Scrum wobbles no cause for concern

Heyneke Meyer is confident that the Bok scrum will bounce back after a substandard performance against the World XV. JON CARDINELLI reports.

The Boks scored six tries and conceded one at Newlands on Saturday, but it was by no means a clinical showing. This was, of course, to be expected in the first game of the season, and Meyer said as much afterwards.

Meyer declared himself satisfied with the performance as a whole, and added that he was grateful for the opportunity to play a ‘warm-up’ match before tackling Wales in two Tests. The Boks battled for consistency in the first half of Saturday’s match, particularly at the set pieces. They can count themselves lucky that this wasn't a match that mattered.

‘We were the best scrummaging side in the world in 2013. That’s not arrogance, that’s what the stats say,’ said Meyer. ‘We weren’t at our best on this occasion, and part of that was down to the fact that many of the guys hadn’t played together in a while, and we only had three practices beforehand.

‘But I’m not too concerned. We improved in the second half of this fixture, and we will address it further ahead of the game against Wales.’

The Boks scored 29 unanswered points against the World XV in the second half of Saturday’s game. Meyer said that there were some harsh words spoken at the break, and that captain Victor Matfield played a big role in directing the Boks to a more controlled performance in the final 40 minutes.

‘We made too many mistakes in the first half, and also gave away some stupid penalties,’ said Matfield. ‘We also didn’t kick too well. When we got some territory in the second half, we fared far better.’

World XV coach Nick Mallett praised the Boks for their second-half performance, and felt his own charges had played into the hosts’ hands.

The Boks played a more structured game in the latter stages, while the World XV attempted to run the ball from their own 22. The visitors’ tactics backfired badly.

‘South African rugby wanted this game, and I think the Boks should be happy [with the exercise],’ said Mallett.

'I was happy with our [the World XV’s] set pieces, especially since we didn't have much time to prepare. Our scrummaging was especially good. But then there was some very poor decision-making in the second half. You can’t play a Barbarians style against one of the best teams in the world. They will punish you.'

A number of South Africans represented the World XV at Newlands, and Meyer said that those among the forward contingent certainly made an impression.

‘[Hooker] Craig Burden was very good and Juandré Kruger organised their lineout well,’ said the Bok coach. ‘If you look at South Africa’s depth as a whole, that’s good to see. I will always pick the best for the Boks, and it's not an issue that they are based overseas.

‘However, we are happy with the depth in our own squad. It’s about sticking with the group we have at the moment.’

Meyer confirmed that there are no injury concerns following the battle against the World XV.

Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images

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Jon Cardinelli