Former Springbok captain Corne Krige believes the All Blacks decision to switch Rodney So’oialo to flanker will backfire as the traditional enemies square off in the opening Tri-Nations test on Saturday.
Wynne Gray writes in the NZ Herald that Krige accepts the change will improve the All Blacks lineout because they can include the taller Adam Thomson and Jerome Kaino in their jumping mix for Wellington.
But he thought it left the All Blacks far more vulnerable to the scavenging talents of the Boks – one reason why he would have picked Chris Masoe to replace injured All Black captain Richie McCaw.
The bitingly tough Krige, who waged many loose-forward battles against the All Blacks, thinks the rookie host loosies will be exposed to the foraging experienced flanker power of the Springboks.
“I thought it was just nothing talk when they were touting So’oialo as a possible openside,” he told a South African website. “His best position is clearly No 8 and I don’t think his strength is playing towards the ball.
“Masoe is far more suited to the role, has experience playing there and provides you with a solid ball-carrying option as well.
“I think the Springboks will be smiling when they see this call. Perhaps [the All Blacks] were looking for a player that could provide them with another lineout option. But other than that I can’t understand the decision,” he said.
The Springboks name their side today (Thursday) with the only loose-forward problem for new coach Peter de Villiers being who he will cull from the backrow.
He has the abundant talent of Ryan Kankowski, Joe Van Niekerk, Luke Watson, Schalk Burger, Juan Smith and Pierre Spies to choose from for this opening Tri-Nations test.
Kankowski is the least experienced but possibly the most talented of the prospective loosies. He was concussed two weeks ago against Italy and may be given another week to fully recuperate if de Villiers opts for experience.
Meanwhile, So’oialo will lead the All Blacks for the first time in his 45th test while he will also switch to the No 7 jersey which he wore once before – in the third test against the Lions in 2005.
The versatile So’oialo has not played much in that roving role since his early rugby days but the All Black selectors had few doubts about making the change once McCaw was hurt.
While the former Bok captain rates his side’s loose-forward play and lineout as strengths, he has reservations about the quality of their scrum.
He believes selectors made a huge mistake in ditching experienced prop BJ Botha and including new men Brian Mujati and Tendai Mtawarira.
“If you are dominated in the lineouts you can put it down to the technical superiority of the opposition and you can circumvent that issue by changing certain tactics,” he said.
“But if you’re being dominated in the scrums it has a major psychological impact because you’re losing a one-on-one battle and are essentially being bullied and physically beaten.
“The All Blacks backline is dangerous at the best of times. We’ll have to work hard and smart there or we could be in trouble.”Tweet