Bajada makes merry – again!

When on song, the Bajada is basically pornography to us flat eared folk who have done battle in the front row. And on Saturday against the Boks, it was at its titillating best! Lets give them due credit for it.

Tank Lanning in a column for the Ultimate Rugby App

When on song, the Bajada is basically pornography to us flat eared folk who have done battle in the front row. And on Saturday against the Boks, it was at its titillating best!

There are two defining characteristics of the Bajada – a scrum technique used by the Argentinians … One is that all the power is directed into the hooker, meaning that they scrum as an imaginary arrow pointing inwards from either side of the 8th man.

The other, and perhaps more important characteristic of the Bajada, is the ‘coordinated push’, which sees them act on a three part call. First all members of the pack tighten their binds and fill their lungs with air, then everyone sinks to a point where their legs are at 90 degrees, and thirdly, the pack comes straight forward while violently expelling the air from their lungs. A key aim is for no one to move their feet until forward momentum is established.

And if the first drive is insufficient to get things moving, they go through the call again, with the opposing pack often caught off guard and pushed back – as demonstrated so ably by the reversing Bok scrum in Salta.

The force of the hit went a long way to nullifying this technique under the old scrum laws, but with the hit no longer in play, the Bajada is making a comeback.

That the Pumas did not go on to win this game is a travesty. They were anything but the “Architects of anti-rugby” this week, instead playing some scintillating ball in hand power rugby deserving of a win. That the Boks did come through to win the game is testament to their better bench, calm heads, and character. Played 2, won 2, with both the Kiwis and Aussies still needing to face the Bajada! Coach Heyneke Meyer will take that.

But the reeling Bok scrum did make for some fantastic Sunday Twitter debate …

Was the Puma scrum brilliant or the Bok scrum hapless? A bit of both, but much more of the former. Argentina, powered by their scrum – which would have given the entire side a lift – played very well indeed and deserve proper credit. The Bok locks were again too high on the set, with Lood de Jaager not looking the part for the second week in a row. But let’s judge this performance after seeing how the Wallaby and All Blacks fare up front.

Were Puma props Ramiro Herrera and Marcos Ayerza scrumming illegally? Perhaps, but like a fetcher at the breakdown, props push the envelope in a space that sees referees struggle to pick a culprit. If both props end up with their bums facing the touchline, it is extremely difficult to pick which of them went in first. One thing that is not possible though, is for both props to be guilty of scrumming in, because the result of that is a straight scrum.

A loosehead’s job is to make himself as small a target as possible, get tight on the hooker, take a short bind on the opposition tighthead, get his head under the opposition’s chest, and explode with the kick of a mule at the same time as the rest of the pack. This describes Marcos Ayerza to a tee. He is a scrumming machine who has proved himself against the best in the world.

And for a tighthead under pressure, your options are backwards, upwards or inwards. Backwards is often not an option given the power behind you (not always the case for the Boks on Saturday though), upwards is terribly embarrassing and public, so inwards it is. And it’s a bonus because you have a 50/50 chance of the ref blaming the loosehead! I would rather have the ref pinging the weaker scrum than trying to guess which prop went inwards first.

Frans Malerbe was better than Jannie du Plessis when the former replaced the latter in the second half for one simple reason – he went lower. Hence the plethora of reset scrums because of collapsing when Malherbe was on the field. With the loosehead tasked with keeping the scrum up, and the tighthead with keeping the scrum straight, going low is a tighthead’s biggest weapon. Provided you keep your hips below your shoulders of course (not a simple thing to do), because by default, then, the ref should then be penalising the loosehead for not keeping the scrum up. This Malherbe did well.

The hatchet job on the Bok scrum did prove 2 things, though. One – that scrumming is a team sport rather than an individual one, and one the Pumas play very well. And two – by farting around with Coenie Oosthuizen as the backup tighthead to Jannie, the Boks now lack a coordinated development plan for this position.


  1. Love it when an expert gets the opportunity to get into details. Much better than the sound bite time afforded the TV experts

  2. Hi Tank.

    What would you say is the best book to read about scrumming to understand more about what you discussed in this article?

    1. Topo Rodrigues wrote a book called The Art of Scrumming. It is sensational and a must read for every front rower and ref 🙂

  3. The way you describe the bajada – with both props effectively scrumming toward their hooker is then technically illegal as they both scrum inwards. Can’t wait to see what they do with the Aussies though!

    Jannie had to go see one of his proctologist pals afterwards to remove his head from his ass. He was totally dominated, but at the same time the Argie looshead had him on the inward angle every time and on a different day the penalties might’ve gone the other way. Frans Malherbe also got pinged by Walsh once for folding inwards when the scrum collapsed, but to me it was the Argie loosehead that went in on that call. I understand why we got penalised every time – because we were the weaker scrum, but to me some of those calls were 50/50.

    I have a feeling both the Aussies and All Blacks are going to have long chats with the refs before their respective tests about the Argentine scrum. Watch for a reversal in scrum penalties on the upcoming tests.

    We were weak on Saturday. Guthro has never been much of a scrumager and why he was selected is a mystery. The last time the Boks reversed like that was a few years ago against Leiscester when Guthro and Jannie were also the front row. That day Martin Castrogiovanni KILLED Guthro. If it is a case of resting the Beast, then why not give Trevor Nyakane a look in. He can at least scrum.

    1. And if memory serves, Marcos Ayerza was the loosehead who ate Jannie in that Leicester game!

      But you are 100% right. On a different day, it could well have been Ayerza being pinged for scrumming in. And the primary reason that I think scrum penalties should be banned. At worst a short arm, but no penalties … 3 points for a guess??

      You are right re the Malherbe penalty as well. Malherbe went much lower than Jannie and that is your primary defence as a tighthead …

  4. agreed.

    commentators are clueless. sometimes there is an awkward silence when the ref blows a scrum penalty.

  5. Great stuff Tank and an excellent expose on the dark arts of the frontrow. So poorly understood by those who have not lurked around in that dark alley. Perhaps all refs and commentators should be forced to serve an apprenticeship at hooker to understand what really goes on down there. Keep up the good work – I love reading your humourous and insightful pieces.

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