The Wallabies’ front row is bracing for a South African scrum hellbent on “making them hurt” after the Springbok pack was completely dominated by Argentina.
The South Africans’ reputation as world class scrummagers took a fierce beating in their last start win against the Pumas in Salta, losing four of their six scrum feeds.
It’s a stat that hasn’t gone unnoticed by either side, with reserve prop Pek Cowan admitting the Wallabies were first cab off the rank to face a Boks’ backlash at Perth’s Patersons Stadium come Saturday.
“Clearly they’ll take that personally,” Cowan said.
“They’ll definitely be coming here to hurt us in that area.”
Yet the Springboks weren’t the only side to face issues at the scrum in their last start, with Cowan admitting it was also a problem area for the Wallabies in their 51-20 flogging from New Zealand.
“Once you have a bad game, you look at areas of improvement and the scrum for both of us is an area we’ll really want to improve on,” Cowan said.
“The South Africans haven’t been as dominant as they’d probably like to be, especially at scrum time, so they’ve clearly picked a scrummaging pack and they’ll definitely be coming here to rustle a few feathers.”
Boks coach Heyneke Meyer has beefed up his pack for the clash with four starting changes in the forwards – and three in the tight-five – bringing in Marcell Coetzee, lineout master Victor Matfield, Adriaan Strauss and Tendai “The Beast” Mtawarira.
Springboks hooker Strauss, who replaces rested rake Bismarck du Plessis, said they’d been hitting the scrummaging machine so relentlessly in the past fortnight that his neck had started to give him grief.
“I must say my neck is a bit stiff,” he said.
“We’ve really worked hard and we want to better our performance from Salta.
“It was a couple of technical things that we didn’t do well on the day. Luckily all of that we can fix.
“We just need to scrum better – and we’re excited to put things right again.”
The added focus on the two sides’ scrums means Wallabies’ hooker James Hanson will face a baptism of fire when he makes his run-on debut.
While Hanson is Australia’s fourth string hooker behind the injured Stephen Moore, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Nathan Charles, Strauss has no doubts his opposite will be more than up to the task.
“It’s dangerous to focus on your opponents too much, but of course we have done our homework – and Hanson’s a good scrummager,” Strauss said.