Springbok captain John Smit expects a massive onslaught in the scrums when South Africa meet New Zealand in the first Tri-Nations rugby Test of the year here on Saturday.
“The All Blacks have dominated their opponents in the scrums in every match they’ve played this season,” Smit said here on Tuesday.
Stephen Nell writes in Die Burger that Smit had thought England would match the All Blacks in this department, “but the All Blacks got the upper hand, despite England’s strong scrum. That’s a feather in their caps.”
The experimental laws will apply at the Westpac Stadium on Saturday, making the scrum an extremely important part of the game.
With the teams having the option of taking a scrum when they are awarded a free kick, the scrum can be used as an effective weapon.
The team that dominate the scrums will be able to drain their opponents’ energy levels.
On the back foot
“There are some Test matches that you know will be hard,” Smit said. “The All Blacks in New Zealand is one of those in which the physical aspect is non-negotiable.
“If you don’t stand up in that respect, you’re going to be on the back foot from the outset. We must not let ourselves down from a physical viewpoint.”
In their three internationals this season, the Springboks have only done well come scrum time in the second Test against Wales in Pretoria. They even struggled against Italy at Newlands.
Tighthead prop BJ Botha, who performed well against the Welsh, was not chosen for the Tri-Nations tour.
Smit pointed out that South Africa had experimented with various front-row combinations.
We used three different front rows. I took the responsibility for the poor performance in the scrum in the first Test against Wales but I thought we were notably better in the second Test.
“I cannot talk about the Test against Italy because I was not there and I have not seen it (on video).
Upper hand in the lineout
The SA scrum face a tough test on Saturday, where the All Blacks will have Greg Somerville, Andrew Hore and Tony Woodcock in the front row. Somerville’s technique on the tighthead side is outstanding and Woodcock is regarded as one of the world’s best loosehead props.
South Africa should have the upper hand in the lineout and the New Zealanders will also miss their captain, Richie McCaw, who is injured.
“I’d think that if I were not playing, the team would have to find a way to adapt,” Smit said when he was asked about McCaw’s absence.
“The All Blacks would, of course, have liked Richie to be part of their team but there is no such thing as a weak All Black team. And they’re playing at home, which is a huge factor.”
This week’s Test will be an introduction to the experimental laws for Smit, who played club rugby under the “old” laws in France earlier this year.
Smit said he had watched television footage of Super 14 matches in which the experimental laws were used and he had asked top SA hookers Bismarck du Plessis and Schalk Brits about the laws.
“I have the manual but I still have to write the test,” he said.Tweet