Tighthead a headache for Springboks

Date published: November 5 2014

The Springboks have named a strong squad for the November Tests but there are serious concerns about depth amongst the props.

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has named a very strong looking squad for the upcoming November tour of Europe but there are serious concerns about depth amongst the props.

There’s a famous old quote from Danie Craven, who said the first player on any teamsheet should be your tighthead prop. And any coach’s second selection should be his back-up tighthead before he starts thinking about the rest of his team.

Ahead of a tour to Europe that will be used to prepare for what could well be a wet World Cup, having a solid scrum will be near the top of Meyer’s priority list. As they say in France, no scrum, no win.

Seen from that perspective, the Bok mentor will not be resting easily.

The embarrassment of South Africa’s scrum being shunted around like a Mini Cooper taking on a tractor in Salta has not been forgotten and the solution to the long-standing problems on both sides of the front row do not appear solved. At least not yet.

Jannie du Plessis has his detractors but he is SA’s undisputed first-choice tighthead, even if by virtue of his experience alone. The great concern is that Du Plessis has already played a massive amount of rugby this year and a long-term injury to the Sharks stalwart will leave the Boks in a very tight position (no pun intended).

Marcel van der Merwe looked like a decent prospective replacement but his season-ending injury in the Currie Cup semi-final could not have come at a worse time given that Frans Malherbe has yet to recover from an ankle injury picked up in Argentina.

That leaves Coenie Oosthuizen and Julian Redelinghuys, who has been called up for the first time, as the only alternatives. Oosthuizen has yet to convince anyone that he is a genuine tighthead, even if he has done well on the loosehead side. His versatility could be an asset, but he will is unlikely to dominate any of Europe’s props if he wears number three.

Having stood out in Super Rugby and in the Currie Cup, Redelinghuys deserves his call up, but it remains to be seen if he can cut it as Test level. There is no substitute for experience, and he has none.

On the loosehead side, things are slightly better with Trevor Nyakane set to back up Tendai Mtawarira as Gurthr