And the secret to that, according to scrum coach Julian Redelinghuys, is the fact all eight men play their part.
“A scrum is a magical thing,” said Redelinghuys, who took charge of the Lions set-piece this year.
“If everyone does his bit, you’re going to have eight people working for the same outcome, and it’s that simple. And here at the Lions it’s something we’ve been driving at for some time ... that if all eight guys do their part stopping the scrum becomes very difficult.”
With just a few rounds to go in this year’s Super Rugby competition, the Lions are again South Africa’s top scrumming outfit, winning 92 percent of their scrums.
“To have a strong and dominant scrum you need synergy and co-operation and we have that,” said Redelinghuys.
“And, almost crucially, you need your flanks and your eighthman to work hard, too. They play a very big part and while it’s always the props who get the credit when the scrum functions well, you can’t ignore what these guys do.
“They don’t get noticed but they’re just as important.”
The Lions have remained all-powerful without the services of the departed Ruan Dreyer and Jacques van Rooyen, for so long the cornerstones of the Lions scrum, as well as back-up prop Corne Fourie. But in Dylan Smith, Sti Sithole and WP import Carlu Sadie, the Lions have found more than capable replacements. In fact, 22-year-old Sadie has been one of the local revelations in Super Rugby this year.
“We lost some key men at the end of last year, but Carlu and Sti have stepped up fantastically,” said Redelinghuys.
“I don’t even think Carlu was fourth choice at the Stormers, and look at him now. He’s worked his butt off too and lost 11kg since joining us and he’s now much more mobile than what he was. He’s young and still some way off what he can be; he’s going to be a massive player.
“And Sti, too, is still far from where he can be, but he’s shown he’s an ironman up front for us.
“And of course Dylan has battled with some injuries again this year, but he’s a player on top of his game when he’s fit, a real powerhouse.”
Redelinghuys and forwards boss Philip Lemmer may be the ones working with the Lions props at the moment and getting the best out of them, but one shouldn’t forget the hard graft done by 1995 World Cup winner Balie Swart, who for many years honed the Lions scrum.
“He taught me almost 90 percent of everything I know about scrumming, so everything I’m teaching the players of today comes from Balie,” said Redelinghuys. “He is an unbelievable coach and certainly my mentor.”
Lions boss Swys de Bruin will today name his team to face the Highlanders this weekend.@jacq_west