Bok coach Rassie Erasmus doesn't smell a rat with uncontested scrums

Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus speaks to the media.
Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus speaks to the media.
Image: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

There would have been the temptation to smell a rat when the scrums were declared uncontested in the Springboks’ 49-3 win over Italy at the Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa on Friday.

The Italy scrum was starting to show distinct cracks but after they lost both their tightheads Simone Ferrari and Marco Riccioni‚ referee Wayne Barnes had no option but to declare that phase uncontested.

It meant both teams had a 100 percent success rate from their own feeds despite South Africa boasting the more dominant scrum before the misfortune struck Italy.

Bok coach Rassie Erasmus doesn’t see anything sinister in the turn of events.

“If it was any other coach I would have said it was planned. I think it was just bad luck for them. Luckily we both had a six/two split on the bench so it more or less evened out.

“He’s an honest man‚ he’s a good coach‚” Erasmus said of Conor O’Shea his counterpart.

“When you coach against him there are no funny tricks in terms of cheating. He had some funny tricks against England (a few years ago) but that was in the spirit of the game.

“We can’t moan about that. What you lose at scrum time you gain in maul stopping and breakdown work so the props are pretty fresh when it comes to things outside the scrum.

“I don’t think there is any need to look further in to that. It was just bad luck.”

It was the first time Bok tighthead prop Frans Malherbe had his presence on the field devalued in such a way.

“It is not ideal. They had two injuries early on and that’s the laws - safety first. You just have to adapt.

“It is the first time it happened to me in a Test‚ ever. It saves the legs a bit‚” said Malherbe.

To make matters worse for O’Shea in the second half loosehead prop Andrea Lovotti needlessly upended Duane Vermeulen and was duly red carded.

“It was a stupid act‚” said O’Shea of Lovotti’s moment of madness.

The Italy coach believes at 17-3 his team was still in a position to challenge the Springboks but that the red card effectively killed the contest.

“The first thing is all of us are destroyed. At 17-3 we made this line-break and then something inexplicable happened and after the red card the match was over.

“We said before the match that we had to do everything perfectly. We came in with confidence. You prepare for a lot of eventualities but you can’t prepare for that.

“If we’d scored‚ you’d ask a question in the back of their minds. This wasn’t them coming to Italy in the autumn‚ this was them coming at us when we stood in their way (of reaching the quarter-finals).”

O’Shea said the miscreant Lovotti had shown contrition for his actions.

“He (Lovotti) is more destroyed than we are. I’m disappointed for us because we’ve come so far‚ and we have a lot of young players who will benefit from a game like that.

"That was a day they should only learn from once they get over the disappointment.”

O’Shea admitted his team was perhaps fortunate to escape a second red card.

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