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Tuesday, January 24, 2006


General Discussions: The Front Row Club, not for softies.

A few days ago, New Zealander John Cawston provided us with a light hearted look at the complexities of the NZ/PI relationship. Today John gives us the exclusive low down on the deep and dark arts of the front row. Not to be missed, backline players beware, it's not for the faint hearted!

I spent 16 of 25 years of rugby in the front row, and I loved it.

My body type and personality loved the all in wrestling after we “folded” into the scrum, tried to lift the opposing prop or shove he and his hooker around so that the strike for the ball was disrupted on their side.

Yet when I gave up the game and became a spectator it was the flashy chaps I watched, not the front rowers, probably because I knew what they were doing. But in the 1990s, prop and hooker watching was very much back on my agenda, and I believe that came about because of three quite dramatic changes to the role of the front rowers.

The first was the referee coordinated engage and shove in the scrums. Suddenly, scrum dominance could be achieved or lost in just a second and the whirring of little legs on the hookers as they struck for the ball was gone. Now the requirement for all six men up front is size, strength, technique and timing of the shove and the players simply walk over the ball to get possession or the halfback puts the ball under his team’s feet with a crooked put in. So the (fewer) scrums we see at international level are interesting because they are more dramatic and better timed.

The second change was the role of hooker and props in the lineout. Lineouts now are a prime source of fast and clean possession for an attacking team, a bountiful source of tries and with assisted lifting, an exciting choreographed example of athleticism. The hooker now throws to some imaginary point metres above the lineout in a way that ensures a clean take and a fast feed down to the halfback.
Some of the finest and most iconic photos of rugby now show the tall skinny fella up around 3-4 metres in the air doing stuff that must be creating new recruits to the game.

Of course, such photos show a couple of props standing at full height and arms fully extended as they throw their man high. The timing and skill of the throwing hooker is remarkable, but these props also show much timing, skill and strength to get their man so high - bravo!

The third change is the breakdown. This one isn’t so obvious, but the front rowers are now getting to the breakdowns as quickly as the loosies, have a look at these statistics from Tracey Nelson on the first three Abs to the breakdown over the past few years:

Note that tighthead prop Somerville is right up with McCaw at getting to the breakdown.

That is indeed the lesson of the last decade, the fatties are very quick to the breakdown and securing the ball.

Picking the players who epitomise these changes is not too difficult.

For me, the AB Hayman is an exceptional tighthead prop, he’s quick to the breakdown and gets down and dirty fast to put structure into the maul and ruck. He is a great lineout lifter with his height, strength and timing and he scrums well.

Keven Mealamu is a very quick hooker. He tends to hang back a bit at the breakdown to assess where to put his weight, tidy up a loose ball and bust up the middle or just disrupt a maul/ruck where the opposition is doing too well. The fact that he gets punched more than most testifies to his effectiveness at the latter! He throws quite well and more than holds his own in the scrums.

I liked the loosehead Os Du Randt of the 1990s for his energy and sheer grunt, but I like him better now. He “loiters with intent” with intelligence at the breakdown, snaps a loose ball and feeds to the quicks with precision. He does a good to great job in the lineouts, and we all know what he can do in a scrum.

One other factor that I like, all front rows get done sometimes in the scrum; when it happens to Os, he simply accepts it, keeps his shape in the scrum and makes the best of it, the result is the ‘Bok scrum doesn’t collapse in disarray.

Another thing about these guys, they are quiet. Yes, they can do the rough stuff and move fast when needed, but primarily they are the technicians of the team and they provide structure to nearly all the forwards’ work. That’s an awful long way from the grunt and bust types we were 30 years ago!
Nice article!

Funny, when I was still playing Scrumhalf, many moons ago, walking up and down the line-out with a very much friendly chirp every now and then, I never had to worry about these guys. It was always those damn Locks bursting through the line-outs.

Still have the scars to prove it!
me too ras!!!

and i was not the biggest player around.

got klapped a view times by locks!!!!


Stop suiping! It's me - Kandas!

Dont ever confuse me with Ras again!
Obviously props are just kind hearted by nature.

Think Kevin "I'll punch your ugly mug" Skinner, Richard "I don't like your eyes" Loe, Johan "I'm starving" le Roux.......

damn red wine, sorry for the insult ras

Jou bliksem. Did you play scrumhalf!!!!!

Hehehehehe Donner!

Yasus but poor old Kandas takes a beating on here! ;-)



A 1,78m scrumhalf. Because I was hardegat and just could not accept that those opposing eight ugly forwards could have carte blanche in the scrums, rucks, etc. And I could jab whilst my u/19 eightman had a tremendous punch. We were a good combination. And I had a bullet pass. And we believed it was the job of the scrumhalf to chirp the ref. (I always say that is why Gregan always gets away with it - he was doing his job well in the obscure ignorance of refs of scrumhalves - thinking they are just a nuisance)

At Varsity they realised my talents were very much complimented by my visionary skills and a sidestep that would've made Danie Gerber blush and I found myself in the Flyhalf and Centre positions.

It is also where it ended. One winter afternoon in Stellenbosch. Running into Niel Burger. But that is a story for another time....
Running into Neil Burger!!!! Eina bliksem.

Normally it is the flyhalf with the attitude.
BTW, Visionary skills???? :-)))  
What year were you at Maties?  
During the Golden Five years. :)

Thats why I didn't play Province. Divan was there and Freddie Ferreirs's Dad had more sheep on the farm than mine.

Now dont go tell everyone how old I am! :)
As Stan would say: You are worst than a woman. How old are you?  
I only ask, because my wife doesn't like flirting with oupas (Sorry Boertjie) :-)))  
Donner, she can flirt with me then ;-)))))))  
What's wrong with 1.78m anyway!!!!

Huh?? Huh?? Huh??

We can't all be 6' 3" DavidS'!!!
Ras you Slut!


Tell your wife I'm cool!
Ja Ras, I think you are probably teh safest option.  


I'm a 'Flirt Available' zone.....  
In certain cultures, amongst which I subscribe, the pejorative 'slut' is a complement of the highest order!!!  
Talking about ugly forwards and we end up flirting....!

Oh geez, you aren't flirting with me, Kandas....

.......are you!!!!!
No Ras No


This ISN'T my pic, you know, it's not me.......promise, Kandas, sweety......

Honest Injun.

Where's Tafeltjie and Heksie when you need them.

We really need to do more to attract women to this site, it is, after all, the 'independent home of 'all-inclusive' rugby....;-))

Just from a societal research point of view, mind.

I did not asked Donner to ask that question, however, I will meet you halfway, say 36
OK it is time for me to get to bed. Kandas is flirting with Ras while PA is watching  
OK let me try to figure this out. Tafelberg appears and the guys disappear. ?????  

You have mail.
En PissAnt skitter in sy afwesigheid. Smaak my die Fleyr de Cap het hom getref.  
Donner, we're big strong guys but in the face of a beautiful woman......

.......we're mice.

Anyway, back to John's article, I loved it.
Sjit, as mens sy rug draai kekkel julle!
Waar is PissAnt "ek-sal-wakker-wees" nou?

Dan is Kandas mos al wat hulle noem 'n oujongkêrel? Heheheheh.

Lovely arti. Wish we can get someone like Guy Kebble (good writing skills) to do likewise.
Jong kerel met die wysheid van 'n oujongkerel... :)  

And the libido of a 14 year old
So what do you guys think about the current banana crisis in Uganda?  
Did anyone complain!?  
I had to classify their mails as spam to stop them complaining.  

GLAD NIE!!!!!!!!!!

Pas op vir daai ou in jou prentjie. Hy gaan jou laat snuif en suig!
Hy laat my net ongemaklik voel dis al!  

Jy het my nog nooit geantwoord nie, wat is fot met my prentjie?

Antwoord jou al weer voor jy die vraag gevra het.

Damn, I'm good!

Good at what??
Ag sommer maar net my rugby talente.  
"And the libido of a 14 year old."

Eish, I miss all the fun!

Has Patrick been around today?

Kan definitief nie die enigste talente wees nie.
Nope, didn't spot him.
Whatever you want it to be, Tafeltjie, whatever...  
Eish, Kandas, for an 'Oudsthoorn Lothario', you get really shy around Tafelberg!!!

We may need to downgrade you to a 'Aspiring, and in Training, Oudsthoorn Don Juan'.

If only it wasn't for all the stories I heard about her husband!
I mean, those guys don't talk - they just like take you out, if you know what I mean...  
LOL Ras, think Kandas can look after himself, except if the sexline phones  
eish manne

i get taken out even when i am not here

en soos ek vir boertjie nou die aand gese het, ek slaap nooit nie, ek raak net stil
In other words, PA, comatose.

As we suspected.
ek neem aan donner het alweer saam met klein donnertjie uitgepass (no stamina), kandas is nog wakker maar naked, ras is speaking to some dude giving us another ruggaworld exclusive, boertjie is sipping slowly on a red and listening to andrea bochelli (i rate him btw) and will soon come up with some really intelligent comment that will force me to 'wickypedia' it to understand what the 'old wise is saying...

and tafeltjie is giving nelius nightmares that he loves to have, heksie is MIA btw
hell this is like old brannasnachts, it took me 15 minutes to figure out what thread you are on  
on the money ras, the comotose thingy...

now i have to go wicky again...
Ek raak ook maar net stil. Gesukkel met 'n resep wat ek gepost het.  
Did it take you 15 minutes to find us. OK an ant never sleeps, but it does have eyelids to look into.  
Night night all, Tafeltjie is now also going to be Missing In Action  
and those lids are my best friends!!!

is your pic a klein donnertjie?????
No that is me. Natural talent.  
eish donner, almal is MIA, ons kry niks vanaand nie....  
Speak for yourself.  

Gaan droog maar gou weer water op.

i am all alone on this one then!!!!

(i am off to get "aspro clear")
Eish, Donner, you were an attractive kid, what happened?  
Not yet, PA.  
sorry ras.

i knew you wont let me down.

others were though.

Even got more attractive.
Sorry for letting you down PA.
But somebody had to work on a thread for the morning.
Shyte, another hot sunny day.
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