The 4 lock is one of the modern-day gladiators of rugby. They carry a fair load of work, but the effect that they have on a field is both physical and mental. In the modern era, there have been a number of outstanding lock forwards who have worn the number 4 jersey, but one of the most notorious has to be Bakkies Botha.
If you look at the makeup of a lock the physical attribute that you always see first is that they are tall (obviously).
What sets the 4 lock apart is both his size, not just in height, but also complemented by a certain temperament and presence. The 4 lock is usually the heavier set of the two locks in a team, possibly slightly slower than the 5 lock, but often more powerful.
The key attributes of a 4 lock
At a younger age, you will often find taller kids that carry more weight than their friends. These players sometimes get used as props, but due to their height, it becomes difficult for them to manage. It might be a good idea to give them a try at 4 lock.
As players go through their growth spurts in high school it is easier to identify a 4 lock.
- The player will be one of the tall ones
- You can see that they are probably stronger and carry a bit more weight than the other tall players
- They love a bit of contact – both running with the ball as well as cleaning people off the ball and tackling
How a 4 lock is used at different age groups
In primary school, they will often be one of the tallest players. Due to their weight, no one would be able to lift them in a lineout. They are however an ideal lifter in the lineout of a light flanker or 8th man as they would be able to lift them above opposition jumpers.
As players get into high school there will be more players that would be able to lift them and they often become a good option to jump in the front of the lineout.
Jumping in the front of the lineout is all about beating your opponent on speed. Often nothing fancy, just speed.
As the player gets more comfortable with their role as a 4 lock, there is a whole different aspect to their game that also develops: the Enforcer.
The Enforcer is not on the field to just hurt people with a blatant disregard for the laws of the game (may Bakkies had other ideas…). The Enforcer creates overlaps in a different way…
The way in which a 4 lock conducts themselves, should result in them always drawing the attention of at least 2 opposition players. When running with the ball, they have to draw in 2 defenders. If they contest a ruck, they must be in a tussle with 2 or 3 defenders.
When you do the simple maths you will then always set up your team with an overlap of 1 or 2 on attack or defense if the Enforcer does their job well.
It is not a job that gets any glory. It actually usually gets lots of abuse from abusing teams, their fans and coaches.
Doing the job of an Enforcer on top of their other tasks, will turn a good 4 lock into a great one.