Bok tighthead trial in Paris
Bok tighthead trial in ParisSHARE
With tighthead props in short supply, the Test against France in Paris this weekend will provide another Springbok No.3 with a chance to impress.
Having come through the Tests against Wales and Scotland with rookie Frans Malherbe anchoring the scrum, the Boks will have to hand another tighthead his first start on Saturday after Malherbe was sent home due to a rib cartilage injury.
The Bulls' Frik Kirsten was called up as cover for the Stormers prop, but the contenders for the starting berth in Paris are Coenie Oosthuizen and the uncapped Lourens Adriaanse.
With the Boks having relied heavily on veteran Jannie du Plessis over the last few years, there are not many other tightheads around with much Test experience, so the match in Paris could be another opportunity for the understudies to make a statement against a powerful French front row.
Despite playing tighthead at school, Oosthuizen has played the bulk of his professional rugby as a loosehead, and has been used exclusively as an impact player by Bok coach Heyneke Meyer who believes the Cheetahs prop could develop into a Test standard tighthead in time.
He certainly held his own as a late first-half replacement for Malherbe against Scotland at Murrayfield where he was solid in the scrums and got through plenty of work in the loose.
Bok forwards coach Johan van Graan said that whilst the final decision is up to Meyer, he believes Oosthuizen has shown that he is ready to start a Test match at tighthead.
"All credit to Coenie, I think it is the most he has played at tighthead – 46 minutes in which he made 15 tackles and scored a try so I think he had a really good game.
"I think Coenie is good enough to start, I think he is gaining quite a bit of experience and he showed on the weekend that he is good enough to play either off the bench or start a Test match," he said.
Springbok scrum coach Pieter de Villiers, who played 68 Tests at tighthead for France, knows that the French will pose a serious threat at scrum-time, but he believes that whoever wears the green and gold No.3 jersey will be up to the task.
"France will always be a strong scrum challenge, they have proved to be one of the most successful scrums around the globe. A year ago they have given away the least scrum penalties and earned the most so it will be a strong scrum test for us which is great.
"We have also been working hard on our scrums, our system fires well and it is great to end the tour off against a good, strong scrummaging side to see where we stand.
"Coenie has grown, he is powerful and technically he has grown a lot so we have got a lot of confidence in Coenie. We have got a lot of confidence in Lourens as well who has proved himself to be a strong scrummager.
"Whatever choices the coach makes I think the guys will fit in well into the system," he explained.
Van Graan said that the scrumming performance against Scotland has given the pack confidence ahead of their clash with Les Bleus.
"I think there were a lot less resets in this game on the weekend. At one stage we scrummed with six players on our own goal-line, attacking and defending, we were pretty happy with the way it went.
"On our ball we were quite good, we had a solid base and then at times when we needed to exit from our own half in the scrums Duane [Vermeulen] did really well at the back.
"We had a new front row combination and I think they did well," he said.
The only other fitness concern at the moment surrounds flank Francois Louw, who was stretchered off after being charged by Scottish lock Jim Hamilton at a ruck. Bok team doctor Craig Roberts said that he has progressed quite well so the chances of him playing against France are quite good.
"The other person that was injured was Francois Louw who got quite a bad stinger where he pinched a nerve in his neck and got some pain down his arm.
"We always take precautions with that and that is why we had to immobilise his neck on the field and take him off on a stretcher. Thankfully he saw a specialist straight after the game and he has responded really well.
"He came home with the team and spent the function with us after the game. We will see how he goes over the next 48 hours but we are quite optimistic that he will be ready for the weekend," he said.