Ask-Ads Left

The latest development in the rugby wheel is the evolution of the second row forward – the left lock or enforcer lock in particular. Traditionally a bulky, abrasive character, the enforcer lock does the donkey work in the tight-loose, bashes opposition forwards into submission and beefs up the set pieces.

This year, however, has seen coaches employ an additional loose forward in the number four jersey to great effect. New Zealand-born coaches and namesakes John Mitchell and John Plumtree pioneered this strategy in South Africa this year and subsequently guided the MTN Golden Lions and the Sharks to the Absa Currie Cup final.

2007 World Cup-winning Springbok loose forward Wikus van Heerden has resurrected his career in the Lions second row, while four-Test Springbok back rower Jean Deysel was a revelation in the number four jersey for the Sharks in the latter stages of the Currie Cup.

The tactical advantages of playing a retread loose forward at lock are vast. It affords a team an extra ball-carrier capable of smashing over the gain line with regularity and adds significant pace to the tight five which gives a side an additional scavenger at the breakdown whilst retaining a lineout jumper.

With no apparent successor to Bakkies Botha and a wealth of world-class back rowers, 2012 will present the new Springbok coach with a golden opportunity to get one-up on the competition by employing Juan Smith, Deysel or Willem Alberts in the second row.

Smith at number four, where he has slotted in on more than one occasion at Test level, would be a masterstroke. His athleticism makes him a reliable and popular lineout option and his physicality matches that of any international enforcer lock.

The mere thought of having to contain Smith, Andries Bekker, Heinrich Brussow, Schalk Burger and Pierre Spies will cause sleepless nights for opposing coaches.

Written by: Quintin van Jaarsveld

27 Responses to The evolution of the No 4 lock forward

  • 1

    In SA this “Evolution” is largely forced upon Teams…

    In the case of the Lions, using Wikus van Heerden at No 4 was not a planned masterstroke, it was a coincidental masterstroke, it was pure lack of a decent No 4 lock and absolute necessity which caused this… and remember, his dad Moaner was a classic ENFORCER lock, so it runs in the family.

    In the case of the Sharks again, using Deysel or Willem Albers were and will be due to a lack of serious traditional enforcers at No 4.

    In the case of the Bulls for 2012, having lost 2 World Class No 4 locks (Bakkies Botha & Danie Rossouw), has already caused it’s own ripples as well, take for example the conversion of Gerrit-Jan van Velze from No 8 to No 4 during Currie Cup 2011… specially done with an eye on lock requirements for 2012. The Bulls also bought a possible new enforcer, the BIG Kenyan Daniel Adongo… who with time could be a wonderful find, if his head is in the same place his body clearly already is.

    I do not find the conversion to lock of the correct loose forwards strange or abhorrent, it is indeed a blessing that we have players like Jean Deysel, Willem Alberts, Wikus van Heerden and Gerrit-Jan van Velze who can fullfill this dual role, much like Danie Rossouw already did for 6 or 8 years anyway.

    In addition there are 2 traditional No 4 enforcers in SA in Flip van der Merwe and Rynhardt Elstadt who could easily make a huge step up in 2012, to fulfill the No 4 spot for the Springboks, after all Flip is already a Springbok.

    The reason I think the conversion makes more sense in modern rugby is the increased importance of breakdown situations, after all there are roughly 170 such breakdown situations per game compared to about 18 scrums and 20 or so lineouts per game. Therefore there is a greater need for ball hunters, for which loose forwards are definately more suited than the traditional No 4 enforcer lock, who’s traditional strenghts were connected closely to lineouts and scrumming, apart from bullying the opposition in general play.

    2012 Will be interesting indeed.

  • 2

    What makes it so difficult for a number 4 and 5 lock to swap?
    Juandre Kruger hopefully will live up to the Big hype he received when he joined the Bulls.

  • 3

    Googled this

    No.4 & 5 2nd Row

    The main function of the lock is the line out. The locks are nearly always the jumpers, and so (along with the hooker) their responsibility to get good clean ball to the half backs. The number 4 is normally larger than the number 5 and usually jumps and the front of the line out whereas the number 5 generally takes the ball in the middle of the line out.

  • 4

    more ….
    4 & 5 Lock

    The second row forwards (also known as locks) are the engine room of the scrum and the target men in the lineout, meaning that they need to be tall, powerful players with excellent scrummaging technique and pinpoint timing.

    If they bind to each other and the props too loosely in the scrum their pack will lose power, and if they are not accurate and dynamic with their lineout jumping, it offers the opposition forwards a chance to steal possession.

    In open play the second row’s duties have evolved from being support players at rucks and mauls to ball carriers. If a marauding second row is comfortable with the ball in hand, their bulk and power makes them very difficult to stop.

  • 5

    Google gives you sometimes the most useless info when you search.


    In some countries the term halfback refers solely to the scrum half, while in other countries it applies to both the scrum half and the fly half.
    New Zealand saw advantage in having a fourth player in the three-quarters placing a forward between the half back and the three-quarters. Legend has it that the position was named by deciding that the half back was 4/8ths and the three-quarters 6/8ths, so therefore the new position must be a 5/8ths. When fly half play developed they introduced the first 5/8th and the second 5/8th. Hence the fly half is sometimes referred to as the 1st 5/8, implying a slightly deeper position than halfback and the inside centre is sometimes referred to as the 2nd 5/8 implying a more forward position than a 3/4 back.
    Centres used to be called Centre Three-quarters and Wings, Wing Three-quarters. The term three quarters collectively describes the centers, wings and full-back.
    In some countries the Flankers are referred to as ‘Break-aways’ e.g. New Zealand.
    In some countries the No. 8 is referred to as the ‘Last man down’ e.g. New Zealand.

  • 6

    with all the holidays let me give you some reading exercise.

    History of Positions
    Origin of the Half-Back (collective name for Fly-half and Scrum-half)

    Originally the rules described three full backs which was later changed to one and the other two players were then stationed at a midpoint between the forwards and the full backs and were to be called half-way backs. In time this was shortened to half backs. Their role and that of the full back continued to be to fall on the ball in the event of the opposition hacking it out of the scrum.
    Origin of Fly-Half

    In 1878 at Cardiff, in Wales, they developed a short pass to one of the half backs who would then go charging ahead with the ball. He became known as the flying half back which in time was shortened to the fly half. In New Zealand the fly half is sometimes referred to as the 1st 5/8, implying a slightly deeper position than halfback.
    Origin of the three-quarters

    In the 1880’s the game had spread to the Universities, particularly Cambridge and Oxford, whose input lead to far more thought being put into the game and the style of play that was developed. They were instrumental in the development of the games tactics, the introduction of need to practice and the coaching of the players. In addition they re organised the scrum, developed short passes amongst the forwards and long passes amongst the backs. This led to the need for more players to be placed in the back line between the halves and the full back. The fraction between a half and a whole (full) is three-quarters.

    Note: One alternative theory for why they are called three-quarters is that these new positions were called ‘quarters’ and the fact that three of them were put in this position led to them being known as three-quarters. But this seems unlikely since there is an obvious progression from Half-back (half-way from the from of the scrum to the full back), Five-eighths, three-quarters, full back..

    Scotland claim the honour of having first introduced a third three-quarter, against Ireland in 1881.
    Origin of the centre and wings

    The middle player being called the centre with the two on his outside called wings.
    Fouth three-quarter

    The introduction of a fourth player into the three-quarters was to a large extent, accidental, with Wales again being allowed to take the honour. In 1885 Cardiff were due to play a tough match away from home and their first choice centre was not available so they promoted one Frank E. Hancock from the second side in his place. Hancock was a great success scoring two vital tries. When the Cardiff selectors sat down to pick their team for the next match they were keen to revert to their original team, but they were most reluctant to drop Hancock, so they compromised by introducing a fourth three-quarter. Within two years Wales had introduced it at international level.

    The New Zealanders were quick to see the advantage of having a fourth player in the three-quarters. Their solution was to pull a forward out the pack and put him between the half back and the three-quarters. Their problem was what did they call the new position. Legend has it that consent was reached by deciding that the half back was 4/8ths and the three-quarters 6/8ths, so therefore the new position must be a 5/8ths, a name that has continued to this day in that country. When fly half play developed they introduced the first 5/8th and the second 5/8th.
    Origin of the Number 8

    This is a two-part question. In summary, the No 8 position evolved in South Africa, but was christened in New Zealand.

    a) How did the No.8 evolve?

    The position now known as No.8 evolved in South Africa in the 1920s.

    Before the Great War a number of scrum patterns were tried. Most involved a three-man front-row in a 3-3-2 or more commonly 3-2-3 pack. Paddy Carolin of the 1906 Springboks claimed to have experimented with a 3-4-1 formation.

    New Zealand most notably always used a 2-3-2 system. Their so-called diamond scrum had a rover to act as a detached winging forward who could also double as a second scrum-half. The Law dictating that a scrum must have a three-man front-row did not come into effect until the 1931-2 season.

    New Zealand apart, forwards in Test matches were selected primarily for their all-round skills – there were no fixed position in the early days. The first forwards up for a scrum were the first to pack down, although by the early 1900s there was usually one player specifically chosen to hook and one to act as a wing forward.

    There is evidence that early Australian and French packs experimented with fixed places for their players under the 3-2-3 formation, but it wasn’t until 1923 that Wavell Wakefield, as pack leader, allocated fixed positions to England’s forwards. Two were devolved to prop up their hooker, while two formed the second-row. Behind them was a back-row of two wing-forwards either side of a middle man who was then called the lock or lock-forward – the position from which the No 8 has evolved. England won the Grand Slam that year and specialism became the norm in the Home Unions.

    Meanwhile in South Africa, Oubaas Markötter of the famous Stellenbosch club developed the 3-4-1 pack formation to curb a fly-half named Bennie Osler, who was the master kicker and tactician for their great rivals at the University of Cape Town. Markötter’s new scrum was essentially the 3-2-3 scheme but with the wing-forwards from the back-row flanking the second-row instead – and therefore closer to the fly-half.

    That helped to address the Osler problem, but other advantages of the formation became apparent. With only one man at the back, the ball was heeled from the scrum more quickly, while the opposing scrum-half and loose forwards found it harder to disrupt possession. In addition, the inward push from the flankers at the scrum channelled considerable drive through their props and put extra pressure on the opposition hooker.

    All South Africa embraced the 3-4-1 scrum and by 1928 it was the preferred formation for the Springboks in their home series with the All Blacks. In the first Test their scrum was a revelation to the New Zealanders, who were demolished 17-0. It wasn’t until a few years later, however, that modern back-row play evolved. Markötter considered how to make the best use of a gifted Stellenbosch threequarter named André McDonald, who was not fast enough for a back and not big enough for a forward. McDonald was moved to the solo position at the back of the scrum where he inter-played with his scrum-half in attack and was deployed as a shadow flanker in defence.

    So the prototype for the No.8 evolved in South Africa as a much looser player than his forerunner, the lock. South Africa still sought strong forwards who could push from the back of the scrum, but attacking and defensive duties for which the prime attribute was mobility became part of the job description.

    The Springboks toured Britain/Ireland in 1931-32, demonstrating the new scrum formation and back-row tactics to the Home Unions, and in 1933 Australia saw them for the first time when they were beaten in a series in South Africa. By the time war broke out in 1939, most of the world’s rugby-playing nations had bowed to Springbok supremacy, adopting the 3-4-1 pack and refining back-row tactics. The main dissenters were the Scots, who persisted with the old 3-2-3 system until the mid 1950s.

    b) When was the term No.8 first used?

    It was not until the 1940s that the expression No.8 became recognised worldwide as part of rugby’s lexicon.

    Finding a common name for the sole player at the back of the 3-4-1 scrum seems to have taken some time. In the Home Unions he was still referred to as the lock or lock-forward, as he had been in the 3-2-3 system. Australian reports of the 1937 Tests against the Springboks refer to the position as anchor-man or solo-lock. South Africans called him the eighthman (as many of the old-timers out there still do), in New Zealand he was usually the back-row or back-row forward and to the French he was le troisième ligne centre.

    Numbering of players in Tests was a haphazard affair until the 1960s. In the Five Nations, some teams numbered from 1 to 15 from the back, starting with the fullback and finishing with a flanker (so that the back-row man was number 14). France and Ireland often numbered in reverse starting from the front-row, making the middle-man of the loose trio number 7. Wales even used letters throughout the 30s and 40s making him letter N! Players on tour were numbered 1 to 30 and kept their allocated numbers for Tests.

    Old Test programmes show that the earliest efforts to number the back-row man with jersey eight were in New Zealand’s South Island during the 1930s, after their 2-3-2 scrum was outlawed. For NZ v Australia at Dunedin in 1936 and NZ v SA at Christchurch in 1937 the All Blacks’ back-row man wore this number. Abbreviating the South African term eighthman to No.8 originated there and the noted New Zealand rugby historian, Arthur Swan, was among the first to refer to him in print as the “number-eight”. When post-war Tests resumed in 1946, New Zealand led the way in regularly numbering their back-row man in the eight jersey.

    Curiously, South Africa’s Hennie Muller, who played Test rugby between 1949 and 1953 and was universally hailed as the definitive eighthman of his day, never wore an eight shirt in a Test, although by 1951 the British press were referring to him as the team’s No 8.

    It was not until the 1960s that the shirt number universally matched its position’s name in Test matches.

  • 7

    I haven’t really researched on the topic of the numbers on the back of rugby jerseys but have noticed that number 8 was the only position that kept his number when the numbering changed in 1960. In the early years your fullback was number 1 and your loosehead ended up as No15. So the numebrs were 1-fullback; 2-wing; 3-wing; 4 and 5-centers; 6-flyhalf; 7-scrumhalf; 8-eightman; 9-flanker; 10 and 11-locks; 12-flanker; 13-tighthead prop; 14-hooker; 15-looesehead prop.
    So No8 was the only player who kept his number since as far back as 1928.

  • 8

    Interesting perspective on the No4 lock. Danie Craven did the same with Salty du Rand. Du Rand started his provincial and test career as a flanker. Craven however moved him to the lock position in 1952 with great success. Du Rand was competing against Basie van Wyk, Stephen Fry and Hennie muller for a position in the loosetrio and wouldn’t have made it so Craven moved him to lock.

  • 9

    Back to the numbering. In 1952 (I just noticed) the Springboks actually used a different system than the one I decribed in 7. The backs were 1 to 7 starting with fullback as 1 and ending with the scrum half as 7.
    The forwards then started with eigthman as No15 and ending with the loosehead as No8.

  • 11

    McLook, Superbul, very interesting posts, thank you

  • 12

    Hi JFK, i miss out with all the talking lately. I have a great start at my Road stall and Garden center , The whole country is up North it seems. Must be quite busy down there by you too.

  • 13

    Looking forward to coming and seeing your set up sometime! Yeah, been very busy over the w/end, but usually dies down now till after New Year as all of Slaapstad emigrates up the Garden Route. We have a big function on Tuesday, and our last evening trading is Friday, then we lock up till the new year. I start with plums in January, and will start picking grapes for bubbly early Feb. Do you shut at all?

  • 14

    I wont take a break until at least 15 Jan. The mango season started this week and we also have litchis in full swing now. Yellow peaches is also very big in demand. Would have loved to have some of your crops.

    We have 1 farmer here who cultivates grapes, that is also a winner, in fact any fruit is great for my stall

  • 15

    “The mere thought of having to contain Smith, Andries Bekker, Heinrich Brussow, Schalk Burger and Pierre Spies will cause sleepless nights for opposing coaches.

    Written by: Quintin van Jaarsveld”

    Pierre Spies causing sleepless nights for opposing coaches? ROTFLMFAO!

  • 16

    @ Loosehead:
    i can guarantee you he is far more respected by the ABs and AUS than by many non Bulls supporters.

    Funny how a player like Spies can attract so much attention on himself and thus open others to play their game. Almost like SA in 1995 when we allocated 2 to 3 players to watch Lomu. Spies might have had a slow start in 2011 but there was no doubt he recovered in the second half of the season. Well lets see how he does in 2012 with the captaincy burden on him.

    Maybe more sleepless nights for coaches???

  • 17

    16@ superBul:
    Morning superBul, there was a time when he was, but now he is a bit of a laugh. Go onto the Planet Rugby forum and ask the Kiwi’s, Aussies, Poms etc about Spies.

  • 18

    @ superBul:
    I’ll do it for you

    I really hope that he comes good, as when he is on song he is an excellent player, but he just disappears far too often for my liking.

  • 19

    Aagh wel lets hope he gets back to his best or rather lets hope they USE him right.

    Hope his roll at the Bulls change, i think FL and HM might be the right guys to guide him through the initial mindset ” i am now captain and i must do all”

    He became too predictable

    After reading the Matfield biography it is also true that the whole Bulls game plan was plain and simple and they relied much on precision. Doing the same thing over and over 100%. That to me was a bit brain dead, note a bit. Natural flair can break games open and i hope to see some new innovations in the Bulls game.If Spies can do a more observing job at 8 and not be the number one strike runner/basher we might see a great athlete fulfilling his true potential.

  • 21

    If a new Springbok side had to be selected today, who would your locks be?

    For that matter, who would your forwards be?

    My personal choices, with a backup for every position, would be as follows:

    1. Tendai (The Beast) Mtawarira, Dean Greyling (considering that Gurthro is overseas and injured)… we’ll see how the rest goes in Super Rugby, there’s Coenie Oosthuizen as well when he returns from injury.
    2. Bismarck du Plessis, Chiliboy Ralepelle… with Adriaan Strauss very close on their heels.
    3. Jannie du Plessis, Werner Kruger… and I suppose CJ van der Linde on stand-by.
    4. Flip van der Merwe, Rynhardt Elstadt…. with Wikus van Heerden also an option.
    5. Andries Bekker, Juandre Kruger.
    6. Heinrich Brussow, Schalk Burger.. with Derick Minnie almost there.
    7. Joshua Strauss, Juan Smith (I place him second because he’ll only play once he’s had a bit of game time after his injuries).
    8. Willem Alberts, Pierre Spies.

    As far as the backline goes… here goes my version if I had to choose one now:

    9. Francois Hougaard, Jano Vermaak (remember Sarel Pretorius is now in Australia)… with McLeod knocking hard on the door.
    10. Morné Steyn, Pat Lambie… with Elton Jantjies knocking hard on the door.
    11. Lwazi Mvovo, Bjorn Basson.
    12. Franscois Steyn (my only overseas choice, provided he’s now over his injury), Jean de Villiers (only because I have no other good choices till well into Super Rugby Season)… and Alwyn Hollenbach as a possibility… maybe.
    13. Juan de Jongh, Johann Sadie… with Jaque Fourie as an outside option due to the fact that he’s in Japan.
    14. JP Pietersen, Odwa Ndungane… with a special mention to JJ Engelbrecht and Michael Killian.
    15. Jaco Taute, Riaan Viljoen.

    Who are the possible captains:

    The leading candidates should be Schalk Burger, Juan Smith, Joshua Strauss…. and then there is also Chiliboy Ralepelle and Andries Bekker who could maybe step up to captain.

  • 22

    @ grootblousmile:
    Ja ou GBS ek sien jou span en ek moet saamstem dat dit dalk die mees in form spelers in elke posisie kan wees. Ek wonder net hoe kan ons almal gelukig maak. Daar is samespel kwesies, kleur kwesies ens… Ek hoop die nuwe Springbok afrigter het die savvy om n span te kies met samespel in gedagte, mense wat na sy game plan kan speel. Ek raak seker vervelig en klink of ek die enigste ou is wat Victor Matfield se boek gelees het , maar hy het duidelik gewys dat die senior spelers baie , sommer vrek baie insae gehad het in die Bokke se planne.

    So die belangrikste is om te wag en te kyk wie die Bok afrigter gaan wees

  • 23

    I think it would be a mistake to have Juan Smith in the Bok line up. He is not good for another world cup and we should now have the guys that are going to go the distance. GBS I have not paid enough attention to a Bok line up, but think an obvious omission is the Saracens boy at hooker.

  • 24

    23@ 4man:
    Saracens boy at hooker…you mean John Smit? Thought he has retired from international rugby Happy-Grin

  • 25

    23 @ 4man:
    Schalk Brits is simply not good enought to represent the Bokke… many or most other nations yes, but not the Bokke.

    The reasons are simple…

    1. South Africa has MANY good and for that matter better hookers, like the 3 I’ve mentioned. He is simply not better than Du Plessis, Ralepelle & Adriaan Strauss.
    2. He is mobile enough, maybe to my mind better suited as a loose forward rather than a hooker. He lacks a bit of bulk and grunt for an International Springbok hooker.
    3. He willingly chose to play outside SA… so for that reason alone I would not even consider him carrying water bottles, let alone train or play for the Bokke. He made his bed, he must sleep in it!

    Regarding Juan Smith, I think the Springboks are in a transitional phase, having lost a massive chunk of experienced players, so keeping Juan Smith (if he’s good enough after injury) will add a clear head with experience. So I still see a roll for him for a while.

    PS! I see it’s your birthday in 2 days, so if I do not get the opportunity to wish you happy, happy…. have a blast, old toppie!

  • 26

    22 @ grootblousmile:
    Wie wil jy gelukkig maak, wie se poephol moet blink gelek word? Daar’s 8 spelers in wat kwalifiseer onder transformasiestandaarde?

    Om ander spelers as die huidige vorm-spelers in te sit, is soos wat die Weermag destyds gedoen het om ‘n troep 1 streep op die mou te gee (onderkorporaal)…. hy was niks anders as ‘n BLYGEMAAKTE TROEP nie!

    Kyk, jy weet meriete is MY enigste maatstaaf, ek hoef nie te politiek-politiek nie of in kleur as maatstaaf vas te kyk nie, en dis die voorspelers en agterspelers wat EK sou kies…. dis hoekom ek gevra het wie JULLE sou kies, want elkeen, en elke moontlike Bok afrigter, het sy eie kandidate en idees.

    Wat samespel aanbetref, dit is juis die nuwe Bok-afrigter se grootste uitdaging, om bietjie nuwe bloed in die Springbokke in te bring en dan die perfekte omgewing te skep om die klomp te omvorm in ‘n hegte eenheid wat as span saamspeel… en natuurlik moet hy dit terselfdertyd ballanseer met onmiddellike en standhoudende wenresultate ook.

    So, skrywe jou span vir ons hier, en verskil so vêr van my as jy wil, want dis JOU keuses…

  • 27

    21 @ grootblousmile:
    On second thought about the position of scrummie…

    I think Dewaldt Duvenage has matured a lot in 2011… so revise the No 9 spot as follows:

    9. Francois Hougaard, Dewaldt Duvenage (remember Sarel Pretorius is now in Australia)… with Jano Vermaak knocking hard on the door.


Bam Advert