Springbok scrum doctor Pieter de Villiers is confident the hosts will have ascendency up front in Saturday’s Test against the Wallabies at Loftus Versfeld.
The Springboks, who pride themselves on their physicality and strong set-piece play, have blown hot and cold at scrum time this year with the powerful Bismarck du Plessis sidelined and veterans like Gurthro Steenkamp, Bakkies Botha and Danie Rossouw plying their trade overseas.
De Villiers, a former French international, said there are no glaring areas of concern in the new-look pack’s technique and believes they will produce a much-improved scrummaging performance after their initial encounter against Australia in Perth.
Fielding public questions on the team’s official website, De Villiers said, “I know our timing wasn’t great at the engagement early on in the game [in Perth], and furthermore, the Aussies have always been very astute tactical scrummagers, but what was great was that we could sort it out during the game and we ended strong against them. I’m sure we’d like to continue where we finished in Perth this Saturday.”
De Villiers said it was good to have the Andries Bekker back in the second row to add extra beef to the pack but also noted the Springboks’ depth at lock.
“Andries is an experienced player and good at the set pieces, but he is also a solid piece of meat and can use that weight to our advantage in the scrums,” he said.
“Having said that, we have four great locks in our squad and personally, looking at their work in the scrums, I’m very happy with what all of them are achieving there.
“Heyneke, in consultation with all of us on the coaching team, picks the teams, but this is one of those “nice headaches” to have in terms of who to select and who to leave out.”
De Villiers hinted that the Springboks will look to make greater use of their driving maul against the Wallabies.
“Regarding the rolling maul, you would’ve seen we’re getting them more into the game, but it’s not that easy against all the teams. For instance, because New Zealand competed on a lot of our line-outs, it was easier for us to get mauls going.
“It’s been a traditional strength of SA rugby and we’ll keep on using it. We feel the game is developing towards staying on your feet more and almost being able to set up rips and mauls further away from set-piece, to commit fanning defences even more.
De Villiers was reluctant to single out a single player as the best prop of all-time, but said two-time World Cup-winning loosehead Os du Randt was one of the greats he played against.
“I can only really comment on players I’ve played with or against and I have to say I really rated guys like Os du Randt, Sylvain Marconnet, Jean-Jacques Crenca, Nicolas Mas, Martin Castrogiovanni, Kees Meeus, Carl Hayman and the likes, to name but a few from my era.”
De Villiers added that bigger is not necessarily better when it comes to front row forwards.
“There is not really an ideal weight for a prop - just look at [Jean-Jacques] Crenca, who weighed 105kg, but will go down as one of the French greats. It's all about explosiveness, technique and fitness.”
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