Lions scrum needs to be even better
Fit-again Lions prop Dylan Smith needs no reminding that last week’s heroic scrumming will count for nothing when they pack down against the Highlanders at Ellis Park on Saturday.
With the game in the balance against the street smart and combative Waratahs‚ the Lions‚ with Smith on the park as a substitute‚ marched the Sydneysiders off their own feet to effectively close out the match.
“It was a big moment in the game and I was just happy to contribute‚” Smith said modestly.
Much has been made of the sheer speed and intensity at which the Lions play over the last few seasons but an often forgotten fact is the heat and application they bring to the set-pieces.
Even when the faces in their front row have changed‚ the scrum has remained a welcome ally in subduing opposing packs.
“In the past we had Oom Balie Swart instill a lot of good habits and techniques that we are still using‚" Smith said.
"Having worked with him‚ Julian (Redelinghuys) has brought that through to the new guys as well.
"The scrum has always been an area of growth. The results have showed.”
Despite the fact that the Lions have lost front rankers Jacques van Rooyen‚ Ruan Dreyer and Akker van der Merwe to other teams and Redelinghuys to injury enforced retirement‚ they have maintained a level of consistency in the set-piece.
Smith knows all too well‚ however‚ that one week’s success by no means guarantees a repeat in the next match.
Besides‚ this week the Lions are up against a team that relishes combat at close quarters.
The Highlanders may have wonderfully elusive backs but their forwards have always been hard-wired to roll up their sleeves at the prospect of physical confrontation.
It will be a very different challenge facing the Lions this week compared to what they encountered last weekend against a side‚ to be fair like most other Australian sides‚ who merely treat the scrum as a means of restarting the game.
“The Highlanders are a great scrummaging pack‚” said Smith.
“We have to stick to our system.
"We can’t go into a game looking at different things. We have to modify ourselves to look at how we can be better from our previous performance and trust that the system will work for us.”
The Lions may again go into battle without captain Warren Whiteley who picked up a bang to the knee against the Waratahs last weekend.
Whiteley didn’t train on Monday and Tuesday.
The Highlanders of course‚ will be without their regular captain Ben Smith who injured his hamstring at the start of the month.
Smith‚ the Lions prop‚ pointed to the void both men leave in their respective teams.
“They are exceptional rugby players‚" he said.
"They are great leaders off the field too. Obviously for us missing Warren for the weekend is a bit difficult. I have no doubt he’ll be there with us on the side of the field.”
A decision on Whiteley’s fitness is expected to be made on Thursday.