Dropping Trevor was not very clever, Rassie
Nyakane should be loosehead prop, not Thomas du Toit
A reason (not the major reason) I took up journalism was my inability to handle mathematics after high school. For a mere mortal like me calculus was a bridge too far.
One would love to think numerical obfuscation would be limited to academics, but clearly one Johan “Rassie” Erasmus is fooling the SA rugby public with his use of Thomas du Toit ahead of Trevor Nyakane at loosehead prop on the end of year tour.
Why is a prop, who started out at loosehead moved to tighthead with the ostensible reason to develop in the position, moved back to the same square when resources were dedicated to make the move happen?
The same question would be posed to Nyakane, who is not only a shorter but a better version of Du Toit and has adapted better to the same change.
What is Erasmus trying to achieve with this? What happens to the players when they go back to their franchises?
The Du Toit case is pertinent because he is not even the best specialist prop at the Sharks. Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira’s age may be advancing but no one else has pressed a serious case in Durban.
Coenie Oosthuizen has made the successful transition from loosehead to tighthead. When he remains injury free, he shuts out Du Toit’s claims.
Nyakane’s matter at the Bulls is different because the inferior coaching and recruitment in Tshwane has seen the franchise relinquish good front-rowers while retaining some pretty average ones.
When fit, Nyakane has held up the Bulls scrum manfully – but through the respective Heyneke Meyer and Allister Coetzee eras, he has not been trusted.
Nyakane displayed more than enough strength and technical nous during the Currie Cup to show he is a candidate in the absence of premier loosehead props. It was apparent on October 13 when, at a wet and wild Loftus Versfeld against a rampant Western Province scrum anchored by Louw, Nyakane moved from three to one and shored up the set-piece before the weather had the final say.
Nyakane again manned up in the face of a superb Western Province scrum a week later in the semifinal.
This is not to dispel Du Toit’s claim to being a loosehead of reasonable repute. However, I remember a press conference in Durban when then Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold was ready to be hung, drawn and quartered in his defence of moving Du Toit to tighthead.
Du Toit was torn apart by even rank looseheads in his tighthead baptism. To be honest, he has improved his craft at three even though he is not the best SA has at the moment.
Transformation is not at the centre of this debate but it would be blind to ignore the fact that in the two end of year Tests against England and France, Rassie has picked seven players of colour in his match-day 23 – with only two black forwards in Siya Kolisi and the much maligned Bongi Mbonambi. Transformation, though, will be a debate for another day.
This selection sends out all the wrong messages, especially to talented looseheads keen to make their mark as Steven Kitshoff’s understudy once Mtawarira retires.
Also, it tells players that allowances will be made for specific players at the expensive of others regardless of talent and track record.
Selections remain a coach’s prerogative. But amid the deafening silence on the status of Nyakane being a traveller and less of a player, the bigger the Pandora’s Box will be.