TOULOUSE - French coach Marc Lievremont delivered a damning verdict of the Bok scrum by suggesting it was weaker than Australia’s following his side’s 20-13 victory in Toulouse.
It was the ultimate put-down as Australia has long been considered to have the weakest scrum amongst the world’s leading rugby nations.
The Springboks slumped to their fourth loss in France in 12 years on the back of a creaky scrum and in the face of some inspired French play.
“South Africa’s pack was heavier than ours but it’s less vicious than Australia for instance,” Lievremont said.
“We have a very good scrum but it has not always been rewarded for its dominance in the way it should. The fact that we won today is mainly due to our scrum. We were able to impose our game on them.”
But Springbok No 8 Ryan Kankowski felt that the scrum went well from his perspective at the base: “We had a very solid scrum and felt comfortable with the ball I was getting off the back,” Kankowski said.
“We had some good training sessions with [former French prop] Pieter de Villiers where he explained that the French would be direct and come for you. That’s exactly what happened but I think we managed it quite well.”
Bok coach Peter de Villiers didn’t have the same unqualified praise for the scrum as Kankowski, but he did question referee Wayne Barnes’s interpretations that saw the South Africa give away two penalties at scrum time.
“If you look at our scrum against Australia in Brisbane [the Boks lost] and our scrum tonight we had the same problems – and the one thing that is common to both matches is the referee,” De Villiers said.
“I feel that we could quickly find a solution if referees could explain to us exactly where we are going wrong. But they can’t give us an explanation and week after week we have no idea what we have to work on.”
But De Villiers didn’t help his own cause by opting to bring specialist tighthead CJ van der Linde on at loosehead instead of Wian du Preez, who is a specialist loosehead.
Van der Linde was penalised twice by Barnes and the coach has to take some responsibility for deploying a player out of position.