JOHANNESBURG - You'd think all Coenie Oosthuizen would want to talk about is scrumming. You’d be wrong.
Oosthuizen, it seems, is more excited about the way the Springboks are playing their rugby at the moment and what Franco Smith has contributed in helping the Boks be a better attacking team, with more skills. He wants to talk about running lines and, of course, that try he scored against France in the second Test in Durban last Saturday.
“It’s always so special scoring a try in the green and gold. It’s a moment you never forget,” said Oosthuizen.
“It was a last-minute, split decision, to run over that guy. I suppose I could have stepped him, but for me, running a straight, hard line has always been best.”
France replacement back Nans Ducuing will always remember that moment, when the 130kg Oosthuizen powered over him in the 67th minute to help seal the win for the Boks.
The 28-year-old was a surprise selection when coach Allister Coetzee picked him in his squad before the series, but in his two appearances from off the bench in the last fortnight it is clear Oosthuizen still has plenty to offer the Boks. He may at this stage just be a back-up player, but he’s loving the new Bok environment.
“I was out of the mix for a year and that was a very bad time in my life,” he said this week. “Only when you’re out of the Bok team do you realise how much you’re missing. Not being selected last year hurt me, it was disappointing, even if the team didn’t do so well. It makes one work harder.”
And that he did. Oosthuizen found a new gear at the Sharks this year, with his scrumming and all-round contribution catching the eye, but crucially he has also been injury free.
He goes back to last Saturday’s try and the general improvement in the Boks’ attacking game, praising the work done by Smith.
“Franco has made a huge improvement to our attack. He’s brought each player into the attacking structure and he wants every person to be the best person they can be. He likes to focus on the things that make you a better player," Oosthuizen said.
“Yes, defence is important, but you enjoy the game so much more when you’re scoring tries. It’s something Franco’s got right ... for South African rugby it is phenomenal that a guy steps in and everyone buys into what he is selling.”
But rugby is also about defence and in this department the Boks have also stepped up and bought into what Brendan Venter has been selling. The Boks have made hundreds of tackles in the last two Tests against France and shown a resilience not seen in some time by the national side; it is what has helped them to a series win with a game to spare.
“Remember one thing, you can’t buy defence,” said the big loosehead prop. “It’s something you have got to work on, it’s a thing of personal responsibility. It’s a pride thing too. I’m not going to let the guy down next to me and he’s not going to want to let me down. It’s about working for your mate, getting up off the ground and making another tackle that’s what good defence is, it’s about working for the guy next to you.”
Having earned 25 international caps over six years, Oosthuizen has been a part of a few Bok teams and experienced many highs and lows in Test rugby, but he says the current crop of players has something special about them.
“This team has the potential to go very far. The players care about more than themselves; it’s what we stand for," he said.
“From the beginning of the year, at the first camp, there was a feeling that was shared that this is not about us, it’s for South Africa and the (Springbok) badge."