Lots of moaning about “scrumming in” given
the Stormers’ man-handling of the Bulls scrum at Newlands on Saturday, mostly
by scribes and fans based up north it seems.
I disagree, believing both Stormers
loosehead props Steven Kitshoff and Ollie Kebble to have had magnificent games,
with their destruction of Bulls tighthead Marcel van der Merwe going a long way
to securing the game for the home side. Sadly by means of one of the scourges
of the modern game – the scrum penalty, often based on one poor chunky fellow
having a bad day at the office. Penalising a prop for standing up in a scrum is
a bit like penalising a flyhalf for missing a tackle.
That said, most tries these days come from
another scourge of the game – the legalised obstruction that is the driving
maul (now seemingly made even more in defendable given that refs are allowing
players to join them ahead of the last players feet – go watch the David Pocock
hat trick of tries if you are unsure of what I am talking about) so it makes
sense for teams to make the most of the situation. Hence the Stormers aiming to
milk the scrum penalty rather than use it to set a stable base from which the
backs could work.
I digress, though. Back to Saturday and
this “scrumming in”. A loosehead’s job is in fact to scrum in on the
tighthead’s ribs, or better get under him and work on his sternum, thus hoping
to unsettle him and move him backwards. A tighthead’s job is to keep that
loosehead’s head out thus hoping to create a gap between said loosehead and his
hooker, with a view to scrumming forward through that gap.
Choose not to scrum in, and a loosehead is then
opting out of the contest, sliding down the side of the tighthead, giving him
an easy ride. That is truly dreadful technique. Something Dean Greyling is
sometimes prone to doing.
So this penalising of scrumming in is in
fact penalising a player for doing his job. If a tighthead is not strong (or good)
enough to keep the loosehead out, then he should pay the price.
Let’s also remember that getting your angle
right as a prop requires skill. Get it wrong and the power from behind tends to
push your arse out. And while many analysts will then point to the “dreadful”
scrumming in, as a prop all you have done is create a weak link in the chain so
instead of that power being channelled through your straight back, it is being
used to force your arse out.
Is scrumming in such a sin? Have we not
over complicated the scrum ridiculously?
Refs are guessing. Scrums are being reset
endlessly. And game influencing penalties are being awarded to avoid these
resets. I would simplify them by making the following changes to scrum laws:
· Allow props to bind anywhere
· Allow props to put knees and
hands on the ground to stabilise the scrum
· Allow scrumming in (but
· Allow props under pressure to
stand up (aiming to avoiding collapses)
· Allow non-violent wheeling
through 45 degrees (it’s a skill)
Apart from the Stormers management and
players, no one likes to see a game won on scrum penalties. Scrum dominance
getting you a right shoulder or pushover try, yes, but not penalties based on
guesswork or a player having a bad scrum.
And while it might be good enough to top
the SA conference, living off scrum penalties is not going to win you the
Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who now heads up Tankman Media, and sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row Grunt.Disclaimer:
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