Hello and welcome to my first Ruck&Maul of 2013. And what a first (real) weekend of Super Rugby! The Southern Kings were terrific in beating the Force, the Chiefs-Highlanders game was a thriller, but Stormers fans are probably still cursing that dreadful defeat to the Bulls.
Elton Jantjies has been rightly criticised for a poor performance and missing four goal-kicks, but another crucial problem area for the Stormers was Deon Fourie’s throwing into the lineouts.
If Fourie could sort out his throwing, he could be a Springbok hooker. In fact, he would’ve been a Springbok by now if he was a bit more accurate. The Western Province Currie Cup-winning captain was unlucky not to make the squad for the end-of-year tour to Europe, and that would’ve been as a flank. We all know that Bok coach Heyneke Meyer prefers big loose forwards, so that is probably why Fourie didn’t get the nod.
But he could’ve had a look-in at No 2, especially as Bismarck du Plessis was injured. Provincial teammate Tiaan Liebenberg was chosen instead, along with Sharks back-up Craig Burden, who is not much better at throwing into a lineout than Fourie.
While every hooker will miss the occasional throw due to the normally chaotic properties of a lineout, a good one hits the spot 90% of the time. That was the main reason why John Smit lasted so long as the Bok captain and hooker. It is why Liebenberg (including his added bulk) was chosen by Meyer over Fourie.
Some critics feel that Fourie would make a better flank than hooker, but the man himself wants to play at No 2. And rightly so. He knows that he is arguably not big enough for the loose trio. But if he wants to push for a Bok spot, he needs to work even harder on his lineout throwing.
Fourie has been putting in the work in the off-season, but he was off-target in the warm-up game against Boland too, and continued the trend at Loftus last week. To deliver a skew throw in the fourth minute inside the Bulls 22, and then 20 minutes later over-throw a lineout five metres from the Bulls’ line as part of five problematic lineouts overall is unacceptable at Super Rugby level.
And he’s got the tallest man in the competition to aim at in 2.08-metre Andries Bekker ...
I am not trying to place all the Stormers’ problems on Fourie’s shoulders. He was actually quite good in every other facet of his play, carrying the ball energetically and winning a few turnovers at the breakdowns and slowing down Bulls possession as well.
He is just too good to be left out of the starting line-up at the moment, but a hooker’s most important job is to find his jumpers in the lineout. Sure, Allister Coetzee said that the lineout problems weren’t all Fourie’s fault, and a lot of things need to go right for a successful lineout.
But the 26-year-old needs to make up for the Loftus debacle with a big showing against the Sharks on Saturday. The Durban side’s lineout is not as competent as the Bulls’, but they have former Lions captain Franco van der Merwe at No 5, which has improved their lineout from last year, when No 8 Ryan Kankowski was their best jumper.
One final observation on the Stormers – Joe Pietersen would’ve been a better bet to come on at flyhalf for Jantjies at Loftus instead of Dewaldt Duvenage, who should’ve replaced Nic Groom at scrumhalf. Right wing Gio Aplon, who was taken off for Pietersen, was barely brought into the game, and looked dangerous with the few touches he had.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
@BryanHabana: Not the way we wanted to start! Far too many mistakes! If you don’t pitch up, this competition is ruthless!! #onwards&upwards #Stormers2013
WHO TO FOLLOW
@JacoTaute: Check out what the new Stormers fullback gets up to when he’s not on a rugby field.
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