Frans Malherbe during the DHL Western Province training session at High Performance Centre on December 1 2020 in Cape Town. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/ASHLEY VLOTMAN
Frans Malherbe during the DHL Western Province training session at High Performance Centre on December 1 2020 in Cape Town. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/ASHLEY VLOTMAN

No-one dare call Western Province one-trick ponies, but it is hard not to recognise the show they put on at scrum time.   

Whether in the colours of the Stormers or Western Province‚ their all-Springbok front row‚ with some Green and Gold tinged help from the bench‚ possesses the power and technique to impose itself on all-comers.

Tighthead prop Frans Malherbe‚ an immovable and talismanic figure in their scrum‚ was quick to point out that there is more to his team than getting to grips with the opposing scrum.

“Teams can’t just rely on scrums‚” he said with particular reference to this weekend’s Currie Cup encounter against the Golden Lions at Ellis Park.

“Given what the weather might give us this weekend‚ there is a greater risk for handling errors. The tight exchanges will be something we want to focus on, but it is also about balance so we want to do well in all facets.

“We know it is going to be a fast game up there. The weather report suggests there might be rain and a thunderstorm. We will prepare for both types of games. I think all the guys are aware of the importance of the game‚” said Malherbe.

The Lions have grunted and been pushed around in the scrums this season.

This was an element of their game that gained huge traction under former coach Johan Ackermann, but they don’t have the same consistency in that area after a few key players left. Malherbe‚ though‚ is preparing for a Lions scrum that will put its best foot forward.

“You have to have respect for the Lions scrum. In the last few years they’ve built respect. If you underestimate them you are going to be in trouble. It will be a big challenge for us this weekend.”

He is looking for a performance similar to the improved one they delivered when losing narrowly to the Blue Bulls at Newlands last weekend.

“In the previous game at Loftus they mauled well and got penalties. There were very few scrums. I haven’t been involved in a game with so few scrums.

“Last week though, we played well in the tight exchanges. We stopped their mauls and we scrummed well. Our decision-making could have been better. We had good options available to us that we didn’t take. We will be better at that. We will grow as a team.”

Although Malherbe is the fulcrum of the Western Province scrum, he was quick to point to the other cogs that make the team’s scrumming wheel turn.

“It’s not just the front row‚” he said. “In my opinion‚ scrum dominance and a positive result at scrum time comes from buy-in from the whole pack. Especially the back five and how they commit each to scrum. You have to give them credit how they brought pressure to each scrum. It makes us look good and our job easier.”

Meanwhile‚ Western Province have shuffled their backline for the clash against the Golden Lions, with Damian Willemse moving to fullback in the enforced absence of Warrick Gelant.

Tim Swiel will do duty at flyhalf next to halfback partner Godlen Masimla while Ruhan Nel takes the No 13 jersey vacated by Dan du Plessis. He moves to 12 at the expense of Rikus Pretorius.

Western Province: Damian Willemse; Seabelo Senatla‚ Ruhan Nel‚ Dan du Plessis‚ Angelo Davids; Tim Swiel‚ Godlen Masimla; Juarno Augustus‚ Ernst van Rhyn‚ Siya Kolisi (captain); JD Schickerling‚ Salmaaan Moerat; Frans Malherbe‚ Bongi Mbonambi‚ Steven Kitshoff. Replacements (from): Scarra Ntubeni‚ Ali Vermaak‚ Neethling Fouche‚ David Meihuizen‚ Marcel Theunissen‚ Johan du Toit; Paul de Wet‚ Tristan Leyds‚ Jaco Coetzee‚ Kade Wolhuter‚ Rikus Pretorius.

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