Three former Springbok props believe CJ van der Linde is the right man to anchor South Africa’s scrum in the series against the British and Irish Lions.
Sport 24 reports that Van der Linde is currently recovering from a foot injury and is therefore unsure whether he will recover in time.
“A final decision still has to be made whether I will be operated on. If that happens, the operation will be done in South Africa or New Zealand. I will only then know whether I’m available,” Van der Linde told Hendrik Cronje in Bloemfontein.
Willie Meyer, Dawie Theron and Hannes Marais – all formerly among South Africa’s best props – believe Springbok coach Peter de Villiers will make a big mistake to pick a rookie tighthead against the Lions.
They do not believe John Smit is the right man for the job. Rather, Van der Linde has their backing.
Marais, who captained South Africa in their series defeat against the Lions in 1974, believes De Villiers will make a mistake by picking Smit at prop.
“John is a good hooker and captain, but not the answer at tighthead. If you weaken one position in the scrum against the Lions, it will be to the detriment of the entire pack,” said Marais.
“We have to identify the best tighthead early, and if that is CJ, we should try to get him back to the country. We’ll have to get him here as quickly as possible to ascertain his fitness and make him feel part of the team.”
Theron, who played against the Lions in 1997, warned that the Lions will be out to “dominate” at set-piece.
“There is a huge void at tighthead and that places South Africa in a vulnerable position,” he said.
“John is performing well at tighthead, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll stand his ground there against the Lions. CJ is the right guy, and if he is injured, Jannie du Plessis can be brought into the mix.”
Willie John McBride, captain of the victorious Lions side of 1974, already indicated in overseas newspapers that the scrums will be a crucial platform to attack the Springboks.
Meyer warned that the Lions would exploit the situation if South Africa did not play with a recognised tighthead prop.
“The Lions will do their homework and will be aware of the fact if we do not play with a recognised tighthead. We will be targeted there,” said Meyer.
“A good tighthead is of the utmost importance. You could still get away with props that do no more than scrum a few years ago, but these days they also have to be useful on attack. Jannie du Plessis offers a lot there and will be a good choice if CJ van der Linde is not available.”Tweet