Boks stand their ground on scrum

21 September 2023 - 13:02 By Liam Del Carme in Paris
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Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber during their press conference at Le Domaine des Vanneaux Golf Hotel & Spa in Presles, outside Paris on Thursday.
Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber during their press conference at Le Domaine des Vanneaux Golf Hotel & Spa in Presles, outside Paris on Thursday.
Image: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber has brushed aside suggestions his team’s scrum is not entirely above board.

The Ireland camp ramped up prematch hype ahead of Saturday’s Rugby World Cup pool B match with the suggestion match officials should pay careful attention to the Bok engagement at the scrum and its standing in relation to the laws.

Typically, Nienaber noted he was oblivious to the comments.

“I haven't seen anything. I'm not in the media. I think if you look at it and I can just go historically over the last couple of games that we've played this year, because that would be the props that would be in the same match, we haven't seen that there's been any issues with previous officials.”

The Boks are all too aware the game is likely to be a tightly-contested affair as was the case when they last met in November.

A high penalty count for either team will put them out of the contest.

“When two top teams play each other discipline is important. Not just keeping 15 players on the field but discipline in general.

“But cards can also cut both ways as it did in the England vs Argentina game.

“When we played France last year it didn’t,” reminded Nienaber about the match against Les Bleus in which Antoine Dupont and Pieter-Steph du Toit got red-carded.

The Boks narrowly lost that game in Marseille, as they did a week earlier against Ireland in Dublin.

Those two matches, however, presented the Boks with valuable insight into two teams they were likely to meet at this World Cup.

“We learnt a lot, obviously we didn’t do well enough to win,” said Bok captain Siya Kolisi about the defeat in Dublin.

“We’ve changed a lot from that game. It’s a proper time to play against them now. They are on fire, they are playing really well, and we are hitting our stride as well.”

There was a sentiment expressed at the time that the Boks were going into that clash a little undercooked with several Japan-based players perhaps not properly up to speed.

One of the major differences from the Dublin clash and Saturday’s in Paris is the change in personnel. 

The Bok team that lost 19-16 that day featured hooker Malcolm Marx, lock Lood de Jager, scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse and wing Makazole Mapimpi, while utility back Damian Willemse played flyhalf rather than fullback, and Cheslin Kolbe fullback rather than wing.

Moreover, it isn’t just changing faces but the way in which the Boks assemble their personnel that has seen a shift.

Several pundits have voiced their disapproval at the Springboks’ deployment of seven forwards and just one back on their bench.

Whether the brickbats arrived from a moral or safety angle, Nienaber shrugged.

“Whenever there is innovation in any sport, it gets reaction, positive and negative.

“This is obviously unique. This is the first time someone has announced a team with seven forwards and one back on the bench [the Boks at the eleventh hour were forced into a similar formation against the All Blacks in London]. 

“In terms of player safety, I don’t get that. Nothing stops anyone else from doing it.

“It will be sad day if innovation that is in the laws of the game gets changed. I don’t think it has any bearing on player safety.”


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