Coenie blow leaves Bok bench light
12 Jun 2012
Coenie Oosthuizen’s neck injury will leave the Springboks without a genuine utility prop for the remainder of the England series.
On Tuesday, the Bok medical staff confirmed that Oosthuizen had ‘a mildly bulging disc in his neck and should be out of action for between two and three months’.
What this means is that Oosthuizen will not be available for the Boks’ next two Tests or the Cheetahs’ remaining Super Rugby matches.
While last Saturday marked Oosthuizen’s Test debut, coach Heyneke Meyer had previously spoken about the prop as an important part of the team’s future plans. Oosthuizen has excelled as a loosehead prop for the Cheetahs, but it is at tighthead where Meyer feels he could eventually be the most destructive.
Oosthuizen performed well when the came off the bench against England, and so many, including the Bok coaching staff, would have felt their front-row combinations were off to an encouraging start.
Now that he is sidelined with a neck injury, however, the Boks will need somebody else to play an impact role as well as provide the team with loosehead and tighthead options.
Werner Kruger has played the majority of his career at No 3 and looked out of his depth when he debuted for the Boks in 2011. Dean Greyling is like Kruger in that he battled during last year’s Tri-Nations and is more a loosehead specialist than a utility.
The other prop in the wider squad is the 21-year-old Frans Malherbe, who has great potential but isn’t yet viewed as the starting tighthead at his franchise.
If seems likely that Kruger will be named in the match 22 when it is announced on Wednesday. Meyer admitted that Oosthuizen’s injury was an untimely one, but still maintains that the reserves can fill that void.
‘Coenie has brought a lot of energy to our team and he played a major part in our victory in the first Test, making a big impact when he came on,’ said Meyer. ‘The player’s welfare comes first and we decided that it would be best for Coenie to rather get some proper rest and rehabilitation now.
‘Hopefully he’ll be back to full fitness soon. He definitely has a role to play in future.’
Beast Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis and Jannie du Plessis will continue as the Boks’ starting front row. Jannie is another who believes that Oosthuizen is a prop for the future, and that it was sad to see him robbed of a further opportunity to impress.
‘To lose a player of that quality is a blow,’ said Du Plessis. ‘He’s very strong in the set phases and has the ability to make a lot of turnovers at the breakdown, which is rare for a prop. Coenie certainly made a difference in the first Test.’
Meyer also praised Du Plessis for his own contributions to the team cause. Meyer believes it was Du Plessis’ best match in a Bok shirt, and is expecting the tighthead to maintain the high standards in the matches to follow.
‘I’m not too sure if it was my best performance,’ said Du Plessis modestly. ‘Perhaps it just seems that way because I was seen a bit more [with ball in hand].’
England were guilty of conceding several free kicks for an early engagement as well as a penalty for using a hand to get the shovel ball back on their side. Du Plessis pointed out these instances when asked to comment on the hosts’ supposed scrum dominance last Saturday.
‘Look, it was a great collective performance at the scrum. It really makes a big difference when you have all eight guys working together.
‘Having said that, I’m not sure if you can say we got one over them in Durban. If you start thinking like that, well, that’s the quickest way to ensure you will be brought down to earth in the next game.’
Du Plessis feels that the Bok set piece has improved, and that the expertise of new scrum coach, Pieter de Villiers, has been influential.
‘He’s brought in some new ideas. It’s just the small things that when all told can make a big difference. Technical observations, specific fitness drills, where to position the feet… stuff like that. It all adds up.’
By Jon Cardinelli, in Johannesburg