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Wed Dec 07 20:17:25 SAST 2016

Make room for dancing prop

Simnikiwe Xabanisa | 2013-08-16 07:39:43.0
IN WITH A CHANCE: Springbok prop Trevor Nyakane, who scored his first Test try on June 22, should get a chance to try his luck as a tighthead Picture: MANUS VAN DYK/GALLO IMAGES

The big talking point in local rugby circles over the past fortnight has been the fact that the Springboks have one specialist tighthead in their Rugby Championship squad, so I thought I'd add my 84kg of heft to the debate.

As things stand, Bok coach Heyneke Meyer has war horse Jannie du Plessis as the first name on his team sheet, with the vris Coenie Oosthuizen as his backup.

On the face of it, it's a pretty sound idea. The 127kg Coenie has had the look of a coming man about him through his contributions in the Cheetahs' best-ever Super rugby season.

Playing largely as a loosehead, Oosthuizen has shown qualities that go a long way towards confirming him as a potentially fine international front rower.

The 24-year-old has proven himself to be a powerful carrier of the ball; a punishing defender; and almost as good as Heinrich Brussow at stealing ball.

He also appears to be the only prop in world rugby who can goose-step. The only catch is that when it comes to what would be his primary duty as a tighthead prop, scrumming, he has had his moments but has largely been unconvincing.

Meyer's keenness to use Oosthuizen as a right shoulder merchant is influenced by two things: he has played tighthead prop before, and his reputation for having freakish strength precedes him.

There are two unconfirmed stories that do the rounds about Oosthuizen which add a touch of myth to his status as a piano shifter who prefers to carry the thing alone. It is alleged that it took a group of senior boys, one of whom is claimed to be Frans Steyn, to subdue a junior Oosthuizen for initiation at Grey College.

Apparently when the ordeal was done, the new boy went after them one by one and dished out his verdict of rough justice.

It is also alleged that "Shrek" once threatened a patron at a bar by using the immortal words: "Ek gaan jou dood p**s!" (Loose translation: "I'll slap you to death.")

Strong stuff, that.

But the other two reasons why the Oosthuizen experiment may not necessarily work is that he's already had a serious neck injury and, unlike most tightheads, tends to be attracted by the bright lights of open play.

The men said to be behind Oosthuizen in the queue to replace "Doc Jannie", Lourens Adriaanse and Pat Cilliers, should have contrasting expectations of the Bok selectors.

Adriaanse is a strong scrummager and a mean fetcher who is owed an opportunity after being selected but not used during the Four Nations tournament.

Cilliers has gone from a free-running tighthead with Schalk Burger-esque blond locks when he started at the Sharks to an injury-prone player at Western Province.

This brings us to a name that has hardly been mentioned as a possible solution, Trevor Nyakane.

The loosehead is apparently a source of frustration for Cheetahs scrum coach Os du Randt.

His gym stats suggest he is every bit as explosive as Oosthuizen, but he has shown a reluctance to carry the ball.

Having also played tighthead at school, Du Randt said he almost never gets penalised in the scrum and seems to prefer the menial tasks of front row play like scrumming, lifting in the lineouts, hitting rucks, and tackling himself to a standstill.

To me it sounds like Nyakane has more natural tighthead instincts than Oosthuizen - maybe he should also get a chance.

If it helps his cause, his try celebrations suggest he may well be the best dancing prop in the world.

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