Boks to 'fix' scrum ills
The doomsdayers are ready to write South Africa's ageing forwards off. Jan de Koning brings you Heyneke Meyer's reaction.
The doomsdayers may be ready to write South Africa's ageing forwards off, but Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer does not see it as a terminal problem.
Nick Mallett, the former Bok coach who was in charge of the World XV that lost 13-47 to SA at Newlands at the weekend, felt that his scratch team showed up some shortcoming in the opposition's set pieces.
Mallett, speaking at a post-match media briefing, felt his collection of European-based players (and one local lad) did as well as they could have done - given the limited preparation time.
"I must give my forwards a huge pat on the back for their primary phases," Mallett said, putting particular emphasis on his team's performance in the scrums.
Asked about the age of the Bok forwards - Victor Matfield at 37, Bakkies Botha at 34, Schalk Burger at 31, Jannie du Plessis 31 and Bismarck du Plessis at 30 - Mallett pointed to the injuries suffered by South Africa this year.
"You have to look at the fact the [Eben] Etzebeth  is injured and so is Pieter-Steph du Toit ," the World XV boss said, adding: "Victor [Matfield] has been playing outstanding [in Super Rugby] and Bakkies [Botha] has won just two finals [European Cup and French Top 14].
"South Africa is very lucky to have players of that experience."
Mallett said the Newlands outing would have done the Boks a lot of good ahead of the Tests against Wales and Scotland.
He also felt that the scrummaging is one area where the Boks were really under pressure.
"The first half we got a couple of penalties out of the scrum and in the second half we got another couple of penalties," he said, adding: "At one stage we marched the Boks back about 10 metres.
"Those are areas I am sure the Boks will want to work on," Mallett said, adding that he doesn't feel South Africa have a major scrum issue.
"There were two South Africans [Schalk Ferreira and Pat Cilliers] playing prop when we marched them back," he quipped, saying that depth is not an issue for the Boks.
The Bok coach, Meyer, admitted that he is concerned about some of the scrum issues, but said it can easily be resolved.
"Last year we had the best scrum in the world," he said, pointing to statistics as confirmation of his team's good standing in this department.
"A lot of the guys haven't played together and the second half went better.
"The set pieces, allround, were good if you take into consideration we only had three training sessions.
"I was happy with the scrums later on [in the game]."
Meyer described as "awesome" the World XV's collection of front row forwards - a selection that featured veteran All Black Carl Hayman, Tongan legend Sona Taumalolo, the two SA props in Schalk Ferreira and six-times capped Bok Pat Cilliers, along with Bok uncapped Bok hooker Craig Burden and another All Black legend in hooker Andrew Hore.
Meyer said obviously there is still a lot of work ahead of the two-Test series against Wales (Durban, June 14 and Nelspruit, June 21) and the one-off international against Scotland (Port Elizabeth, June 28).
"We need to work hard on our scrummaging, but that is something we'll fix," the Bok coach said.
Mallett admitted the Newlands encounter will have done the Boks a lot more good than harm.
"South Africa wanted this game so they don't go cold into the encounter with Wales," the former Bok mentor said.
"Hopefully the World XV did enough so they can look at areas of their game they can be pleased with and areas of their game they need to work on."
By Jan de Koning