The Boks’ game of SHAME
Ex-players say all is not lost after team survives scrum scare at hands of Argentina
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.
HEADACHE The Springboks scrum during the Castle Lager Rugby Championship against Argentina. This aspect of their game has come under severe criticism