United Rugby Championship

Jake concerned over scrum fiasco on URC final pitch: 'Stormers could suffer most'

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The Bulls scrum. (Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images)
The Bulls scrum. (Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images)
  • Bulls mentor Jake White has also expressed reservations about the state of the Cape Town Stadium's pitch ahead of the URC final.
  • He and his coaches' data revealed that the last 80 scrums at the venue have led to almost 30% resets, potentially ruining the contest in that regard.
  • White hopes the match isn't lost by one debatable call because of footing being lost and even suggested the Stormers could be the biggest losers in that regard.

Bulls mentor Jake White has renewed fears over the state of the Cape Town Stadium's pitch, warning that even the Stormers might see one of their greatest strengths nullified for Saturday evening's United Rugby Championship (URC) final.

The venue's surface has been under the spotlight ever since it had to host the bulk of last year's British & Irish Lions tour matches, including all three Tests, leading to a choppy grass that's relatively easily dislodged.

Much of this weekend's build-up has focussed on the issue, particularly after substantial rain earlier this week has many parts of the city scrambling.

"I just feel the turf at Cape Town Stadium isn't conducive to scrumming," said White.

"The Stormers have obviously spoken a lot that they have great scrummers, with two World Cup-winning props [in Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe] at the forefront, and that's perfectly fine, but is just don't think the surface gives them the benefits or bonuses that they should get.

"It's a surface that breaks up very quickly and takes the contest of the scrum away."

READ | 'Mind the gap' - Bok legend's simple advice for ref to tame URC final's iffy surface

That would indeed be a pity if it came to pass, as the battle of the front rows is an intriguing one, with the pedigree and class of Kitshoff and Malherbe contrasting nicely with the burgeoning talents of Gerhard Steenekamp and Mornay Smith.

White and his coaching staff's meticulousness has even unearthed data that will provide even less comfort to their reservations.

In the last 80 scrums at the stadium, 23 have been resets - almost 30% of all those set-pieces.

"I'd hate to lose the match because of a collapsed scrum and the perception is that those two Springbok props couldn't have done anything wrong," said the Bulls' director of rugby.

"I've seen them slip numerous times. Those resets have featured numerous different teams. You can't say one team is scrumming illegally while the other isn't. Those numbers suggest that something is seriously wrong and I just hope two Springbok props, who are seriously good rugby players, don't get the rub of the green when a scrum collapses."

Teams:

Stormers

15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Damian Willemse, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Hacjivah Dayimani, 6 Deon Fourie, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 JJ Kotze, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain)

Substitutes: 16 Andre-Hugo Venter, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Ernst van Rhyn, 20 Junior Pokomela, 21 Nama Xaba, 22 Godlen Masimla, 23 Sacha Mngomezulu

Bulls

15 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 14 Canan Moodie, 13 Cornal Hendricks, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Madosh Tambwe, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Zak Burger, 8 Elrigh Louw, 7 Arno Botha, 6 Marcell Coetzee (captain), 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp

Substitutes: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Robert Hunt, 19 Janko Swanepoel, 20 WJ Steenkamp, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Morne Steyn, 23 David Kriel

That comment is probably also partly down to his team's proficiency at scrum-time this season.

For the best part of the campaign, the Bulls struggled to truly assert themselves through a combination of factors before things started improving markedly over the past few weeks.

"We've actually scrummed really well this season. According to the stats, we've had one of the highest number of scrum penalties awarded in our favour," said White.

"All I'm saying is that the stadium's surface doesn't allow the Stormers to effectively use of their greatest strengths."

Kick-off is at 19:30.


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