Rugby | Scrum remains a match decider

This is a column on the scrum.

Right, now that we have got rid of those pesky peacock loving followers of “defenders beaten”, “offloads” and all things dastardly like “try assists”, you fellow lovers of the flat eared blocks of granite who keep this great game from morphing into that muck called rugby league, can get settle in with a cup of coffee, or perhaps even an ice cold Zamalek for the brave!

So the scrum is now just a (very messy) way to start the game?

The Stormers, Sharks, Lions and Cheetahs coaches might disagree…

The 2015 Stormers scrum was a thing of beauty, but in 2016 it has started to show few signs of wear and tear. Steven Kitshoff and coach Matt Proudfoot are no longer in blue and white, while Vincent Koch just has not looked the same since referee Romain Poite oversaw a dreadfully unfair demolition job at the hands of the king of loosehead props, Marcos Ayerza.

As such, Sharks coach Gary Gold put some extra time into analysing video footage of the Stormers scrum, spotted some uneasy footwork from Koch at the set, and duly authorised his skipper Beast Mtawarira to unleash some fury.

The result? A 9 out of 10 rating for Beast from Corne Krige in the Vodacom Player Ratings, a spot for the Sharks loosehead in the Vodacom Stats XV of the week, a Stormers scrum that got used as a plough at Newlands, and a well-crafted, physical win for the visitors.

In Dunedin, the Lions won eight scrums to the Highlanders’ two, but it was the four that they lost that took them out the game. Ruan Dreyer got his first start at tighthead after being given a run at loosehead, while Jacques Van Rooyen, a man who showed plenty promise in 2015, got his first start of the season. A risky move given how key the scrum is to the Lions game plan. Made even more risky given that they use the shove, rather than the hook, to secure their own ball.

The result? They were hammered up front, and just could not get those awesome loose forwards into the game.

The fact that Johan Ackermann started the his “second string” props, and then chose not to replace them when it went pear shaped, suggests to me that it might have been a game that he was OK to let slide. They had already got two wins out of three to make it a successful tour, it was away against the defending champs, and represented itself as an opportunity to give the entire squad some game time.

The Cheetahs were heading in the same direction after starting second string props Ox Nche and Johan Coetzee against the Sunwolves, but more than steadied the ship when replacements Charles Marais, who has been nothing short of a revelation at loosehead, and Maks van Dyk, also vastly improved in 2016, were brought on early in the second half.

You just cannot play rugby without a sold scrum. Ask the Ikey Tigers after their pasting up front (and on the scoreboard) from the Maties on Monday night.

In closing, credit where credit is due… Coenie Oosthuizen, while suffering the odd poor scrum, has done well at tighthead for the Sharks. I still believe it to be a better unit with Lourens Adriaanse at tighthead (he does start this Friday against the Bulls), but Oosthuizen looks in great shape and has tightened up his technique considerably.

Together with Malherbe, Julian Redelinghuys, Van Dyk and Marcel van der Merwe, stocks at tighthead look remarkably rosy for whomever gets that Bok job.

Tank Lanning is a former Western Province prop, current editor of the all new that allows you to rate the SA players, and vociferous Tweeter from @frontrowgrunt.

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