The average number of set scrums in Super Rugby and Currie Cup finals during the past five years was only 13 per match, but the scrum remains the place where the first moral victory is gained during the most important 80 minutes of the season.
Morris Gilbert writes in Beeld that this is the expert opinion of three former Blue Bulls prop forwards who played in Currie Cup finals.
Richard Bands and Willie Hills, both former Springboks, and Piet Boer agree that the battle in the front row will be decisive when the Blue Bulls and the Sharks meet in this year’s final in Durban next week.
Bands, who was at tighthead in three finals, says the scrum is the only facet in which an opponent can be intimidated without the ball.
Hills, the loosehead prop in the 1991 final against the Lions, refers to scrums as “a war within a war. Here you don’t win a battle; you win the war.”
The number of scrums in a final does not really matter, says Hills. What counts, is the psychological advantage that accrues from every scrum.
Pack will be lead-footed
Defeat in the scrum saps one’s energy to such an extent that it shows in the most important part of a final, namely the final 20 minutes.
“Even if you send on substitutes, the rest of the pack will be lead-footed. If you’re in reverse gear in the set scrums, it also has an effect on your loose forwards, for example, who won’t be able to maintain their natural game,” Hills explained.
Bands says any prop forward’s greatest ideal is to know he has the upper hand over his opponent, and the opponent realises it.
That is when doubts set in and the dominated prop’s game in the other facets starts suffering.
Boer says the way in which the tighthead prop and the hooker support each other usually determines who will have the upper hand in the scrum.
“The tighthead prop and his hooker must operate as a unit within a unit, so that any illegal play by the opposing loosehead prop is limited.”Tweet