JOHANNESBURG – The team that wins the scrum battle often comes out on top in modern-day rugby and so it should prove at Loftus tomorrow when the Bulls host neighbours, the Lions.
But the lineout showdown will be just as crucial in this highly-anticipated Super Rugby clash.
Rugby writer Jacques van der Westhuyzen looks at the key matchups:
One thing you know for certain when the Bulls and Lions clash is that the scrums will be big, powerful and full of mongrel. And both teams will know exactly how crucial it’s going to be, to be the dominant force because the team that wins the scrum battle will most probably win more penalties and enjoy greater field position; that’s the modern game.
The Lions trio of Ruan Dreyer, Malcolm Marx and Jacques van Rooyen are seasoned operators with tons of experience and have started the new season with a bang.
So far in their two games against the Sharks and Jaguares the Lions have won 15 out of 18 scrums, and that doesn’t include the penalties they’ve won in that department. The Bulls did well, too, in their only game up to now, against the Hurricanes last week, winning six of seven scrum feeds and they look a strong unit, but they’ll face an altogether different test this weekend. Referee Marius van der Westhuizen faces a big test, too, by having to make the right calls, which are not always obvious in the front row.
The Lions have played a bit of a wild card this week by selecting regular No 5 lock Franco Mostert at blind-side flank, and pulling in former Bulls man Marvin Orie into the second row, thus strengthening their lineout options. With Andries Ferreira fit and firing again, the visitors to Pretoria have three excellent options to win lineout ball for them, something that hasn’t worked as well for them so far this year.
Missed throws by Malcolm Marx (six in total) nearly proved costly in their two previous games and the Lions will hope the department functions far better this week.
For the Bulls, RG Snyman and Lood de Jager were in sensational form a week ago against the highly-fancied Hurricanes and they’ll be dead-keen to continue that kind of form against their neighbours, with all the locks on show in the running for higher honours later this year. Bulls hookers Jaco Visagie and the experienced Adriaan Strauss face a big test of their throwing-in credentials.
The home team missed just one throw-in last week so they’ll be confident of another good showing though. It promises to be a fascinating showdown.