It's back to basics for props
The new process of engagement will put the scrums firmly in the spotlight when the Currie Cup competition kicks off this weekend.
The IRB changed the sequence from 'crouch-touch-set' to 'crouch-bind-set'.
It doesn't sound like much of a change, but Western Province forwards coach Matthew Proudfoot said it has been one of the main focus points of their build-up to the start of the competition.
The Currie Cup will also be the first high-profile competition to use the new sequence ahead of the new law's introduction to Tests in the forthcoming Rugby Championship.
It is hoped that the new sequence will ensure the hit will be less powerful, that scrumming will be safer and more orderly - without removing the need for strong, skilled props in the game.
In addition referees have been instructed to police more accurately the putting of the ball into the scrum.
Proudfoot, speaking to this website ahead of the big north-south derby between WP and the Blue Bulls at Newlands on Saturday, admitted there is a certain amount of "apprehension" ahead of their first encounter with the new engagement sequence.
His remarks come in the wake of suggestions that South African props will need to "learn to scrum".
Hurricanes scrum coach Dan Cron told the Wellington-based Dominion Post newspaper that the new application is likely to give New Zealand an added advantage in the scrums and will disadvantage South African teams.
Cron suggested SA props always used their bulk to ensure they gained an advantage at the hit and suggested all SA tighthead props will have to "sharpen up a bit".
Proudfoot felt that it is too early to make such bold statements.
He said only time will tell whether it is going to create a better contest or famour some teams.
"I can just say we are quite apprehensive of the new scrummaging processes," Proudfoot told this website.
"That [the scrum engagement sequence] has dominated our whole thought processes as a pack, leading up to this game," he said of their encounter with the Bulls at Newlands on Saturday.
"We used the three weeks [since our last Super Rugby game] to work on it."
The Province mentor said the WP forwards went "back to the basics" and really focussed on the fundamentals of the prop's role.
"We focussed on their posture, focussed on their body position, focussed on their targets, focussed on their binds and really focussed on the execution of it.
"I feel all the teams are on a similar footing.
"[Springbok coach] Heyneke [Meyer] expressed that yesterday [Monday] in the press and the apprehension about it, starting a Test match that way.
"We feel similar and I am sure the Bulls will feel similar.
"No matter how much prep time you do on the field, or live scrummaging practice - and we've done two sessions of live scrummaging [in training] - it is not quite game related. It is not quite a real game."
Proudfoot admitted there is a level of apprehension and how it is going to work.
"Our whole focus has just been on the execution - making sure that we can execute and apply what the referee wants us to apply.
"The team that does that can then start developing a bit of dominance. If you can't get your execution right you can put yourself in a bad situation. That has what we have been focussed on and what our whole mental message has been about the scrum for this week."
Asked if he felt the new sequence will make for a better or more even contests in the scrums, the WP forwards coach said it is too early to tell.
"My whole view of it is, that is about getting the basics right and we really focussed on that.
"The nice thing is that if your basics are right and your props are in a good position, you can apply a lot of force - because you can have all eight of your guys in a scrummaging position.
"You do have to be technically very proficient to get the rewards that the system has for you. That is why our whole focus has been to take a step back and focus on the basics - get the basics right before we try and get ahead of ourselves.
"There are rewards to be had, but it starts with the accuracy that you get that the referees are looking for ... that the interlocking occurs correctly.
"Then the team that has the synergy will be able to get dominance."
By Jan de Koning