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Balie calls for back-up

Tue, 29 Oct 2013 12:50
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It is now the time because the Boks have got a huge pack of forwards
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World Cup-winning Springbok prop Balie Swart believes the year-end tour is the perfect time to give the frontline Bok props a rest to explore other options.

With two years to go until the 2015 World Cup the Boks have two props with over 50 Test caps each in Tendai Mtawarira and Jannie du Plessis, but there are not many others with enough experience, which is a worrying situation.

Swart has been travelling the country during the Currie Cup, sharing his expert scrum knowledge with all of the teams and helping them adapt to the new scrum laws, so he knows more about the emerging front row talent in South Africa than most.

Although the Sharks' all-Bok front row were impressive at scrum-time in the Currie Cup Final against Western Province, both Mtawarira and Du Plessis were injury concerns leading up to the match, and both have since been picked to go on tour to Europe in November.

Swart believes that the contracting system in South Africa has cheated these players of a deserved break, and warned that given their current work load they could well burn out before the World Cup in 2015.

He told this website in an interview: "I firmly believe that somewhere along the line we have to give these guys a proper break. If we carry on like this it will run out in 2015 I can promise you that.

"In New Zealand it is all about the fern and the All Blacks, and the quicker we get to central contracting where players are contracted by SA rugby, so that the coach can give a guy a couple of weeks or months off the better.

"At this stage I don't think any of the unions want to do that because they pay the players a helluva lot of money so they want to milk them," he added.

Bok coach Heyneke Meyer has made it clear that he is committed to picking his best available team, but Swart believes that there would be much to gain from giving a few other props an opportunity on the upcoming tour.

"Heyneke's reputation is on the line as well, so he will do everything in his power to make sure he picks the best team that he can at all costs.

"I think we have got to start thinking about the longevity of certain players. If you have got to do it to two of them then you do it because in 2015 you will pick the fruits of it.

"That is how you are going to get the best out of Jannie and look after your best No.3 in the country, that is how you are going to dominate other teams," said Swart.

The three other props in the Bok squad are the inexperienced pair of Coenie Oosthuizen and Frans Malherbe, along with Gurthro Steenkamp, and Swart believes that these players must be given a chance to start at the highest level before it is too late.

"The problem is we need to play those guys, you can't play Jannie [Du Plessis] over and over. For instance what we should have said is 'Jannie you don't go on the overseas tour, you take a break because you are important for us' rather let him take a break for six months and then bring him back into the fold.

"We mustn't be scared to give the guys opportunities because players rise to the occasion once they put the green and gold on and they play out of their skins," he said.

Whilst Du Plessis and Mtawarira are feeling the effects of continous rugby, the rest of the pack is as big and strong as ever, which Swart believes will make it easier for the rookie props to make the step up.

"It is now the time because the Boks have got a huge pack of forwards. Throw a guy in there, the rest of the guys will look after individuals like that.

"How else do you test a guy? You have to throw him in the deep end to see if he can swim. Especially as we have got good hooker in Bismarck [Du Plessis] and Adriaan [Strauss], they will look after guys. We have got good locks that will bring through the push power and we have got good flanks. All that guy needs to do is to stay straight," he said.

Apart from the fact that Mtawarira and Du Plessis should be managed carefully as their long-term fitness is a concern, an even greater worry is what we would be left with should they break down.

Having experienced players to call on is invaluable, but surely we should be considering what the Boks would do without them if they are eventually played into the ground.

As it stands there are not many props around who could take their places, and it looks likely to remain that way until 2015, as not many others seem to be getting an opportunity to step up and gain some experience themselves.

By Michael de Vries

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