JOHANNESBURG - If Franco Smith has his way, the Springbok back division will in future include two fullbacks and three centres and there won’t be any wings.
It’s rather radical, but the Boks' attack coach and the man responsible for the backline makes some good points. He’s of the opinion the more play-makers involved in a game, the better for the team and that having someone hanging out wide on the wing is simply a waste.
It’s something the All Blacks have half experimented with if you think about their employing Israel Dagg - a regular fullback - on the wing, and also Ben Smith, also a first-choice fullback.
Dillyn Leyds coming into the Springbok team this week for Raymond Rhule might have come about because of Rhule’s defensive frailties but it’s a selection that Smith will probably be very much in favour of; the Western Province man being comfortable at wing and fullback. So, with Andries Coetzee in the No 15 jumper, the Boks will start against the Wallabies in Saturday’s Test here with two fullbacks in their midst.
With this in mind, it remains somewhat mind-boggling that Ruan Combrinck then remains sidelined as he is comfortable at both wing and fullback, kicks well with both feet and could, potentially, slot in as a third centre. Another player who Smith rates highly and who is sure to have a long Bok career is the Sharks’ S’bu Nkosi.
Smith explained his thinking behind the three centres-two fullbacks philosophy.
“A player like S’bu is so explosive, but I’d like to see him come off his wing more ... I think we must move away from having wings.
“The more active players we have out there the better ... and we need to get the ball into these players’ hands,” explained Smith. “A guy like S’bu has got real X-factor in general play; he’s not just a finisher. He needs to have freedom to get his hands on the ball and play.
“He’s getting good opportunities at the Sharks at the moment but I’d like to see him get into the middle of the field even more and make those breaks.”
Smith has found that 90 percent of attacking play in a game of rugby comes from general play and that is why the more players with the skills to make something happen across the field is the way to go.
Leyds, having played at wing and fullback for the Stormers and Western Province, certainly offers more than a man who has only played on the wing; his reading of the game, special awareness and positional play will all add greater value to the whole.
The likes of Combrinck, Nkosi, Warrick Gelant and Makazole Mapimpi fit into this category of player.
The Boks, under pressure right now to perform well on home soil against Australia and New Zealand, won’t deviate much from the traditional way of lining up in Bloemfontein this weekend and next week in Cape Town, but don’t be surprised if there is some experimentation along these lines in Europe in November if Smith can convince Allister Coetzee and the rest of the coaching team it is the way of the future. After all, the All Blacks have had success with it, so perhaps it’s not so radical after all.
Leyds will not be the only newcomer to the Bok team on Thursday when Coetzee names his line-up for Saturday’s Rugby Championship match here against the Wallabies. Ross Cronje will return at No 9 after missing the Albany Test, while up front Francois Louw will take over from Jean-Luc du Preez at flank.