CAPE TOWN - Springbok scrum coach Matt Proudfoot says they are expecting the All Blacks to bring “brutality rather than tricks” when they pack down at scrum time at Newlands on Saturday.
As always, the scrum battle will be an important one, and one of those “mini battles” both sides will want to win. It is an important area for the Springboks especially, who struggled at the set-piece in their 27-27 draw with the Wallabies, with tighthead prop Ruan Dreyer penalised a number of times.
So now, as the Boks prepare for the Cape Town clash, Proudfoot says they’ve learnt from both the horror defeat to the All Blacks in Albany and their draw against the Australians in Bloemfontein.
“The All Blacks tend to take you on physically, they have a very settled scrum system, and they tend to present you with more brutality than tricks,” the assistant coach said.
“We’ve also learnt from the Aussie game and we’ve adapted where our technique wasn’t good enough. Technically, there are things we could have done better, things that we needed to adapt to, and we’ve worked hard on them. We need to adapt quicker. It’s going to be a different challenge this week.”
Proudfoot also said Dreyer - who came into the Bok set-up to replace Coenie Oosthuizen, who broke his arm against the Wallabies in Perth - just needs to find the rhythm and confidence he showed in Super Rugby again, although his Super Rugby productions weren’t flawless either.
“We’re learning as a front row. I thought Ruan was really good in Super Rugby, and finding that rhythm and that confidence for him is key for us. So that’s for me to take on board as well to make him feel as comfortable as he did,” Proudfoot said.
“The problem on Saturday, and where he learnt, was the opposition will present you with different pictures and you have to adapt, you have to have a Plan B that suits us.”
“With every (personnel) change in the front row you need different approaches and there are different aspects we need to adjust in our own technique.”
Proudfoot also said Tendai Mtawarira - who he likened to legendary Springbok prop Os du Randt - boasts too much experience to just be discarded, and added that his work ethic has been an inspiration to the rest of the team.
“You can’t chuck that type of player away - the front row is about experience,” Proudfoot said.
“I think Beast is really focused on what he wants to achieve. And the parameters Allister has set in terms of work rate and conditioning - he’s taken that on board as a 32-year-old.”
“And if a senior guy with 95 caps sets that type of work environment, it’s very easy for the guys to follow - and that’s leadership.”
And while Beast was praised by Proudfoot for his experience, Proudfoot also mentioned the younger loosehead resources like the energetic Steven Kitshoff - who could get his first start this weekend - Cheetahs man Ox Nche and the Sharks’ Thomas du Toit.
Kitshoff has been massive for the Boks this season with his all-impact performances off the bench at the scrums, while he has also shown that he can be an asset away from the set-piece as well with his strong carries, keen tackling and all-round hard work on the pitch.
A guy like Trevor Nyakane, who can play in both the No 1 and 3 jerseys, can also contribute a lot up front should he be given more opportunities, while the Stormers’ Wilco Louw - a front-rower who doesn’t bring as much in open play as Nyakane or Kitshoff, but is a strong scrummager - is also a tighthead option, especially as Proudfoot admitted the Boks are a bit low on resources in that position.
“I’m very fortunate to have Beast and Steven as our loosehead props,” Proudfoot said.
“We’ve got Steven who’s an unbelievable player, Ox Nche, Lizo Gqoboka and Thomas du Toit who are unbelievable looseheads. We need to build capacity on the right-hand sight, but we’ve got great looseheads in the country.”