Coenie Oosthuizen learns how to walk tall as tighthead
The Coenie Oosthuizen puzzle has been one that has long confused and polarised the fickle South African rugby public.
Originally a loosehead prop‚ the 28-year-old from Potchefstroom was moved to tight-head‚ one of the most difficult‚ if not the most difficult position on the rugby field.
More often than not‚ it is a position that requires the incumbent to have growth time in the No3 jersey from early school level before the necessary refinement.
With Oosthuizen being tall‚ adjusting to the position was never going to be easy and the teething process has been somewhat difficult.
That also explains why Oosthuizen has only started six of his 28 Tests since his debut against England in Durban in 2012.
With incumbent Frans Malherbe out injured and Trevor Nyakane free-styling between the No1 and No3 jerseys‚ there is a pitched but necessary internal battle between the more experienced Oosthuizen and the talented Ruan Dreyer.
Springbok scrum coach Matt Proudfoot has been impressed by Oosthuizen’s quick return to fitness after suffering a rib injury in the Springboks’ 41-23 win over Argentina in Salta on August 26.
It is likely Oosthuizen will start again at tight-head alongside powerhouse Lions hooker Malcolm Marx and Sharks veteran Tendai "Beast" Mtawarira in Saturday’s Rugby Championship Test against Australia at nib Stadium in Perth.
"Together with the guys at the Sharks‚ we came up with a plan for Coenie before he had his operation‚" Proudfoot said.
"We sat down with him and told him there were certain things he needed to improve on. In the past six months, he’s been working on them.
"He’s more square than he was before and his left shoulder is more prominent," he said.
"There are different spaces a tighthead has to manipulate and he needs both of his shoulders to do that, and his bind is better.
"Coenie’s very strong and he’s got a powerful personality.
"Those are aspects you need from a tighthead."