Bongi hopes for fairer scrum contest in Durban

rugby10 July 2024 08:10
By:Gavin Rich
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Bongi Mbonambi © Gallo Images

The Ireland scrum had three weeks to figure out how to get back their groove after many of the members of the unit had been humiliated by Wilco Louw and company when they previously visited Loftus in the guise of Leinster to face the Vodacom Bulls.

The science of scrumming is an area of the game that can be studied for hours and experienced coaches and players get to figure out remedies to ailments if they have time to do so. Just under 34 years ago at the same Loftus venue, it was the Natal scrum that laid the platform for that province’s first ever Currie Cup title after they’d been shoved off the park in a league game by their opponents in the decider, Northern Transvaal, just two weeks before that.

In Ireland’s case, the remedy for the Leinster humiliation at scrum time was to become technical around aspects of the dark art. It resulted in the Springboks not getting the dominance in the early parts of the first Castle Lager Incoming Series test that had been hoped for. That did come later, when the Bomb Squad was on, when the South Africans effectively clinched the game with what their attack coach Tony Brown described as the most dominant scrum he’d seen on a rugby field.

There was a word that the Boks used to describe what Ireland did to blunt their threat, as used by hooker Bongi Mbonambi in a press conference at the team hotel in Umhlanga Rocks in the build-up to Saturday’s return game at Hollywoodbets Kings Park - spoiling.

Mbonambi fronted a call for the match officials to allow a fairer contest this time, something that could be ominous for Ireland if what happened later in the game is anything to go by.

“When it comes to the scrums we had quite a good chat yesterday (Monday) with Daan (Human, scrum coach) and the whole pack. We know that in the first half we got a bit frustrated because Ireland were spoiling the scrums, where we just wanted a fair contest,” said the Boks and Sharks hooker.

“That’s something that we definitely have to learn and train this week so that we can learn our lessons from that game. The bomb squad did an amazing job after they came on and that penalty try was extremely satisfying for everyone. But there is still a lot improvements to be done.”

The Bok law adviser Jaco Peyper appeared to back Mbonambi’s claims the previous day, with the former top referee saying there would be discussions between the Bok management and his former colleagues on the world circuit around the issues that might need clearing up.

Mbonambi, like the Bok coaches and his teammates, is not expecting the injuries that Ireland suffered in Pretoria and will force at least two changes for the Kings Park game to make the challenge his men face any less formidable.

And while he sympathises with his opposite number from last week, Dan Sheehan, who has been flown home with a serious ligament injury that could keep him out for some time, he doesn’t appear to feel that the replacement hooker Ronan Kelleher, who played most of the Loftus game and also started the World Cup game in Paris last September, will weaken Ireland.

“Unfortunately injuries are part of the game, it happens,” said Mbonambi. “It is unfortunate for Sheehan, but the other hooker Kelleher is a good scrummager and is more physical, so it definitely doesn’t get any easier.

“They have two top class front rows and just one injury in the pack doesn’t really make much difference. So we are expecting a hard challenge in the scrums. But we will prepare ourselves and hopefully this weekend we will get more reward.”