The best #2 in the world
It seems a lot of people have forgotten or never known what makes a tight forward great. Is it their ability to sidestep, throw amazing skip passes or run good lines in the midfield? Of course not. Yet lately I keep hearing that “Dane Coles is the best hooker in the world!” because, “he has a dazzling side step”, “he throws beautiful passes” and “he runs amazing lines”.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Coles is an excellent player, world class for sure but definitely not the best hooker in the world. I still remember a few years ago many NZ fans considered Coles as nothing more than a temporary stop-gap until a proper hooker is found. You see, Coles does the basics well, very well. He scrums ok and throws in accurately at lineout time. Add in his excellent ball in hand skills and you have a great player. But remember, we talking about a tight forward. And a tight forwards core duty is to dominate the breakdown and win the ball. And in this area, I feel Coles is nothing more than adequate. Thankfully he finds himself surrounded with world class forwards who aren’t shy of rolling up their sleeves and doing the unfancied breakdown work. Rettalick, Whitelock, Franks, Kaino, Cane, Ardie, Famuina, Crockett, Read and the recently retired legend Ritchie. This allows him to spend more time in the backline and utilise his ball skills to greater effect.
So then who is the best hooker in the world?
That title still belongs to the one and only legend, the battleship, Bismarck Du Plessis.
What makes him so great?
There hasn’t been any other tight forward in the past 5 years who influences the breakdown more than Bismarck. There is a noticeable difference in how the Boks play and how the opposition plays when he’s on the field. I would go as far as to say he has been our most valuable Springbok.
I encourage you to watch past games and pay particular attention to the breakdown area when Bismarck is on the field. The opposition has to always commit at least 2 players, often 3 to any breakdown when Bismarck is going for the ball. If it’s a one on one, you can bet your house that Bismarck is stealing the ball.
Bismarck is the prototype of what a Springbok forward should be. Tough, uncompromising, gives 110% in a Bok jersey and never takes a backward step for anybody.
Unfortunately this is what’s been severely lacking in the Boks 2016 campaign. Particularly in the series against the Irish, our forwards looked soft and passive. But that’s a topic for another day. Why was Bismarck not called up? Surely there’s still place in a Bok team for the world’s best Hooker? At 32 years of age and the form he showed for Montpellier you would think he’d be the first name on Coetzee’s team sheet.
And for those of you saying he will be too old for the 2019 World Cup, why is he not at least brought in to mentor young Malcolm Marx. In Marx we have a future Bok star in a similar mould as Bismarck so why not let him learn from the master himself?
Imagine Bismarck and Marx in the same match day 23 terrorising the opposition. After the nightmare of 2016 Springbok rugby, the fans deserve it.