Front row to decide RWC final?

2007-10-16 11:26

Tank Lanning

Scrumming made easy.

I was bitterly disappointed by the standard of rugby dished up in the two Rugby World Cup semi-finals this weekend.

Perhaps it was just the time of the kick-off, but for both games I had to resort to sitting on the arm of the couch just to keep my peepers open!

Don't get me wrong, I am very chuffed with the Bok result, and definitely think the Boks were the best of the four sides on display, but that did not take much, given the rugby on offer.

Has the pressure always meant that the rugby has been poor come semi-final time?

Perhaps I am being harsh, as I have been fortunate enough to have actually been at the 1995, 1999 and 2003 semi-finals, and perhaps the atmosphere at the stadium makes up for the fairly dour rugby that comes with the defensive game often employed come the knock out stages of a big tournament.

Or perhaps, given that I have only the rugby to base my decision on, I am actually being more objective.

And if coaches are going to ruin existing classic tournaments like the Super 14 and Tri-Nations - which actually regularly dish up some good rugby that is worth watching - by pulling so called top class players out of respective teams, then I need to catch a bus to another planet.

Couch time

As I said last week, this absolute fixation on the World Cup has to stop. One tough pool game (if you are lucky), and then a semi and a final cannot dictate the four years of rugby in between cups. I mean - The Boks are going to win this World Cup without having played the other top four sides in the world!

And anyone who suggests that an Australia v All Black semi-final would not have been better than the muck dished up by the home side and the Poms on Saturday, is in need of some serious couch time with a head shrinker that could have cured Jeffrey Dalmer!

Yes, I am bitter that the World Cup - and its supporters - has been robbed of what would have been a classic semi-final, and final, but on "de udder hand, Darren", it is fun to have something on offer that is different to what we get from the Tri-Nations each year.

It does make me appreciate that annual tournament, though - it is special. And I hope coaches now realise that and do not devalue it by sending second string sides in World Cup years.

So to the Boks. One thing they have learnt this World Cup is that they can compete in a game where they are being absolutely and utterly out-classed in the scrums.

CJ van der Linde was taught a lesson in scrummaging by the Pumas, and must have felt like he had been man-handled by a gargantuan chiropractor on Monday morning.

At least disrupt them

Now just to live up to the title of my "Front Row Grunt" blog, in a perfect world, come scrum time, you are looking for your tighthead to move forward on your own ball. This takes their openside flank away from the ball and game (as he has to remain bound to his loosehead prop, who is going backwards), and gives your scrumhalf and first receiver more space to work in.

And on the opposition feed, you are looking to either push them right off the ball, or at least disrupt them by getting your loosehead to move ahead. This then puts pressure on the opposition scrumhalf and first receiver because your open side flank, thanks to being bound to a loosehead prop going forward, is closer to the game than the opposition flank.

Sure, this is slightly simplified, and there is a lot more that goes on come the clashing of the two units, but in general, this is what you are trying to achieve. And it is something the Boks are just not getting right, meaning that they have to attack from scrums without that extra space a right shoulder can generate. So credit to World Cup sensation, Fourie du Preez, and man of the match on the weekend, Danie Rossouw, who to my mind, is not a natural No 8, as the Bok pack is making their lives pretty damn tough!

Bonus

That said, I still believe that in CJ and Jannie du Plessis, we do have our two best tightheads taking up the battle. And it is a really good thing that they have been tested, because come this weekend it is actually a gargantuan chiropractor that he will be up against. Pommie loosehead, Andrew Sheridan, is just awesome, and probably the man responsible for getting the "boreathons" in white to where they are now.

And if it is true that the men in Green and Gold are to take home R1m for winning the Webb Ellis Cup this year, CJ will be one player who will well and truly have earned his seven figure bonus!

So the Boks are in the World Cup final and that is just sensational. What a week we are in for. Bring it on!

  • Tank is a former WP tighthead and now Sport24 editor and the author of the blog, Front Row Grunt.

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