Cheetahs loosehead Wian du Preez should not be “thrown into the deep end” in his imminent conversion from loosehead to tighthead, Jannie du Plessis should be in the Springbok squad, and John Smit will be able to stand his ground at tighthead against the British and Irish Lions.
Ashfak Mohamed reports for the Cape Times:
Those are the views of Springbok front-row legend and double World Cup winner Os du Randt after Bok coach Peter de Villiers included only one recognised tighthead prop, Smit, in a South African training squad this week. The Bok coach also revealed plans to convert Du Preez into a tighthead prop.
Du Plessis was a surprise omission from the squad to play a Namibian Invitation XV in Windhoek next Friday.
Smit has not played exclusively at tighthead for the Sharks in the Super 14 in 2009 as he filled in at hooker on several occasions. He rotated in the No.3 position with Du Plessis throughout the season.
Du Randt said on Wednesday Du Plessis should be in the SA squad.
“I definitely think Jannie du Plessis should be there. I think he is the steadiest scrummager at this stage in South Africa,” he said.
“He does have a bit of a problem in open play as he is sometimes not in position on defence but it isn’t a major problem. It is something that can be worked on. But Wian is now there with John, so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”
Du Preez has performed well as a loosehead for a number of years, but Du Randt, who sometimes helps out with the scrums at the Cheetahs, said that there are plans to mould Du Preez, who is 1.85m and weighs 120kg, into a tighthead as well.
“We do have plans to convert Wian into a tighthead here in the Free State. So it is the logical solution that Peter is attempting,” he said.
“I just don’t think at this stage, without any experience or without doing anything that you can suddenly throw him in at the deep end at tighthead. I guess you also have to look at the opposition, which is the Namibian Invitation XV. We don’t even know who is going to play in that team.
“Maybe Wian comes off, who knows. Years back at the Cheetahs, we did let Wian scrum at tighthead during the practices. He last scrummed at tighthead five or six years ago. So it will be difficult for him but the logical choice would’ve been to pick an established tighthead.
“Wian can become a good tighthead over time. He has the right build, in that he is short and stocky, and he is strong enough for it. It is just about technique and getting used to playing there.”
The Lions have chosen a big group of forwards who will try to intimidate the Boks. Props Andrew Sheridan (England) and Welshman Gethin Jenkins (Wales) are tough customers while locks Simon Shaw and captain Paul O’Connell are also highly physical players.
But Du Randt is confident that Smit can handle the pressure in the scrums at tighthead.
“I’m OK with John at tighthead against the Lions. If you look at what happened in the Super 14 he never struggled except in the game against the Waratahs,” he said.
“But what South African tighthead did not struggle against Benn Robinson? He is the one guy who scrums really well.
“So John scrums well, is good on defence and of course because of his leadership, we have to make place for him in the team.
“I think that because he had to survive at tighthead, he has become a bit too heavy for hooker. So I don’t think that he is the logical choice at hooker, although he will be a good back-up.”
Du Randt, who was part of the 1997 Springbok side that lost the Test series 2-1 to the Lions, said the Boks must confront their expected physical approach head-on.
“We must take on the Lions in the forwards. They are coming with the same mentality, same coach and same tactics that they had in 1997, with big, heavy guys,” he said.
“They are used to scrumming and making the game slower. So we must match them physically and try to get the ball to the wings, but we mustn’t only play champagne rugby.
“During the first 30 to 40 minutes it will be very important to mix it up, and then we must win in the last 30 minutes. We must take the game to them. I also think we must kick just a bit more tactically, to put extra pressure on them.”Tweet