This blog started out as an April Fool’s Day joke!
In a move aimed at providing SA Schools selectors with a better idea of who their top scrummers are, SARU could decided to relax the inhibiting “1.5 metre” scrum push rule for Craven Week 2019. This would mean that senior level style full-contest scrums would be the order of the day for the 5-match day event held during the last week of the July school holidays.
While Northern Hemisphere development programmes are placing greater emphasis on identifying and improving scrumming ability amongst teenagers, the same attention to detail is no longer applicable in South Africa where safety measures have controlled the contest and thereby drastically reduced the significance of being able to scrum well.
The law amendment introduced several years ago effectively results in a penalty against a team who pushes their opponents backward beyond 1.5 metres point during a scrum in the higher school age-group matches. Although this amendment has had notable success in it’s safety goal and reduced the number of scrum penalties, it has also become a build-in protector of weaker frontrow players and to a degree has also allowed school age-group level coaches to focus less on the disciple of scrumming. When compared to their European counterparts, Saffa school level prop forwards are spend disproportionately more of their training time honing other skills in relation to scrum-work.
The end result is that South African rugby at the professional level is becoming increasingly susceptible to a type of Ozziefication. Australia is renowned for neglecting their scrumming for over a decade and paying a high price for this on the international stage, as their systems failed to produce the quality of specialists needed to execute the highly demanding role to the minimum standard required. Scrum penalties and resultant yellow cards have been highlighted in the past by the ARU as a major area of concern and have definitely been a contributor to Wallaby defeats in test matches between 2003 and 2015.
Safety at Craven Week is paramount. With SARU being able to carefully manage the on-field in terms of the calibre of suitably qualified and experienced match officials as well as the sidelines medical staff appointed for the premier national youth week, the controlled environment sort after is a notch up from a normal interschools event and the scrumming feedback obtained could be meaningful in terms of planning going forward.