The Boks’ game of SHAME

Ex-play­ers say all is not lost af­ter team sur­vives scrum scare at hands of Ar­gentina

CityPress - - Sport - DAN RETIEF dan.retief@city­press.co.za

Two for­mer Bok front row for­wards have urged re­straint in con­demn­ing the side af­ter the strike to the heart de­liv­ered by Ar­gentina last Satur­day.

Spring­bok fans are still reel­ing af­ter the Boks man­aged to escape with a 33-31 win af­ter trail­ing 16-28 with 20 min­utes to go.

The alarm bells started ring­ing with the way the Puma pack man­han­dled the Spring­bok for­wards.

A Spring­bok pack has been bested be­fore, but never has a green-and-gold scrum been so com­pre­hen­sively an­ni­hi­lated for the du­ra­tion of a match.

Nick Mal­lett said the front row had been hu­mil­i­ated and it was em­bar­rass­ing.

Ref­eree Jonathan Ka­plan weighed in by ob­serv­ing that “our scrum was bul­lied and shunted around”. A Spring­bok scrum? That’s un­heard of, yet it did hap­pen.

It sig­nalled a water­shed mo­ment for coach Heyneke Meyer and per­haps the break­ing point for a few Bok ca­reers.

But while con­ced­ing that events in the Es­ta­dio Padre Ernesto Martearena were hor­ri­fy­ing, for­mer Spring­bok prop Ockie Oosthuizen and hooker John Al­lan cau­tioned South African sup­port­ers not to wal­low in what has quickly be­come the shame of Salta.

Oosthuizen said: “There is no doubt the Spring­boks can and should be much bet­ter than that, but there is no get­ting away from the fact that the new scrum law does not suit us at all.

“There can be no ar­gu­ment that the loose head is favoured be­cause there is very lit­tle the tight head can do to dom­i­nate him.

“The tight head, who is scrum­ming against two guys, is meant to elim­i­nate the loose head, but there’s lit­tle he can do against a strong and clever op­po­nent. He can’t hit in or pull down and the long bind he’s ex­pected to get puts him at a dis­ad­van­tage be­cause he has no power with his arm ex­tended.

“If you get a ref­eree who does not en­sure a fair con­test, the poor num­ber three, un­less he pos­sesses brute strength, is up against it.”

But Oosthuizen did ques­tion if the Boks were work­ing hard enough at per­fect­ing their scrum­mag­ing tech­nique. “The only way to get on top of it is in ‘live’ scrums against an­other pack – you’ve got to go at it for hours and hours, and through hun­dreds of scrums – I just don’t think they’re do­ing that any more.”

“Woe­ful is the word,” said Al­lan when asked what he thought about the Boks’ per­for­mance. “The way the scrum is be­ing set cer­tainly plays into the hands of the Ar­gies with their Ba­jada scrum­ming tech­nique and then you run into a ref who doesn’t call it right. You’re on a hid­ing to noth­ing.”

Al­lan said the Spring­boks had missed the calm­ing in­flu­ence of Vic­tor Mat­field.

“Some­one needed to take con­trol out there – slow it down, set up close, in­crease the gap, hit right, hit left, mix it up a lit­tle and not give the Ar­gies such a free ride.”

Al­lan also won­dered if the Spring­boks were work­ing well as a unit. “When Fed­erico Mén­dez [for­mer Ar­gen­tine hooker] was here [with the Sharks], he taught us the fun­da­men­tals of Ar­gen­tinian scrum­mag­ing. The one thing is that the loosies have to stay in and shove. It’s a ba­sic, but what we saw from the Boks was bad.”

Al­lan echoed Oosthuizen’s con­cerns about the psy­cho­log­i­cal ef­fect of the scrum­mag­ing im­plo­sion on the team in the game and in the rest of the Rugby Cham­pi­onship.

“The Ar­gies have robbed us of our aura, but all is not lost.

“For­tu­nately, our next test is against the Aussies and they’re not known for their scrum­mag­ing. We need to hit right back, es­pe­cially be­cause they will be think­ing they can han­dle us.

“But if we get scrummed by the Aussies, then it will be time to hit the panic but­ton,” said Al­lan.

PHOTO: CATHER­INE KOTZE/SASPA

HEADACHE The Spring­boks scrum dur­ing the Cas­tle Lager Rugby Cham­pi­onship against Ar­gentina. This as­pect of their game has come un­der se­vere crit­i­cism

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