Richard Loe on rugby
Richard Loe is a former All Black

Richard Loe: Coles needs more time on pitch

All Blacks hooker Dane Coles. Photo / Getty Images
All Blacks hooker Dane Coles. Photo / Getty Images

Maybe I'm out on my own here but I don't have any reservations about the ability of hooker Dane Coles to play at the highest level.

I've heard all the talk that he's too small but frankly that's rubbish.

There's not much doubt that he struggled a bit when Bismarck du Plessis was on the park in Auckland last weekend but you could have thrown Sean Fitzpatrick in his prime into that front row and he would have struggled.

To start with, the Boks had an all-Sharks front row and they have timing and an understanding of each other. I would also imagine that there is incredible power coming through the scrum from their back five who are big, strongmen.

Added to that, I'm not sure Owen Franks has yet come to grips with these new scrum laws and it feels like Tony Woodcock is only just coming into form.

I'd like to see both props, plus Charlie Faumuina and Wyatt Crockett all make good progress in their scrumagging over the next two weeks.

I'd like the selectors to persist with Coles and I think they will.

I'd like to see him given more than 40 minutes against the Pumas and then started against the Boks and be told to go for as long as he can. It would be great for his development if he can go beyond 60 minutes and compete well.

DuPlessis has been around for a day or two and he knows how to put the pressure on and ask questions of an inexperienced hooker.

There is only one way for Coles to learn and improve, and that is by being exposed to big-game rugby and big-game players. No one should forget there isn't much choice here - the All Blacks have to find a new, younger player and I think Coles' game will come into line.

The All Blacks will view the clash in Argentina as a must win and we can expect to see the bench pushed on early if things are under control. But South Africa will be different.

It's obvious the All Blacks will be facing an angry Springbok side at Ellis Park. The Boks will feel they were jerked around by a silly French referee and they will have incentive.

The All Blacks can't use travel as an excuse, especially as they managed to win in Argentina and South Africa last year. It will be tough for the All Blacks but they don't have much choice - if they want to win the Rugby Championship, they will most likely need to win in Johannesburg.

- NZ Herald

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