Heyneke Meyer says Springbok prop Coenie Oosthuizen is up there with the best impact players he’s ever coached, reports JON CARDINELLI in Dublin.
Back in South Africa, the debate regarding Oosthuizen’s best position continues to rage. Many feel he is best utilised as a loosehead prop, the perception being that his scrummaging from that position is solid and that his role as a ball-carrier and at the breakdown lends the team something extra.
As a tighthead, his scrummaging is not yet up to the required standard. He also doesn’t carry as much ball when asked to assume the duties of a No 3.
On Wednesday, Meyer revealed that he is among those who believe Oosthuizen’s best position is loosehead. However, Meyer reminded journalists that the Boks have lost two quality tightheads in the space of a few months, and that neither Frans Malherbe nor Marcel van der Merwe will feature on this tour to Europe.
The Bok coach went on to declare that there aren’t many tightheads performing for their respective franchises and provinces at present. South Africa has a dearth of Test-quality No 3s.
‘Coenie’s best position is loosehead, but the reality is that we need a No 3 right now,’ Meyer said. ‘Julian Redelinghuys is a specialist tighthead but hasn’t spent as much time with the squad, having been involved in the Currie Cup final. He doesn’t know the calls or the systems just yet.
‘I have faith in Coenie. Right now he is a good loosehead, and he is only 25 years old. He has time to develop into a good tighthead, and if he is going to be considered for the World Cup, he needs game time there now. I’ve never seen him in such great shape, and I’m sure he will take this opportunity.’
Jannie du Plessis will start at No 3 this Saturday, but will not play the full 80 minutes. Oosthuizen will be introduced at some stage of the second half as the Boks look to up the intensity levels at the set pieces and breakdowns.
Meyer said on Wednesday that Oosthuizen’s ability to play on either side of the scrum is a bonus. But perhaps it is Oosthuizen’s other strengths that make him such an attractive option in that final quarter.
The stats confirm that there are only two scrums (on average) during the second half of a Test. The Boks have taken this into account with their planning and selection. Oosthuizen, as Meyer said, can make a big impact in that period with his work around the park.
‘Coenie is up there with the best impact players I’ve ever coached,’ said the Bok coach. ‘There’s a big difference between a reserve and an impact player. Coenie is in the latter category, and has a big role to play for us this weekend.’
The Bok bench made a profound impact in the recent clashes against Argentina in Salta, and against Australia in Cape Town. In the subsequent match against New Zealand in Johannesburg, however, the pre-planned move to introduce a few players in the final quarter seemed to rob the Boks of momentum.
On Wednesday, Meyer defended his management of the match-day 23 over the past few months.
‘There’s been some speculation that I haven’t made the right choice at times, but I’m very happy with the way things have gone. We have a plan, and we know what we want to get out of those guys on the bench.
‘Schalk Burger has been great, and so has Bakkies Botha. That surprised me, as I never saw Bakkies as an impact player before, but he has done well. JP Pietersen is another who has done a lot for the team when has come on.’
Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images