FILE - Jacques van Rooyen of the Bulls is tackled by JD Schickerling of Western Province. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix
FILE - Jacques van Rooyen of the Bulls is tackled by JD Schickerling of Western Province. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

One thing online meetings can’t fix is... scrums, says Bulls prop

By Ashfak Mohamed Time of article published Apr 14, 2021

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In this Covid-19-enforced age of daily online meetings, and meetings about meetings, there is one thing that a meeting cannot solve according to Bulls prop Jacques van Rooyen: scrums.

A grizzled front-row veteran, Van Rooyen has walked a long path from being a policeman in Pretoria about a decade ago to playing in Super Rugby for the Lions, for English club Bath and Japanese side NTT Red Hurricanes.

Now finally back home in the capital, the 34-year-old loosehead prop was a rock for the Bulls in the absence of the injured Lizo Gqoboka in last year’s Super Rugby Unlocked triumph.

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Following the Currie Cup victory, Jake White’s team have new goals and trophies to aim for, starting with the Rainbow Cup, where they will begin their campaign against the Lions at Loftus Versfeld on April 24 (4pm kick-off).

Having conquered South Africa last season, winning the PRO16 competition next season is the ultimate for the Bulls, and that process begins in the Rainbow Cup. And with his northern-hemisphere experience, Van Rooyen knows that the scrum will become an even bigger test for the pack.

“If you want to play in Europe, we know that those guys love scrumming and all those things, and they like to (grind you) and win penalties – and get easy entries into your half and 22,” he said yesterday from Loftus Versfeld.

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t help if you have meetings and all those things about it: the only way you can fix a scrum is to do more and more scrums.

“The body is feeling it a bit at the moment. You don’t talk a scrum right – you scrum it right.”

Van Rooyen said the key aspect of the European clubs’ scrum is their discipline in working as a unit.

“They scrum very well together as a pack. There is no such thing as a loosehead trying to go in on his own angle, or trying to scrum in, or a tighthead doing his own thing,” he said.

“They are very focused on all eight together, 16 feet going forward at the same time, and their height is very good. They try to make it a neutral part of the game instead of giving away penalties.”

And what about the increased tempo in the Bulls’ game for someone like Van Rooyen, who likes to charge into the opposition with ball-in-hand?

“I always say I think I am a flyhalf caught up in a prop’s body. But I think I am the only person who thinks so – I haven’t met anyone else who thinks that,” he quipped.

“It’s interesting if you look at the statistics of ball-in-play in the northern hemisphere, compared to what we had in Super Rugby Unlocked, their ball-in-play looks much longer – 10 minutes longer per match on average.

“But if you look at the speed of the game and the tempo that they play at, it’s a lot of running around the corner … they are very direct.

“So, the metres that you run are not the same as what we do in less ball-in-play time. It will be interesting to see when we get them on the highveld to see if they can keep up with our tempo.”

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