You’re never going to be perfect but you’ve got to strive to be perfect

Friday, 18 October 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

This weekend will see the third and final Bledisloe Cup clash. It will be a long tour for the Wallabies thereafter. With the change in the scrum laws early this year, the art of scrummaging has taken a new meaning. We now have a situation where the ball actually has to be hooked and the incidence of the scrum half sticking the ball into the second row has to be totally eliminated. Whilst this aspect was never legal, the referees had been lenient in this regard. The new laws mean that on your own put in, only seven are able to push as the hooker is busy striking the ball, whilst all eight in the opposition are in one concerted push. It also brings onto focus the role of the third row. On your own scrum feed, if there is to be a No. 8 pickup, it reduces your pushing power to six men and the flanker must ensure they bind in a manner that hampers easy access to the ball by the opposing scrum half. Over the years under the old law the technique of the second row forwards or lock forwards as they are referred to now, did not have much difficulty to ensure that they guide the ball through the channel so that it finds its way to the feet of the No. 8. Under the new law they must guide the ball against an eight man push and some of them are struggling as we see the ball squirting out from the side and putting added pressure on the scrum half. In instances where there is a significant difference on the pack weights, the technique of good binding and a concerted push in unison comes into sharp focus.  A review of the second Bledisloe Cup indicates that the Wallabies were thoroughly outgunned in the scrum. Wallabies prop Alexander says that they struggled initially to adapt to the new scrum laws introduced by the IRB at the beginning of the tournament, but he insists they have subsequently trended in the right direction against South Africa and Argentina. “The gaps are a lot smaller, so that affects a lot of people’s foot positioning,” Alexander said. “The opposition knows when the ball is being fed, because the ref is calling ‘nine now’, so different sides are attacking around that.” The Boks and the Pumas are considered top scrummaging teams in the world. In fact even the All Blacks struggled at times against the Pumas. The All Blacks have sprung a surprise by including Cory Jane in the starting line up against the Wallabies. Cory Jane ends an 11-month absence from Test rugby and was surprised when Coach Steve Hansen told him he would start against the Wallabies. Hansen is convinced that Jane is close to regaining his status as one of the world’s premier wingers. From a statistical perspective the All Blacks’ 29-match undefeated home record since 2009 is something the Wallabies may only dream of challenging. Richie McCaw will play Australia for the 32nd time, a record for matches against a single opponent. Victory over Australia in the third Bledisloe Cup Test will be New Zealand’s 30th in succession on home soil; which will equal their own world record, set from 2003 to 2008. Without doubt the record underlines the world champions’ dominance on the Test scene over the past decade. Coach Steve Hansen says these results are because the team is driven internally by performance goals. Hansen said his players want to ensure standards don’t drop two weeks after the triumph against South Africa in Johannesburg that secured the Rugby Championship title and attracted widespread praise. “We’ve come off a great win and everyone has given us a pat on the back,” Hansen said. “We’ve got two choices. We can either be like pigs in mud, roll in it and say how good we are, or get back to work and show we can still improve. You’re never going to be perfect but you’ve got to strive to be perfect.” Hansen said the decision to make four changes to the side after the players had assembled in Dunedin only on Tuesday, limiting their training time despite bedding in new combinations, did not indicate a lack of respect for the Wallabies. Offering some hope to the Wallabies is Saturday’s venue. New Zealand has suffered three of their past five home losses, dating back to 2001, in Dunedin. They did, however, win their only Test to date under the roof at Forsyth Barr Stadium, defeating South Africa 21-11 in September 2012. (The writer can be reached via scrumaf@gmail.com.)

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