Scrum endurance the key

Pieter de Villiers (Gallo Images)
Pieter de Villiers (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - The cohesion and endurance of a pack would now be the most important factors under the new scrum laws to be used in the Rugby Championship, Springbok scrum coach Pieter de Villiers said on Tuesday.

A new engagement sequence of "crouch, bind, set" will be introduced and props will now have to bind with their opposing player with their outside arm before engaging.

The new laws reduce the impact of the "hit" and referees have also promised to be more strict on scrumhalves feeding the ball in straight.

"It's going to be a learning process for players worldwide who have practised their trade over the last 10 years with the 'hit' scrum and it's a big change," De Villiers said.

Speed would not be as important and the frustration over grey areas in decisions, especially when binds slipped because of tricks, had been dealt with.

"It's now very important for the scrum to stand together and have endurance and it's become a much tougher battle," he said.

"It's more about sound technique and endurance now and it's more important for your whole pack to work together."

The former French prop, who was capped 69 times by his adopted country, said a team's armoury on the bench would now also be crucial.

"Teams are probably going to use most of their bench now because fatigue levels are going to increase and you'll have to use fresh legs.

"But if you are prepared to work hard, for longer, you will get opportunity and reward from the scrum. The team that works hard consistently will get the reward," De Villiers said.

The Springboks open their Rugby Championship campaign against Argentina at FNB Stadium on Saturday and the Pumas will be relying heavily on their scrummaging.

"Their passion for scrummaging will always be there. They're short, stocky guys and difficult to move and we expect them to have a strong, stable base at scrum time," De Villiers said.

Although Argentina are famous for their 'bajada' scrum, a co-ordinated shove by all eight forwards with the power directed through the hooker, Springbok backline coach Ricardo Loubscher warned that the hosts could not underestimate the Pumas' backline.

"Most of them play in Europe and they are world-class," Loubscher said.

"Given the opportunity, they can finish, their outside backs are quick and have had plenty of exposure to sevens rugby. So we need to prepare well against them too."

The Springboks have battled for continuity in the crucial scrumhalf position and Loubscher said the return of veteran Fourie du Preez to the squad had been a major boost.

"He's a world-class player, there's no need to elaborate on his credentials.

"He just slotted right back in, I was impressed, I thought he did really well in training. He brings great experience to the team and he makes it much easier for me as the backline coach."

The former Springbok wing said he was excited by the prospect of Du Preez and flyhalf Morne Steyn playing together again because they had each proven their ability to perform under pressure.

Pat Lambie, Ruan Pienaar and Jano Vermaak are the other scrumhalves in the squad.

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