Big Joe fetches open-side jersey

Joe van Niekerk talks of his fetching role in the Bok set-up, even though coach Jake White does not believe in fetchers. Come on boys, read the same page.

Van Niekerk, who was played as an openside option against France, spoke to Die Beeld’s Morris Gilbert in Brisbane. Giblert is on tour with the Boks and in the interview Van Niekerk describes his kind of game and mentioned that word fetcher.

“My game and the kind of game Schalk plays are too different for me to try to copy him. The way Schalk competes for possession is so clinical that he can keep up to four opponents busy at a time. That gave the rest of us time to set up our lines of defence. My main aim as fetcher is not to turn over possession, because that does not happen often. It will be a bonus if I do, but my work is to spoil the opposition’s possession, within the laws, of course.

“The price Australia paid when Rocky Elsom received a yellow card against New Zealand last week made one realise again how important it is not to go in head first but to think what you are doing. Discipline is as important as the ability to delay or steal the opposition’s ball,” Van Niekerk said, adding that the key to success against the Wobblies was slowing down their ball at the breakdown.

“In their match last Saturday, one could see how well the All Blacks managed to deny them quick possession. We must do the same to ensure their backs do not go on the run.”

Van Niekerk is speaking as if he will again be asked to play an openside role, despite convener of selectors Peter Jooste insisting a week ago that Solly Tyibilika would start in place of Burger and Van Niekerk would revert back to No 8.

“As eighthman, it was also my job to retain our possession and to take away the opposition’s, but at number six I have the primary responsibility to get to the breakdown points first to delay their possession. I certainly have the speed to get my hands on the ball first,” Van Niekerk told Gilbert.

What Van Niekerk has to establish with White, though, is if he is an openside flanker or a fetcher. White believes in opensiders and not fetchers, although the player clearly sees his role as fetching the ball or slowing down delivery.

White will tell you all 15 players are fetchers. In theory, he would be right, but in practise if a team has one world class fetcher, they’re usually difficult to beat because no team has 15 fetchers.