Gary Gold believes the Springbok scrum is stronger now than it was before the Lions series.
Beast Mtawarira’s dismantling of Phil Vickery in the opening Lions Test has been highly publicised, but it must be remembered the visitors had selected a pack based on mobility, not power. In the couple of Tests that followed, the Boks were far from dominant.
However Gold, the Bok forwards coach, said he was content with the pack’s evolution in this regard.
‘Our scrum has progressed well since the start of that series,’ Gold told keo.co.za. ‘Even though people thought we struggled in the third Test, we must remember we lost Bakkies Botha and Bismarck du Plessis. When I looked that the tape afterwards, it was actually pretty even.
‘We got the only turnover from a scrum, while for the rest they had the ascendancy for a few, then we held it.’
Captain John Smit faces another stern examination in his shift to No 3 when he faces Tony Woodcock. Smit encountered the Blues’ loosehead in the second half of the Sharks’ win in Auckland earlier this year, while Jannie du Plessis has been brought in as specialist tighthead cover.
‘I have loads of confidence in John. More importantly, the players around John also have faith in him. He’s come on well since hs transition to No 3, and I’m pleased,’ said Gold.
After last year’s Tri-Nations opener, the Boks were given a rude awakening when the Blacks dominated them at the set-piece. In the aftermath, Peter de Villiers complained about illegal tactics from the All Blacks, but Gold maintained matters had changed since.
‘We are just two tough teams who don’t hold back,’ he said. ‘They are well coached with a guy like [scrum coach] Mike Cron involved, while individually they’re very strong. I’m sure the referee will be able to control that area and it’s more about us doing the job on the day.’
The Bok lineout, led by Victor Matfield, is tipped to provide the backs with a solid platform. The All Blacks struggled here against the Wallabies, but Gold said the Boks hadn’t underestimated the Kiwis.
‘We want to keep priding ourselves on our set-piece, and we’ve done extra work on our lineout this week. You never want to take anything for granted and that’s why we’ve put in the effort.
‘Hopefully we’ve got a few tricks up our sleeve and we can surprise them.’
The Boks have stressed how this Test will be a level up from the Lions series, and Gold was no different.
‘There is nothing like the pace and intensity of the Tri-Nations,’ he said. ‘The Lions probably wanted to slow things down against us, while you could immediately notice the difference in the opening Tri-Nations game. We are happy that our conditioning will stand up in that regard.’
By Grant Ball, in Bloemfontein