Coenie: Poacher par excellence

Wed, 13 Mar 2013 09:28
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Coenie Oosthuizen is known for his ball-carrying, but the Springbok prop has the skills normally associated with an openside flank.

Coenie Oosthuizen is known for his ball-carrying and barnstorming runs, but the Springbok prop has the skills normally associated with an openside flank.

Coenraad Victor Oosthuizen, affectionately known as 'Shrek' to his teammates, is sometimes just as effective in turning over ball at the breakdown.

It is a skill the Cheetahs' coaching staff are honing to give them a proverbial 'two-pronged' attack at the breakdown.

While not yet in the league of fellow Cheetahs Bok Heinrich Brüssow, one of the few specialist openside flanks in South Africa, Oosthuizen again displayed his propensity for poaching possession at the breakdown.

Cheetahs assistant coach Hawies Fourie said there are certain aspects of the two-Test Bok prop's breakdown skills they are still working on.

"He is very good at it," Fourie told this website in an interview from the team's base in Sydney - where they are preparing for their encounter with the Waratahs on Friday.

"It is just his decision-making, when to do it [got for a turnover] and when not, is something we still have to work on," the Cheetahs mentor said.

"There are times when he goes from ruck to ruck without [making] an influence.

"If he learns to target the right tackles and not join rucks unnecessary, he will be a lot more effective.

"He already does great work - he won two crucial turnovers in his [34-minute] stint on the field [against the Highlanders last Saturday]," Fourie said.

The Cheetahs' assistant coach admitted that some of the 'errors in judgment' may be due to the fact that he has had plenty of disruptions through injuries in the last year or so.

Oosthuizen only returned at the start of the season, after suffering a succession of neck and back injuries in 2011 and 2012 - which limited him to just two Test appearances since his debut against England in June.

Oosthuizen has played off the bench in all three the Cheetahs' games this season, as he slowly works his way back to full match fitness.

"It could be [a lack of game time]," Fourie told this website, adding: "But it is a tendency of his. He has the propensity to go to the ruck and see if he can poach the ball, while often it is simply not on - then he must get back in the defensive line.

"It is something we are working constantly with him.

"There is no doubt that he is a very valuable player in that aspect."

The other aspect of the 24-year-old's game that he often does not get credit for is his defence. In the win over the Highlanders last week he made 10 tackles in his brief stay on the field.

The leading tackler for the Cheetahs - who made 220 in the win in Invercargill - were Pieter Labuschagne (25 in the game and 57 in three matches). Loosehead prop Trevor Nyakane made 19 tackles in an 80-minute stay on the field.

Fourie also confirmed that it is at Oosthuizen's request that he is moving permanently to tighthead, a position he played in school, before being moved to loosehead.

"He prefers tighthead, he wants to play [on] that side [of the scrum]," Fourie said.

"It will become a permanent shift.

"However, if we have an emergency he will help out at loosehead prop, but it is his wish to play tighthead."

By Jan de Koning

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