Boks in UK

Millennium surface under fire

2013-11-10 15:00
Millennium Stadium (AFP)

Cardiff - Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer was predictably not prepared to make excuses, but his opposite number Warren Gatland made them for him – the scrumming shambles that marred Saturday’s Test between South Africa and Wales was down to the scratchy Millennium Stadium surface.

According to the website, there weren’t many scrums early in the match.

In fact, the big men had to wait until the 20th minute before squaring up for the first time.

But once set-scrums became a part of the contest, they were a blight on the game, with referee Alain Rolland taking turns to penalise both sides and frequently having to put the two scrum units through endless re-sets that slowed up the game.

Rolland, struggling to control things, eventually lost his patience and sent two players from both front-rows, Gethin Jenkins of Wales and Coenie Oosthuizen of South Africa, to the sinbin on the hour mark.

It was unfortunate for Oosthuizen, who had just come on, but Gatland felt it was a fair call as the two scrumming combinations had been warned by the referee.

"He had clearly warned the players so I have no problem with the decision," said Gatland afterwards.

"The ironic thing though was that had already lost two front-row guys to injury, so having a third sent off meant we had to go to uncontested scrums for the period that the props were off the field."

It is never an edifying sight to see uncontested scrums at top international level, so as it turned out, Rolland’s attempt to sort out that aspect of the game only made it worse.

"The scrums were a mess but I think we can blame the surface of the ground for that.

"Both teams were slipping and the guys tell me it was impossible to get a foothold, something that makes it almost impossible to scrum," said the Wales coach.

His view was supported afterwards by Bok debutant prop Frans Malherbe.

"The surface was very tricky and it did make scrumming really difficult," said the Western Province tighthead.

"We couldn’t get steady, and neither could they.

"It was really frustrating and we took it in turns to go down and be penalised."

Meyer though took the hard line, and his quest for perfection could see the Boks putting in extra time on their scrumming as they prepare for the next test against Scotland in Edinburgh.

"We are not a team that likes to make excuses.

"Our scrumming is something that we pride ourselves on and it has been good all year and it wasn’t good enough tonight.

"It is something we are going to have to work on," said Meyer.

Senior front-row forward Bismarck du Plessis agreed with Meyer.

"I am not sure what was happening out there and can’t tell you the reasons, but what I can tell you is that it wasn’t good enough and we have to work on getting it right," said Du Plessis.

However, while that was Du Plessis’ initial line, when he was later asked what he would wish for most for next week’s game in Edinburgh, he responded: "What I would pray for is good weather and a better playing surface."

Read more on:    springboks  |  heyneke meyer  |  rugby

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