Springbok forwards coach Matt Proudfoot says front-row selection will be key ahead of the showdown against the trend-setting All Blacks scrum, reports JON CARDINELLI in Pretoria.
The All Blacks’ 35-17 victory against Argentina in Buenos Aires allowed them to secure their third-straight Rugby Championship title. The forward showing, particularly at scrum time, sent a message to the All Blacks’ next opponents in South Africa, Ireland and England.
The Boks can’t win the title when they face the All Blacks in Pretoria this Saturday. They can, however, finish the tournament with two wins against the No 1 side in the world. They can take some confidence into next year’s clash against New Zealand at the World Cup in Japan.
Going by what was witnessed in Buenos Aires on Saturday, however, that will be easier said than done. The All Blacks’ dominant set piece has clearly made an impression on the Bok coaching staff, with the forwards coach suggesting a personnel change or two may be warranted.
‘Argentina really struggled at the scrum. The All Blacks really look to attack opponents at the scrum with that late shove as well as an approach from different angles. It’s clear we are going to have to be smart in terms of who we select at tighthead this week,’ Proudfoot said.
Saracens No 3 Vincent Koch linked up with the squad last Sunday, but wasn’t considered for the game against the Wallabies. Coach Rassie Erasmus isn’t short on tighthead options, with Frans Malherbe, Wilco Louw and Trevor Nyakane all with the team in Pretoria. Thomas du Toit made a big contribution in the Test series against England, but has since returned to play for the Sharks in the Currie Cup.
Who will Erasmus back in that position this week? Indeed, who will Erasmus back at loosehead prop? Steven Kitshoff started at No 1 when the Boks won against the All Blacks in Wellington, while Beast Mtawarira was in the run-on side last week.
Proudfoot wasn’t giving much away when he spoke to the media on Monday. He did highlight the challenge, though, of scrumming against the best side in the world.
‘I’ve been pleased with how the front-rowers have been pushing one another. As coaches, we’ve tried to create an environment where the players set the standard. We want them to be able to solve problems on the field [during a Test], and the pack has certainly done that.
‘The All Blacks will pose a very big threat. It’s the biggest challenge in terms of your scrum. The Bok pack has evolved, though, and once again I need to give the players credit.’
The Boks defended for much of the Test against the All Blacks in New Zealand. If they dominate at the scrums and lineouts this week, however, they should have more opportunities to attack and control the game.
‘When you have all eight opposition forwards in one space, be it at the scrum or the maul, there is obviously going to be more space across the field to attack. Having a strong scrum is so important, as it puts pressure on the opposition and forces their flankers to stay bound,’ Proudfoot explained.
‘It’s the same with a good maul, it puts the opposition on the back foot and keeps the forwards in that space. That’s what I want from this team. I want the pack to be dangerous. If you look back to when South Africa were really strong, they were strong in this area.’
Proudfoot said the Boks are looking forward to another big battle against their traditional foes. The last two matches have been physically taxing, but the coaches and players remain confident that the sellout crowd at Loftus Versfeld will witness a massive effort by the men in green and gold.
‘It’s a big game in the sense that it’s another Boks versus All Blacks encounter. There will be 46 players putting their lives on the line again this week.
‘So much is invested into this fixture. We saw that in Wellington, and I think we will see it again at Loftus Versfeld.’
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) October 1, 2018