No quarter will be given in scrums in Boks vs France showdown

09 October 2023 - 14:56
By Liam Del Carme in Paris
Springbok prop Trevor Nyakane during a captain's run at Stade de France in Paris on September 22.
Image: Steve Haag/Gallo Images Springbok prop Trevor Nyakane during a captain's run at Stade de France in Paris on September 22.

Scrumming is a serious business in France. It then stands to reason that tightheads are viewed as precious commodities, to the point where they often commanded the highest salaries in a Top 14 team.

Jonsson Workwear
Image: Supplied Jonsson Workwear

It is not clear if a Parisian bank was broken to secure Trevor Nyakane’s signature to join Racing 92 last year, but apart from the favourable exchange rate (once he returns home) the barrel-chested prop has also acquired insight into the French psyche around scrumming.

Who knows, it may help earn him a start when the Bok team is named on Friday.

“It’s a very important facet of the game for everyone, but playing in the Top 14 and being here for the last year or so, I’ve seen that they put a lot of energy into it,” Nyakane explained.

The scrum is the one thing they never put on the back [burner], that’s the first thing they look at. It’s a beautiful thing to know how to do it, and when you get it right it gives a boost mentally to your teammates and everyone around you watching, and it can drain a lot of energy from the opposition when you see your pack is getting dominated.”

Of course the opposite can also be true. A good croissant can be something to savour, but they can also be flaky. A French scrum under siege could have a devastating affect on the team, not to mention their boisterous crowd.

Nyakane, however, is expecting a battle royale.

They are going to be a difficult set-piece to move, but we pride ourselves in scrumming and we pride ourself in set-piece dominance.

We’ve been working hard, coach Daan [Human] has been killing our legs in the scrum sessions. It’s a challenge we’re looking forward to now.”

Coach Daan too knows the dimly-lit streets of front row play. The former loosehead, who played for the Boks and had a decorated career with Toulouse, knows France will direct much of their forward effort into the set-piece. The return to fitness of their star loosehead Cyril Baille has been crucial in the way they advanced through the pool stages.

Human explained why French props are so hard-baked and why the scrum will be such a key battleground on Sunday.

You can go play against [Rugby Club] Auch ... on that note, that’s where I most probably got my biggest hiding ever in a scrum — you’re playing against Auch, it’s number 14 of 14 teams but I can promise you I got a hiding that day there. We managed to beat them but it’s one of the biggest scrum lessons I’ve learnt.

There’s a lot of Georgians, South Africans, Romanians from all over the world. They come here to scrum, especially the props and obviously forwards, to play and maybe put some food on the table for the families and look after their families back home as well.

That’s why there’s a lot of pride going into a scrum. Especially a scrum because that’s the one place you can’t hide.”