When opposition teams think about Japanese rugby – and by extension the Sunwolves – scrumming isn’t necessarily the first thing.
But the Stormers are wary of this unexpected strength as they prepare for Saturday’s meeting with the Super Rugby rookies in Singapore.
“It’s actually quite interesting that the Sunwolves are doing so well in that set-piece,” said Russell Winter, the Capetonians’ forwards coach, from the Asian city-state yesterday.
“They’ve developed a simple but effective technique of scrumming quite low. The problem for the opposition then is that they can’t get underneath the front-row and dominate.”
Clearly, it’s a strategy that’s working as the Sunwolves are one of only four teams that boast a 100% scrum success record in this year’s tournament.
“We’ve taken note of that tactic and have already formulated a plan to deal with it,” said Winter.
“All that we really need to do is to adapt well to the height of the Sunwolves front-row.”
And one can trust the Stormers on being prepared for that: they’re one of the other sides that have a 100% record in the scrums.
What also suits Robbie Fleck’s troops is that the Sunwolves don’t really use their scrum as a way to dominate like, for example, the Lions.
“They scrum low because they want the ball in and out quickly,” said Winter.
“The Sunwolves aren’t a team that relies on the set-piece. They use a scrum as a means to go on the attack quickly again. It suits us because that’s exactly the same way we approach things. We focus on an exciting brand of rugby, pushing opponents back 20m in the scrums.”
The Stormers do, nonetheless, have a possible trump card up their sleeve.
They are seriously considering moving loosehead prop Oli Kebble to tighthead.
“We feel it might be worthwhile testing Oli in the No 3 jersey. He’s a strong scrummer and it could be a nice dynamic,” said Winter.