc­cess­ful surgery, although any re­turn to rugby will be the last thing on his or med­i­cal ex­perts’ minds for the mo­ment, so he can be ruled out of the Euro­pean trek.

The 27-year-old has most re­cently been the bench back-up to Vin­cent Koch in the Bok side, although there had been lit­tle to sep­a­rate them.

Now Sara­cens-sta­tioned, Koch, at least, is avail­able for the Test por­tion of the tour against Eng­land, Italy and Wales re­spec­tively, after the Boks have played an ef­fec­tive “warm-up” — out­side the in­ter­na­tional win­dow, pre­clud­ing many over­seas-based play­ers from se­lec­tion — against the Bar­bar­ians at Wem­b­ley on Novem­ber 5.

The blond front-rower has a fine op­por­tu­nity on the tour to ce­ment his spot, even if the Boks have prob­a­bly not yet wit­nessed the best of him ei­ther as a scrum­mager or po­tent ball-car­rier.

But ex­pect be­lea­guered Bok coach Al­lis­ter Coet­zee to be mak­ing some fairly fran­tic in­quiries al­ready about the readi­ness of sev­eral No 3s, both home and abroad­based,

from Sl i m ani month. Le­ices­ter must be on their guard against a Copen­hagen side who con­sol­i­dated their place at the top of the Dan­ish top flight with a 2-0 win over Silke­borg at the week­end.

Ståle Sol­bakken’s side are sec­ond be­hind Le­ices­ter in Group G hav­ing picked up four points so far.— Dai­ly­Mail to fill the Redel­inghuys void.

His first-choice tight­head when he be­gan his ten­ure in charge ear­lier this year, Frans Mal­herbe, is still re­hab­bing from his own neck in­jury and seems a long shot for the Novem­ber mis­sion, while there have also been on­go­ing in­jury and/or con­di­tion­ing woes for beefy, al­ready Bok-capped “util­ity” props like Trevor Nyakane and Coe­nie Oosthuizen.

Many pun­dits would in­sist, and not with­out merit, that both men are bet­ter suited to the loose­head side of the scrum.

Es­pe­cially on the soft, slow pitches of the north­ern hemi­sphere in win­ter, and with the of­ten more stop-start na­ture of the game there, a spe­cial­ist No3 an­chor­man tends to be es­sen­tial at scrum-time.

The “safe” choice as back-up to Koch would prob­a­bly be Lourens Adriaanse of the Sharks, who has been fa­mil­iar with Bok sys­tems, al­beit as a fairly pe­riph­eral fig­ure much of the time, dur­ing the re­cent Rugby Cham­pi­onship.

But he has only four caps, in­clud­ing just one start — when he blew rather hot and cold in the 23-17 away loss to Aus­tralia, be­fore get­ting the chop for the fol­low-up Test against New Zealand in Christchurch.

If Coet­zee wants an ex­pe­ri­enced cus­tomer to add to his Koch op­tion at No 3, then his best bet, frankly, seems to be to re-ex­am­ine ei­ther Mar­cel van der Merwe of Toulon or Mont­pel­lier’s gnarly old Jan­nie du Plessis.

Van der Merwe, still only 25, has played seven Tests for South Africa, and in his lone start against Ar­gentina in Buenos Aires last year, just be­fore RWC 2015, stood up very well to the “ba­jada” even if his cause was helped by de­struc­tive loose­head Mar­cos Ay­erza not play­ing in the Pu­mas’ 26-12 Buenos Aires de­feat.

At some 128kg, the for­mer Bulls favourite, who started for Jo­han Ack­er­mann’s SA ‘ A’ side against Eng­land Sax­ons at Ge­orge sev­eral weeks ago, brings a com­fort­ing amount of bal­last for heavy sur­faces. But what about Du Plessis? There is a pretty sub­stan­tial school of thought that the Boks have — or at least should have — moved on from the once Kings Park-based doc­tor, so of­ten in the past a penalty li­a­bil­ity at in­ter­na­tional level and only mod­est con­trib­u­tor out­side of the set-piece.

But the 33-year-old (he would turn 34 dur­ing the tour) does bring heaps of street-wis­dom to the party, and his 70 caps since 2007 in­clude as many as 20 on United King­dom or Euro­pean turf.

He is also right in touch with that en­vi­ron­ment through his ac­tiv­ity in the French Top 14.

Big Jan­nie has not of­fi­cially re­tired from in­ter­na­tion­als, and ear­lier this year Coet­zee did, sig­nif­i­cantly, men­tion his name when he was sim­i­larly scour­ing for can­di­dates dur­ing a pe­riod of un­cer­tainty at tight­head, although the player was in­jured him­self at the time.

Be­sides, too many “right shoul­der” spe­cial­ists on the Cur­rie Cup scene this year still look far too raw to be thrown to the wolves on this par­tic­u­lar tour where ek­ing out some good re­sults, how­ever grimly they may be earned, is vi­tal for na­tional morale.

Des­per­ate times call for “des­per­ate” mea­sures? — Sport24

Jamie Vardy

Serena Wil­liams

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