Super Rugby

Lies and statistics: Why the Bulls aren't worried about Stormers' '100% scrum'

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Duane Vermeulen of the Bulls watches over all at scrum time during the Super Rugby Unlocked match against the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on 24 October 2020.
Duane Vermeulen of the Bulls watches over all at scrum time during the Super Rugby Unlocked match against the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on 24 October 2020.
Gordon Arons/Gallo Images
  • The potency of the Stormers' vaunted scrum is enough to drive many opponents to distraction but the Bulls are taking it in their stride.
  • While acknowledging the Capetonians' strength in that area, Bulls skipper Duane Vermeulen says one shouldn't stare oneself blind by their 100% success rate to date as it can be skew.
  • Bulls mentor Jake White notes that improving in every facet of the game by extension means one's improving at scrum-time too ... and thus competing.

What to do about the "100%" scrum?

That's been one of the early talking points of Super Rugby Unlocked when it comes to the Stormers, who, along with the Cheetahs, boast a flawless record when it comes to that set-piece.

Considering also that the Capetonians' scrum is spearheaded by the all-Springbok front row of Steven Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi and Frans Malherbe, opponents' focus on taming it or even planning from damage control can become a distraction.

But not for the Bulls, who host the traditional north-south derby at Loftus on Saturday.

Teams:
Bulls

15 David Kriel, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Jacques van Rooyen

Substitutes: 16 Joe van Zyl, 17 Gerhard Steenekamp, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Sintu Manjezi, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Marco Jansen van Vuren

Stormers

15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Edwill van der Merwe, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Ernst van Rhyn, 6 Jaco Coetzee, 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain)

Substitutes (from): 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Leon Lyons, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 David Meihuizen, 21 Marcel Theunissen, 22 Ben-Jason Dixon, 23 Godlen Masimla, 24 Tim Swiel, 25 Angelo Davids, 26 Tristan Leyds

"A 100% success rate looks impressive on paper but (publicly available) statistics tend to not delve deeper," said skipper Duane Vermeulen.

"There's seldom an indication of how many times a scrum collapsed. How many times do we see resets during a game? There are so many finer things that referees need to keep in mind. Also, we're not oblivious to the fact that the Stormers have a very strong front row. These guys know how to scrum."

The point the wily Springbok No 8 makes is that no-one denies the strength of the Stormers' scrum but it certainly wouldn't help to obsess about how to stop it.

"In the end, these battles are about which team works together best. We've lost a few scrums in the past three weeks," he said, referring to the Bulls' lukewarm success rate of 83% according to Sanzaar.

"But those hiccups shouldn't worry us because that's exactly the type of things we need to work on anyway. Our main focus has just been to improve overall, to keep building on our game weekly and remedy errors. If we keep working hard overall, by extension we'd be better in the scrums too."

It's a sentiment shared by Jake White, the Bulls' director of rugby.

"What we want to focus on is just getting better and better," he said.

"What's been nice to date is that we've improved in everything week by week, whether it's breakdown, scrum or mauling. Little by little, we're getting more confident in each area. We're going to have to get a lot of things right against a quality team."

White, however, admits that maintaining parity at scrum-time isn't just about nullifying a big Stormers weapon but also ensuring they don't let their opponents off the hook under pressure in their own half.

"What we learned from last week's game against the Pumas (where an off-colour Stormers 'burgled' a 42-37 win) is that the Stormers use their scrum to get out of their half," he said.

"It's one of the areas they've done consistently well over a long period of time. When you have players like Kitsie, Bongi and Frans, it's going to work for you.

"We need to be aware of that."

Kick-off at Loftus is at 19:00.  

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