Bok clincher was most destructive scrum Brown has ever seen

rugby09 July 2024 07:00| © SuperSport
By:Gavin Rich
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Tony Brown © Getty Images

Tony Brown was a flyhalf and is renowned for the attacking philosophy that helped Japan punch above their weight when he was part of the Brave Blossoms’ coaching staff, but he’s never been one of those who undervalues the importance of having a strong forward pack.

“It has been enjoyable for once playing with eight big angry Afrikaners in front of me rather than against me,” was one of the Springbok assistant coach’s most memorable quotes from his season playing for the Sharks in 2006.

He admitted at a press conference at the start of the buildup week to the second test against Ireland at Hollywoodbets Kings Park on Saturday that he feels like he is in that space again. Coaching with the Boks is very different to what he experienced with Japan, where a scrum was just a means to restart the game and hopefully get the ball back.

“They are definitely two very different teams,” Brown grinned when reminded of what he’d said 18 years ago while playing out of Durban.

“I don’t think I have ever seen as dominant a scrum (as the one that forced the match clinching penalty try for the Boks late in the game at Loftus). With Japan it was just a case of getting the ball in and getting it out as quickly as possible to try and get around teams.

“It is definitely very nice to coach a team where the set piece is of such quality, where the big men dominate the gainline. There are a lot of good things you can do on the rugby field if you have speed and momentum.”

When he was speaking Brown was sitting alongside loosehead prop Gerhard Steenekamp, who was playing just his second test for his country in the Pretoria game and was part of the Bomb Squad that was effectively responsible for that try that Brown was referring to. The Bulls prop summed up the role of the reserve players in the Bok set-up quite perfectly.

“The guys that started did really well to tire out their forwards, and it was nice that we were able to make an impact in the second half,” said Steenekamp.

“It was very satisfying to be part of that scrum, it’s something we’ve been working really hard on. And from a personal point of view, playing with such quality players certainly gets one’s confidence up. It’s every boy’s dream who plays rugby to become a Springbok, so this is very special to me, and to be honest it is hard to put into words what it means to be part of this squad.”

There are a few things that need working on in the scrums, and there were technical issues, perhaps around the refereeing interpretations as much as anything else, that led to the Boks being a bit under-powered in that department in the first half.

It is something that the Bok laws adviser Jaco Peyper said was being discussed with the referees ahead of the Durban game.

Steenekamp though was confident they would be ironed out in time for the Kings Park clash.

As Brown said though, there is much more to the forwards’ role in a game than scrumming, and he says he is pleased with the way the members of the pack are contributing to the attacking plan.

“Your attack is only working if the forwards are working as well,” said the former All Black flyhalf

“They need to get gainline for us, they need to get carry, they need to be able to pass, they need to be able to clean out, on attack they have so many demands on them, well in a game of rugby they have so many demands on them. They need to be able to scrum, maul, contribute in the lineouts, defence, clean out.

“No attack can function smoothly without the forwards dominating their areas so it is nice to be able to challenge them to push themselves, to dominate the gainline and move the ball. They have done well and hopefully they are just going to get better.”