HEYNEKE Meyer’s praise of Scottish rucking may have had a hollow ring in a week where Scotland coaches reiterated their belief that player skills at the breakdown are in need of swift improvement.
But Meyer should know, as he has turned to a Scottish coach, Richie Gray, to help his side dominate teams at the tackle area, seeking to blend Springbok power with Scottish technique to succeed in his aim of winning the 2015 World Cup.
Big Bok forwards such as Tendai “The Beast” Mtawarira, Jannie du Plessis and Juandre Kruger have been spotted this week on all fours in training, to calls of “get lower” that would delight former Scotland coach Jim Telfer, who famously strung a net over training grounds to keep players’ body positions low. Gray invented the Collision King device, and works for makers Rhino explaining it around the world. He has consulted with Super Rugby teams and coaches as well as England, Wales and Georgia, and was in South Africa working with Meyer and other coaches in February.
“One thing I think we’ve got wrong in South Africa is body height,” said Meyer, “and Richie, who I have known for over 15 years, has been looking at us and telling me what he sees.
“Because South Africa has always had big forwards, we have used brute force to clean the rucks. We didn’t really work hard on our technique and, although Super Rugby is a good competition, you’re almost guaranteed quick ball because they want a spectacle. Last year we played England and it was a wake-up call as we couldn’t get any quick ball and struggled to move the ball out of contact.
“We played Argentina after that and Richie said to me ‘you’re going to struggle against Argentina because they flop on the ball’. So we wanted to work harder on the technique and how to remove bodies from the breakdown point.
“If you look around the world, Scotland has always been one of the best rucking teams, especially with [Jim] Telfer and [Ian] McGeechan, and I know that, when it comes to the World Cup, we’re going to have to be better at the breakdown against northern hemisphere teams and with northern hemisphere referees.
“We’ve come to the conclusion technique has to be much better. We need to get lower and we also need a specialist openside flanker that can play there.”