Front Row Grunt

Rugby … with cauliflower ears

Let’s make scrumming sexy!

A sneak preview of Tank Lanning’s column on Sport24 today …

Tank Lanning

I am a little disappointed in the Bok side selected to take on the All Blacks this weekend, and based on the reaction to it on Twitter, Facebook, my Blog and comments on this site, it seems I might have to join the queue!

It’s a tough old job being the Bok coach as you obviously cannot please everyone, but it is pretty damn tricky to defend keeping both Morne Steyn and Zane Kirchner in the side after dropping Keegan Daniel, Andries Bekker, Lwazi Mvovo, JJ Engelbrecht and now Marcell Coetzee for doing not a hell of a lot wrong.

And after a draw against England at home, a draw against Argentina in Mendoza, and a loss to the Aussies in Perth, the best Heyneke Meyer can come up with is the single enforced change of Francois Louw for Marcell Coetzee?

Now do not get me wrong, Louw is a good player, and deserves his call up. And thankfully, Meyer seems to be coming round to the role of a fetcher in international rugby.

But, and it’s a big but … An out and out open-sider is best utilised with a pack that dominates the opposition so he gets the march on his opposite number, and with a backline willing take the initial point of contact a little wider, yet still maintain possession via the open-sider. This then allows the big guys like Willem Alberts, Flip van der Merwe and Duane Vermeulen to run into space while at full tilt. To date, they have been wasted (and thus crticised) in a game plan that sees them running at organised defences from pop passes close to the scrum, lineout or maul.

Look – I do not see Johan Goosen and Pat Lambie as immediate saviours of Springbok rugby, but I do see them being part of a Bok game plan embracing the future – where potential early losses and draws would be easier to stomach as the Boks embarked on a journey that had some potential … and ability to perhaps entertain! At the moment, Meyer seems to be harping on the past, utilising a game plan that does not speak to the current talent.

So we seem to have the talent available to make up this new look backline – add Jan Serfontein, Paul Jordaan, Marcel Brache, Rob Ebersohn, Willie le Roux and a host of other exciting names making their way in the Currie Cup – but how do we build a pack to service this backline?

A lot of was fuss made of Frans Malherbe being called up as cover for tighthead given his lack of experience, and of Bakkies Botha being put on standby as cover for Eben Etzebeth given that he plies his trade overseas. Bottom line – The Boks just do not have the depth needed to cover these absolutely crucial positions.

In a truly enthralling interview with the Godfather of All Black scrumming, Mike Cron, he was asked which position in the scrum is the most crucial? His abbreviated reply: “They are all important positions but tighthead prop is key. You live and die by your tighthead prop.” Coming from the man who gave us Carl Heyman, Olo Brown and the Franks brothers, I think he has some scrum cred!

Without a pack that is dominating the opposition, and thus giving the backline that “Arm chair ride” needed to utlise any new skills brought in, are the Boks not always going to be treading water?

It seems Victor Matfield has been earmarked to mentor the Bok lineout and it’s component parts, but is it not time for South Africa to put together some sort of scrum school with our own Mike Cron heading it up? Contrary to popular belief, scrumming is a team sport, and to do it well, it needs to be one of those key focus areas spoken about at every training session and every team meeting.

It needs to become something that South Africans take pride in once again, and that way youngsters finding their way at school level, will aspire to be not the next Carl Heyman, but perhaps the next Jannie du Plessis or Frans Malherbe …

We need to bring sexy back to scrumming!

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Author: Tank

Ex WP prop with a fair amount of experience in all things media ...

3 Comments

  1. Even though he hasn’t dropped Steyn I reckon he will at least give Goosen more game time this coming weekend. It probably won’t be more than 30 minutes but at least more than the Aus game.

  2. Hi Tank,
    Great site!

    Question: who are SA’s future tightheads?

    from a spectator point of view i think our front row is stable, but not powerful.
    is the industrialisation of farming keeping the guys from doing manual labour and potentially producing gym going props who lack brute strength+movement?

    • Thanks for the kind words. I tell you what, you are not far from the truth there … Same reason the Kiwis and Welsh were good scrummers – hard labour. Now its gym strength. Serious issue in SA rugby is the lack of depth at tighthead … Malherbe is the future, but not immediatly. So it’s CJ and Kruger as back up. Cilliers still needs to prove himself as well, but has done well thus far …