After six rounds of Vodacom SupeRugby, the biggest talking point as far as the scrums are concerned surrounds the legality of the Crusaders’ props – in particular, Wyatt Crockett.
The All Blacks loosehead prop gave Lions tighthead Julian Redelinghuys a torrid time in Christchurch two weeks ago. Redelinghuys popped out of the scrum early on, was issued a warning by the referee midway through the first half, and then yellow-carded 10 minutes into the second half, never to return. His replacement, Ruan Dreyer, struggled just as much.
Last Saturday, it was Cheetahs tighthead Coenie Oosthuizen who was on the receiving end as Crockett and Joe Moody (who came on in the 56th minute) dominated the scrum battle.
I was in the SuperSport studio for both of these matches and highlighted the fact that Crockett, who is a tall loosehead at 1.93m, was able to use his height to gain leverage over his opposite number by getting in under his ribs. [See also: Think Tank, episode 6 – Ed.]
After the Crusaders-Cheetahs encounter, I pointed out that the home side had deliberately set up the scrum with their loosehead on the outside of Oosthuizen, allowing the loosehead to garner that leverage under the opposition tighthead’s right breast. Apart from creating an immediate angle on the appropriate target with neck strength, the loosehead grabbed his direct opponent with a straight arm and then pulled himself forward to create momentum upon the engagement. You’re dead meat if you choose to remain static before the set call.
Tightheads already have the more difficult job because they must come down on the neck of the loosehead and activate a right shoulder bind before the opposition loosehead gets his preferred position.
Referee Andrew Lees and assistant referees Kane McBride and Jamie Nutbrown were clearly unaware of this – Oosthuizen received a yellow card after a series of scrums in which Moody went in at an angle. Instead of being awarded a pressure-relieving penalty, the
Cheetahs were reduced to 14 men and conceded three tries in the next 10 minutes. If the Vodacom Bulls are clever, they will make the officials for Saturday’s match at Loftus aware of the Crusaders’ illegal scrumming technique prior to kick-off. If not, they could well find themselves at the end of some unwarranted penalties and/or playing with a man down.
Whoever starts at tighthead prop for the Bulls – be it Marcel van der Merwe or Trevor Nyakane – will have a battle on their hands if they do not scrum Crockett out of the game.
I believe that tightheads are already in the most vulnerable position from a static set point of view and the fact that looseheads are being allowed to have setup and momentum before the set call, needs to be urgently addressed.
However, we will have a fair scrum contest if Crockett or the referee decides to scrum straight head-on-head with no momentum at the set call.