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Why White prefers Rossouw’s bulk

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Pundits have quizzed the wisdom of Springbok coach Jake White’s decision to go for more bulk and less skill among the forwards in the two-test series against a depleted English side.

And it is number eight, where Bulls utility forward Danie Rossouw is the preferred choice for White, that has raised most eyebrows.

However, the Bok coach was – as always – ready with an answer when asked why there is no place for the skill of Pierre Spies in the starting XV when the Boks face England in the second test at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.

What has concerned the critics is that Rossouw never plays at number eight for his province (the Blue Bulls) or Super 14 franchise (the Bulls). In those competitions he is almost exclusively used as a lock forward and only occasionally as a flank.

In fact this year he even managed to keep veteran Bok second row forward Bakkies Botha out of the Bulls side for a couple of games after the latter returned from injury.

But White feels Rossouw adds far more value at number eight to the Bok setup than what he does as a flank or lock.

He admitted that there were some shortcomings in Rossouw’s game during the record 58-10 hammering of England last week, but felt it was not enough reason to dump him for Spies.

White prefers Spies as an impact player and there’s no doubt he made a huge impact when he came on in the second half against a tiring English side last week.

“I think defensively he [Rossouw] was outstanding,” White said of the utility forwards display in the first test.

“I think the way that he cleaned out rucks was very important in terms of the physical presence that he had at the breakdown.

“To be fair to him, and it is not his fault, but it is the first time in a long time that he has played at No.8,” White said in reference to the fact that Rossouw last played in that position on the year-end tour to Ireland and England for the Boks.

White also pointed out that it was “the first time in a long time” that Rossouw has combined with Ricky Januarie.

“I would say that is one area where we probably struggled a bit, with the combinations of eight and nine.

“It is something that you learn only when you play together more often.”

For now Rossouw’s bulk is more valuable to White first up, with the Bok coach keen on utilising the more skilful Spies when the game opens up in the latter stages.

By Jan de Koning 365 Digital

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