Pressure on vulnerable Bok pack ahead of Wallabies encounter

2014-09-02 00:00

CAPE TOWN — When you hear the words “mental scarring” you most often associate them with gleeful use by hard-nosed cricket characters like Steve Waugh or Kepler Wessels.

But the expression of vulnerability, most unusually, may be applicable to some elements of the Springbok pack as they go into battle with Australia in the Rugby Championship on Saturday.

It could be just one reason why coach Heyneke Meyer, normally one who favours consistency, may ring several changes to his starting eight this week.

It has been speculated with all of Adriaan Strauss, Marcell Coetzee and fit-again ultra-veteran Victor Matfield will enter the starting mix against the Wallabies. Strauss and Coetzee will be promoted at least partly on the strength of late — and vital — excellence off the bench in the 33-31 heart-stopper against Argentina in Salta.

All those possible alterations have merit: but what sort of psychological state will the remaining members of the pack who started against the Pumas be in as they now face “bigger” foes Australia only a fortnight on?

Yes, we know that the Wallaby set-piece, and particularly the scrum, haven’t exactly been a core strength for several years, so there is a pretty good chance that the Boks will achieve parity at the very minimum.

And that would at least be a baby step, if you like, back to more desirable, normal service.

But the possibility must exist that some forwards have been spooked by the undignified way they were either run backwards by the Bajada or left in a crumpled heap.

The feeling that brute strength at scrum-time will be a near-constant, enforcing element of Bok rugby is deeply embedded in the South African psyche. This even if there have also been plenty of times before when the country has been exposed by smaller packs with much shrewder “technical” skills.

Some pundits say, and perhaps not without justification, that it was the worst pounding they’ve ever seen by a Bok eight in the department.

Just what did it feel like, for instance, for Jannie du Plessis, a gnarly stalwart and supposedly the Boks’ clear-cut supreme tighthead anchor man, to be forced so lamentably into retreat by the ferocity of the Argentinean scrummaging?

And what of a younger engine-roomer like Eben Etzebeth, the muscular and normally super-physical lock who is not used to taking back steps in any facet of play yet so often ended up that day flat on his back with a bunch of Pumas forwards acting as near-sadistic steamrollers above?

It is difficult to imagine that recovery from a battering like that can occur with any great haste, regardless of the merits or otherwise of the next opponents.

Will the Bok scrum be in an almighty, and angry, redemption mode at Patersons Stadium, or will they be involuntarily enveloped in self-doubt and insecurity after the nasty second-fiddle experience of Salta?

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.