The coaching staff of the Springbok rugby team will make a mistake if they play John Smit at tighthead prop in Britain next month says former Springbok prop Cobus Visagie.
Stephen Nell writes in Die Burger that the former Western Province front-row powerhouse, who played in his 100th match for English club Saracens at the weekend, feels the Springbok captain is still a fine hooker.
He sees no reason for switching Smit to the prop position. “My question is ‘why?’. Do you want to tell me there is no tighthead prop in South Africa who is up to the job?” Visagie asked on Monday.
“I think it will be exposed as a big mistake,” Visagie said from England on Monday.
Asked about his views after the national selectors had switched Smit to prop and installed Bismarck du Plessis as No 1 hooker for the tour of Wales, Scotland and England, Visagie expressed his doubts.
“I’d like to see John do well at tighthead but he has not played there for a long time. Most of his rugby as a prop forward was on the loosehead side.
“It is a lot easier to switch from hooker to loosehead, John is a big and intelligent guy but I can’t see him slotting in at tighthead.”
Whenever the Springboks tour in the northern hemisphere, they should be looking to dominate the tight phases.
At international level, he added, he would not start with Du Plessis at hooker ahead of Smith.
Surprised that John did not start in the Currie Cup final
“I was doing commentary for Sky television of the Currie Cup match between the Sharks and Griquas, and I thought John was brilliant at hooker.
“John is still playing good rugby. Bismarck is the future but I was surprised that John did not start in the Currie Cup final.
“I still see Bismarck as an impact player, with John playing for 50 minutes.”
Visagie pointed out that there were major differences between the prop forward positions.
“On the loosehead side you use your neck and lower back. A tighthead should have strong abdominal muscles and a strong upper body. You also need fitness in your legs to play at tighthead.”
Visagie feels the opening Test of the tour, against Wales on November 8, will be the toughest of the three for the Springboks.
Smith is likely to face Gethin Jenkens in the front row in the match in Cardiff. “Jenkins is an attacking loosehead prop,” Visagie said.
“My concern is that South Africa could end up with Chiliboy Ralepelle at hooker and John at tighthead. Both are inexperienced in those positions.”
“The Welsh are not particularly strong up front but they’ll try to outsmart the Springboks. I have a lot of respect for their coach, Warren Gatland.
“England’s rugby seems to be in a bit of a mess and many people are sceptical about them. Wales are a bigger threat than England,” Visagie said.Tweet