The Artistry of the Scrum: South African Rugby’s Reverence for the Set Piece

South African rugby culture has long revered the scrum as an art form, with players like Neethling Fouche of the Stormers leading the charge in perfecting this quintessential aspect of the game. As the Stormers prepare for their URC quarter-final showdown, their commitment to the set piece could be a decisive factor in their quest for victory.

South African Rugby Reveres the Scrum as an Art Form

As the Stormers prepare for their URC quarter-final showdown against Glasgow Warriors, tighthead prop Neethling Fouche paints a quintessentially South African scene. He describes an evening braai where an uncle would gather the group into a scrum, demonstrating the craft and technique required. This reverence for the brutal set piece is deeply ingrained in South African rugby culture, far beyond a mere functional element of the game.

Fouche himself did not always share this outlook, prioritizing ball-carrying and rampaging over the intricacies of scrumming in his youth. It was only upon joining the Stormers in 2017 that he began to take the set piece seriously, entering a dressing room filled with experienced and formidable scrummagers.

The Stormers’ Commitment to the Scrum

The Stormers’ forwards coach, Rito Hlungwani, acknowledges that the team’s historical pursuit of an entertaining, running brand of rugby has sometimes overshadowed the importance of the scrum. “Scrumming isn’t always sexy,” Fouche admits, “often it’s just six big fat guys crashing into each other.”

However, Fouche’s mindset shifted during the Covid-19 lockdown, as he dedicated himself to perfecting his scrumming technique. The transformation was evident, and he soon earned the respect of his teammates, including Springbok prop Steven Kitshoff.

The Stormers’ scrum statistics reflect this newfound commitment, with the team topping the URC in scrum penalties won. Fouche explains their aggressive approach, driven by head coach John Dobson’s message to “go for it with everything we’ve got.” This mentality resonates with the passionate home crowd at DHL Stadium, who eagerly anticipate the Stormers’ dominance in the set piece.

The Growing Appreciation for the Scrum in South African Rugby

Fouche’s journey mirrors the growing appreciation for the scrum in South African rugby, particularly following the Springboks’ successful implementation of the “Bomb Squad” tactic in recent years. Props like Tendai Mtawarira and Ox Nche have made scrums “sexy,” captivating fans and inspiring the next generation of front-rowers.

As Fouche looks to the future, his dreams have shifted from running and scoring tries to the visceral experience of scrumming against the opposition. He believes he is ready to make the step up to the Springboks, where he can channel his passion for the set piece on the international stage.

“South Africa’s rugby culture has long revered the scrum as an art form, and Neethling Fouche’s journey is a testament to this enduring tradition.”

The Stormers’ approach to the set piece has the potential to be a decisive factor in their URC quarter-final clash against Glasgow Warriors, as they seek to translate their scrum dominance into match-winning performances.

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