Scrum 'frenemies' hold key to Paris face-off
QUARTERFINAL BUILD-UP: Daan Human and William Servat are best friends off the field, but Sunday at Stade de France in Paris they will put aside their brotherhood for 80-odd minutes and become fierce combatants.
Daan Human, 47, and William Servat, two years his junior, shared the Toulouse front row for almost a decade.
They are now the scrum mentors for South Africa and France, who will face off in a World Cup quarterfinal.
Human, capped four times by his country, played 26 games for the Stormers before heading to France in 2004 – where he featured in 170-odd games for Stade Toulousain.
Servat, capped 49 times for France, made 315 appearances for the Stade Ernest-Wallon-based club.
Human, after a decade in French and European competitions, knows exactly how important scrumming is to French teams.
To them it is still a cornerstone of the game and that is why the Springbok scrum will come under immense pressure on Sunday.
When the two countries last faced-off – at Stade Vélodrome, is Marseille, in November last year – Les Bleus triumphed 30-26.
Human said he knows the French worked hard at improving themselves since that encounter, but so have the Springboks.
“We did just look at each other and have meetings,” the Bok hardman said, adding: “There was a lot of work done.”
However, it is the scrums where they are likely to target the Boks – not because they see it as a weakness of the Boks, but because they pride themselves in their scrumming.
“If you want to deliver on any gameplan, you need to have a proper setpiece,” Human said.
“They are the most dominant pack in the world at the moment,” Human said of the French forwards.
“It will be a battle, like all the other games are a battle.
“It’s a hurdle and if you want to get over the hurdle you must put in some hard yards and be successful and be good in all the departments.”
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Having played the bulk of his career in France, Human has intimate knowledge of the French attitude towards scrumming.
“I never realised, when I first arrived, that scrumming is so important for the game,” Human said.
“When I played in South Africa, we never put so much energy and effort into scrumming as they do in France.
“You can go play against Auch – on that note that’s where I most probably got my biggest hiding ever in a scrum.
“We played against Auch, who were last in the standings in the Top 14, but I can promise you I got a hiding that day there.
“We managed to beat them, but it’s one of the biggest scrum lessons that I’ve learned here.
“In the Top 14 you have to respect every team. In every game the opposition is up for you.
“There’s a lot of Georgians, South Africans, Romanians from all over the world.
“They come here to scrum, especially the props and obviously forwards, to play and maybe put some food on the table for the families and look after their families back home as well.
“That’s why there’s a lot of pride going into a scrum. Especially a scrum because that’s the one place you can’t hide.”
Seasoned lock RG Snyman, who missed last year’s trip to France and the encounter in Marseille, admitted the scrum battle will be key in Paris.
“We are looking forward to that challenge, having worked on improving our basic skills,” the 28-year-old second row forward said.
“The French definitely pride themselves on their scrum and that is an aspect they will look to get dominance in.
“It will be a big focus for us as well during our preparations this week.”