PRETORIA - First it was France, then the famous bajada scrum by Argentina and now the Springboks have their sights firmly set on demolishing the Wallabies scrum.
That is the subtle but confident warning that assistant coach Matthew Proudfoot has sounded to a fragile Wallabies scrum dismantled by the All Blacks in Dunedin recently.
Proudfoot’s comments come on the back of the Springboks scrumming excellence in their recent wins over France and Argentina in which Coenie Oosthuizen and Tendai Mtawarira defied their critics and restored the team’s strengths at the set-piece.
Speaking from the team’s hotel in Perth on Tuesday, Proudfoot acknowledged that the Wallabies scrum succumbed to a better set-piece from the All Blacks and that the Australians will be much improved with hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau replacing veteran Stephen Moore ahead of Saturday’s Test at nib Stadium.
“The All Blacks scrum is a powerful scrum. I think if you look at them from last year, they’ve improved. I think Polotu Nau brings a lot to their scrum and I think he is a lot more aggressive on the opposition ball. They will lose a lot of leadership in Stephen Moore being out so what they get in one they will lose in the other. They will want to improve from the All Black Test,” Proudfoot explained.
But he says they will not deviate from what has worked this year. And with Oosthuizen over the rib injury that threatened to halt his Rugby Championship form after the victory over Argentina in Salta, the Springboks will be at their devastating best. Moreso with Mtawarira and hooker Malcolm Marx fighting fit.
The Springboks' plan will remain simple with a slight tweak in order to counter how the Wallabies have mastered bending the rules when it comes to the scrums.
“We’ve stuck to a plan that has worked for us and we’ll do the same for this Test. We’ve identified a few things that we can improve on and I’m sure they will come with a few things that came with last year,” said Allister Coetzee's second in charge.
And Proudfoot admits the Springbok scrum wasn’t good enough last year in what was a disastrous season but that the minor technical adjustments they have worked on Oosthuizen’s game during the off-season has transformed the running tighthead into a formidable force who now commands a starting berth.
“We came up with a plan for Coenie even before the season started. There are certain things that we asked him to improve on and he went away and for about six months he worked on them. He is a lot squarer and his bind is better and brought his strength into account. He is confident and he is maturing into his role and eager to improve and that is the change in him.”
Proudfoot did not hold back in his admiration of Mtawarira.
“A guy with 93 Test caps and he is still so eager to learn. He is getting back to carrying the ball, passing it and his defence has been exceptional. If you think back to the Lions series and what he did in that scrumming, that’s Beast and it is good to see him have that appetite at scrum time.”