By Ashfak Mohamed
Former Springbok and Stormers prop Robbie Kempson says Rassie Erasmus should buy new front-rankers as he believes that JD Moller and Brok Harris are not good enough for Super 14 rugby.
Kempson, who played in the golden era of Stormers rugby under Bob Skinstad in the late 1990s, told the Cape Times on Tuesday that tighthead Brian Mujati was the only prop in the squad who was capable of playing at Super 14 level.
“JD has really not impressed me,” he said. “In fact, he has had three or four years now to get it right, and it is clear that he is not good enough. And when Mujati has to go off, Brok cannot step in for him. Rassie has to sort out this situation, otherwise the Stormers will continue to struggle in the scrums. Rassie must buy more props.”
Kempson believes that the lack of powerful props in South African rugby is a result of youngsters not being exposed to senior rugby earlier. “You get players who make the provincial and national under-19 and under-21 sides, and then from there they get a senior provincial contract and play Currie Cup and Super 14 rugby.
“They aren’t able to learn the intricacies of scrumming at club level. That’s why we find many of these guys struggling at senior level.
“I thought the Stormers were very unlucky in their first two matches,” said Kempson. “I agree with those who said that the referee (Willie Roos) was out of sorts against the Bulls and I thought the Stormers did pretty well against the Sharks.
“But I expected the forwards to struggle against the Crusaders. You can’t put guys like JD and Brok against seasoned campaigners like Campbell Johnstone and Greg Somerville. They also have the best scrumming coach in the world in Matt Sexton.
“I was surprised that the Stormers battled against the Reds. One could see that when Mujati went off, the scrum got worse with Brok and JD on the field. It is difficult to say what the problem is if you are not involved in the team. There are a lot of things that go on at scrum-time. But it is clear that when Mujati goes off, the Stormers go back in the scrums.”
Kempson said that Zimbabwean-born Mujati, who will qualify to play for the Springboks this year, may need another season of Super 14 rugby before being able to take the step up to Test level. Mujati was outstanding for the Lions in last year’s competition.
“Brian is a strong lad and has impressed me a lot. He scrums well, which is the most important thing for a tighthead, while he has also started to run with the ball a bit at the Stormers,” he said.
“But it is a big call to say that he’s ready for Test rugby right now. I think that the Sharks props BJ Botha and Jannie du Plessis, as well as CJ van der Linde, are all ahead of him. He did play well at the Lions, but to be honest, they are not the strongest team around. He needs to do well at the Stormers and take it from there.”
Kempson said lock Andries Bekker has been the stand-out forward for the Stormers this season. “Andries has had a huge impact. He has been phenomenal in the lineouts, while he has improved his work-rate around the field. If ever there was an heir to Victor Matfield, I think Andries can be that man,” he said.
Harris, Moller and Mujati were unable to respond to Kempson as no one in the Stormers camp was available for media interviews on Tuesday.
o This article was originally published on page 22 of Cape Times on March 12, 2008