Cape Town - Sir Clive Woodward, coach of the now still lone RWC-winning England team of 2003, was among the leading observers to acknowledge that the imperious Springbok scrum had been the cornerstone of their broader, title-winning success in the memorable 2019 final on Saturday.
The Bok set-piece was responsible for earning as many as five penalties during the 32-12 win - three of them gleefully goaled by Handre Pollard. It had immense psychological value, too, clearly going a long way toward the gradual, widespread demoralisation of the fancied English outfit, the longer the match endured.
An oft-maligned aspect of modern rugby, the scrum will suddenly be much more “in vogue” again, you can be pretty sure, as a result of events in Yokohama.
And the good news from a Bok perspective, as they now seek to become the first SA team to retain the Webb Ellis Cup (something only achieved by the All Blacks thus far, between the 2011 and 2015 tournaments) is that it should stay a key device for them over the entire next four-year cycle to France 2023.
Continuity is precious, and the Bok tight five - naturally the area most heavily responsible for scrummaging prowess - seems destined to be overwhelmingly staffed for several seasons ahead by the same personnel (both starters and the now famous bench “bomb squad”) who gave the national team such a major foothold, tournament long, in the department at RWC 2019.
This is still an appealingly youngish Bok squad in the fullest sense, and of the very few players likely to step down from Test duty immediately, only the veteran utility factor, effervescent personality and effectively third-choice hooker, Schalk Brits, is already confirmed to be vacating a role in the heart of the boiler room.
The only other tight-fiver of the present, highly impressive Bok bunch likely to pull the plug imminently, it seems, is yeoman-serving loose-head prop Tendai Mtawarira, who pointedly tackled the final with a special, constructive zeal and emotion in his 117th appearance.
Frankly, the 34-year-old, ever-popular “Beast” has routinely looked, during RWC, as though a couple of further years in green and gold could easily be squeezed out of him, but he may be planning to get out while at the very pinnacle of achievement ... and nobody would begrudge him that.
Otherwise, though, Bok front-five resources should remain largely unaltered.
They will still be blessed, as the most obvious and highly worthy successor in the No 1 (starting) jersey, by the presence of Steven Kitshoff, who will only be 31 - peak time for a lot of props - when the French-staged jamboree comes around, with back-up in the role from men like hefty Thomas du Toit, you’d think, and maybe Ox Nche.
As for the tighthead side, the veritable embarrassment of riches going forward is even more apparent, with all of Frans Malherbe (presently 28), Vincent Koch (29) and a soon fit-again Trevor Nyakane (30) duelling earnestly for game-time - at very least in the year and a half leading to the keynote British and Irish Lions tour here of 2021.
Bongi Mbonambi and Malcolm Marx will continue to take care of the hooker’s chores with distinction, while all four imposing, frontline Bok locks from the Japanese-hosted World Cup (Messrs Etzebeth, De Jager, Mostert and Snyman) are hardly contemplating rocking chairs.
The current Bok scrum? It’s quite possibly only just begun rumbling with such menace, really, something that will be to the consternation of many foes on the path ahead ...
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