Cape Town - Springbok assistant coach Matt Proudfoot has defended the performances of Tendai Mtawarira, insisting the prop forward is not over the hill.
“The Beast” has copped flak in some quarters in recent times and appeared to have his hands full against Frenchman Rabah Slimani in Durban last Saturday.
However, Proudfoot disagrees with the notion that Mtawarira was struggling.
“To say that a guy with 90 caps is past it, in my opinion, is crazy,” Proudfoot said at a press conference in Johannesburg on Tuesday, as the Springboks prepared for this weekend’s final Test against France at Ellis Park.
According to Proudfoot, Mtawarira’s contribution to the team remains “unbelievable”.
In last Saturday's Test at Kings Park, the Bok loosehead was penalised once at scrum time and then later won a penalty back, before celebrating animatedly.
“You could see Beast’s emotion after that penalty. Beast is not someone who normally shows a lot of emotion on the field, but that showed how much it meant to him. Over the years, he has built up so much knowledge about scrum work that you can’t just push it aside.”
A hallmark of the Test in Durban was several reset scrums - seven in total - but Proudfoot was not worried about that statistic when probed on the matter.
“No, I think if you understand scrummaging at that level where the integrity and stability around set is so paramount... there’s going to be dark cards played. And we understand that. Our philosophy is that we would like a scrummaging battle where it’s pack against pack - and that’s what we’re striving to accomplish."
The Bok forwards coach continued: “Scrummaging is not a natural place for the body to be in and the big thing there is to use these guys’ physiques and their powerful muscles as best we can and there we talk about body position. So that’s the big driving focus for us - to be able to get them into a position and a collective to drive into a direction we want to go.”
Proudfoot continued to laud the efforts put in by his front-rankers.
“The work that these guys put in (behind the scenes) is remarkable. When you don’t see it, the work they do in the gym, they do it after sessions... binding positions, where they’re binding on the opposition... so these are the dark cards that the guys have being mastering.
“What you’ve got to understand about the scrum is that you’re bringing a ton of weight together within 30cm... there’s a lot going on there... And these guys have been really, really good there and I’ve been really pleased with the props.”