Former Bok props Ollie le Roux and Robbie Kempson believe there is still a place for Coenie Oosthuizen in the Springbok set-up. BRENTON CHELIN reports.
The Boks were absolutely battered in a sweltering Salta on Saturday. Call it what you may – a bad day at the office or a sign of things to come – but it most certainly wasn't a performance becoming of a Springbok pack. Nick Mallett labelled it an embarrassment, while numerous others have taken to social media to air their views.
There was very little positivity to come out of the two Tests against Argentina, results aside. It was the showing at scrum time that have raised the most concerns, though, especially with the All Blacks on the horizon.
SARugbymag.co.za spoke to Kempson and Le Roux about the Boks' struggles in an attempt to unearth how a Springbok strength has been transformed into a perceived weakness in the space of a fortnight.
'I think a personnel shake-up is something that we have to look at going into the next couple of Championship games,' says Kempson. 'If we don't do that, the woes that happened against Argentina are going to continue for some time to come.'
However, South Africa is hardly teeming with Test-quality tighthead props at the moment, especially with Frans Malherbe being ruled out for the rest of the season. One player who has been in and around the Springbok squad in recent times is Oosthuizen, with varying degrees of success.
While both Kempson and Le Roux agree that he could yet make a difference for the Boks, they differ in their opinion of his role going forward.
'I think Coenie is still capable as a tighthead,' says Le Roux. 'I've watched him and yes, there is a weakness in his technique, but if we can sort it out he will be a really good international tighthead prop.'
'You've got to give the poor guy an opportunity in his strongest position, which is at loosehead prop.'
Scratching deeper, both Kempson and Le Roux agree that a simple personnel change won't be enough to arrest the slide. The Du Plessis brothers were well below their best against Argentina, leading to questions about whether they have already played too much rugby already this season. Both featured prominently during the Sharks' Super Rugby campaign, while the Boks have suffered as a consequence.
'The management of Jannie has been absolutely appalling from a Saru perspective,' says Kempson, who represented the Boks on 37 occasions.
'The fact that he's played the amount of rugby that he has in the last two and a half years, as the premier tighthead in the country, has not done him any justice. He's got a Springbok contract so Saru should be managing his workload.'
Le Roux believes the issues lie elsewhere.
'It's a technical problem with the Boks at the moment, not a problem with our strength or ability.'
'Bismarck is struggling with his technique at the moment. When he hooks the ball he's getting too high, allowing the opposition to get under our front row.'
With Australia and New Zealand still to come in the Rugby Championship, the Boks will have to rebuild their confidence after the humiliation suffered in Salta if they're to keep their title hopes alive, starting with the Wallabies in Perth.
'We should comfortably be able to contain the Aussies,' says Kempson. 'If we don't, then alarm bells should start ringing. We'll learn from the experience we've had against Argentina and I'm pretty sure Pieter de Villiers will adapt things accordingly.'
Le Roux is far more obstinate in his assessment.
'We've got this fatalistic mentality in South Africa. If we don't have the best tighthead then bad luck. We must then pick a strong locking combination to compensate for that, and they make sure we don't go backwards.
'I've got a feeling the Boks will be much better in the scrum during the rest of the Rugby Championship.'
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