Spotlight on Bok set pieces

The Springboks will have a point to prove at the scrum and lineout when they face Argentina in Buenos Aires, writes JON CARDINELLI.

The Bok scrum was heavily penalised in the recent Test against Argentina at Kings Park. While the South African lineout functioned well enough on attack, it failed to apply sufficient pressure on the Pumas’ feed.

The absence of a solid set-piece platform contributed to the Boks’ 37-25 defeat to Argentina. The Boks need to bounce back at the scrum and lineout this coming Saturday. They need to win the set-piece battles if they hope to end their four-Test losing streak and take some momentum into the World Cup.

The 2015 global tournament will be staged in northern hemisphere conditions. The scrum and lineout contests should have more bearing on the flow and outcome of big games. It’s not a big call to suggest the teams with the superior set-piece units stand the best chance of advancing to the final.

On Wednesday, it was confirmed that the Boks will field a newlook tight-five in Buenos Aires this weekend. Tighthead prop Vincent Koch was out-thought and ultimately out-scrummed by the veteran Marcos Ayerza in Durban.  He makes way for Marcel van der Merwe, while Trevor Nyakane and Adriaan Strauss are back in the starting front row.

The return of Victor Matfield will be significant. Lood de Jager has tried his heart out over the past two Tests, and has produced some impressive individual performances as a lineout jumper and ball-carrier. However, the Boks have missed a lock in the Matfield-mould. They have lacked a leader who can win the turnover, either via good management of the lineout unit or a superior individual leap. Over the three Rugby Championship matches, the Boks made just one lineout steal (the worst record in the tournament).

The Boks need to lift their intensity at the gainline, and make more of their attacking opportunities (they made 47 handling errors during the Rugby Championship, more than any other team). What will increase their potency on attack, and aid their defence, is a better performance at the scrums, as well as a more aggressive showing at the defensive lineout.

Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images

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