As the Springboks are praised for their scrum and maul in the final, we look at the reaction
The role of the set-piece in South Africa’s Rugby World Cup win
In the aftermath of the Springboks Rugby World Cup triumph over England, plenty of praise was sent towards South African scrum. In the first half alone, they Boks were awarded five penalties at scrum time.
Soon after losing 32-12, England prop Joe Marler was asked about the set-piece. “It is a tough ask and Jerome (Garces) decided he was going to referee a scrum this week… Which is good to know… Bless his heart. It is very hard to change that perception.”
The loosehead would add, sportingly: “South Africa fully deserved to win tonight. I hope they have a great night. As soon as you paint a picture early doors then that is in the back of the referee’s mind. The South African pack did a good job tonight.”
South Africa also stole an England lineout, but it was eight-man shove that caught the eye the most, and England assistant Steve Borthwick would add, post-match: “Credit to South Africa for what they did, especially in that first half when they got the ascendancy (in the scrum). We’ll look at it. Do I have the reasons right now? No, I don’t. It’s something we have to look at closely and think about.”
But what did the Boks make of it?
Starting tighthead Frans Malherbe said of it all: “The game worked out well for us. The scrums went well in the first half and, as a prop forward, there is nothing more you can ask for. Really, really happy with the performance from everyone.”
But his hooker Bongi Mbonambi had more details to give, adding: “It’s really satisfying. As a forward, you always want to have the upper hand. But credit to the whole pack for doing their homework during the week.
“We knew England were going to bring a massive challenge to the scrums and lineouts. We had to work hard all week – credit to someone like Beast (Tendai Mtawarira), who brings the experience that he had before.
“The vibe from the whole team (was incredible)… You could see Siya (Kolisi) and the loosies putting the energy into the scrum, and it was rewarding for us.”
And on all three starting props, replacement looshead Steven Kitshoff said: “Beast, Bongi and Frans put on a massive performance when it came to scrum time. They put the English pack under so much pressure.
“It was our job coming off the bench to carry on and take it forward from there.”
The scrum was the big talking point, but then there was also a surprising moment – the trick up the sleeve – of a centre-field maul after a phase, away from a lineout.
Explaining what was happening there, replacement flanker Francois Louw told the press of the drive: “It was a trick play. It had a very exciting name called T-move – it is the move. A short lineout with a running maul set (in-field), which we set comfortably, and we won a penalty off that, via England sacking it.
“In a final, all you to do is chip away at the scoreboard, and eventually things opened up for us and we got some good tries through some real individual brilliance.”
It was a rare moment of innovation, the spanner in the works. But as several people have said, the foundation was the scrum.
As Louw surmised: “The set piece tonight, our scrum was magnificent, to say the least. To get set-piece penalties in a final, I don’t think you can ask much more from your tight-five.”
They’ll be sore enough, but the Springboks tight five might just get some bruises from all the pats on the back too.
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