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VIDEO: The intricacies of the Stormers' scrum post Kitshoff

SPOTLIGHT: The Stormers forward coach Rito Hlungwani has shed light on the key factors behind his side’s scrum dominance.


With the Stormers having lost their captain Steven Kitshoff to Ulster, there were loads of concerns regarding the Cape Town-based franchise’s ability to maintain their scrum dominance.

And with good reason, the Springbok is regarded as one the best props in the world and he added loads of experience to the Stormers’ pack.

But while there have been significant changes in the personnel, including the transfer of Marvin Orie to Perpignan, the Stormers’ scrums have continued to show grunt.

The Cape Town-based side’s solid scrums dominated the powerful packs of Bulls and Sharks in the United Rugby Championship.

Their scrum also got the better of back-to-back champions La Rochelle in the Champion Cup Round Two clash – and that without double World Cup winner Frans Malherbe, who is struggling with a recurring lower back injury.

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When asked why the scrums remain one of their best-attacking weapons despite the loss of top players like Kitshoff, Stormers forward coach Rito Hlungwani highlighted the players’ willingness to learn from each other.

“A guy like Neethling Fouche – for the past five years – has been scrumming against Kitshoff in training,” Hlungwani said, adding: “Ali Vermaak scrums against Malherbe, so you can only get better and it’s the only way to train.

“The way we train our scrums is maybe, even more, tougher than a game.


“It is congested because we train everything in a space of 20 minutes – scrum, run a bit and scrum again.

“We probably go through 10 to 12 scrums.

“It’s brutal, aggressive and we learn from each other in the midst of it.

“When the guys scrum against each other, they usually give each other advice, and it’s part of the scrum culture we created which is quite handy.”

‘The back five’

The forwards coach also credited the locks and loose forwards for their roles in the esteemed set pieces.

“The back five are needed for the good scrum and they rarely get the credit,” Hlungwani added.

“However on Mondays, Neethling usually thank the back five for the power. So it’s quite a collective thing and everyone is passionate about it.

“We know when we do well, we get scrum penalties – which allows you to attack.

“It is something we have embraced and it is strongly driven by internal competition.

“You have to fight for your place and we are looking to improve every week.”

The forwards’ coach admitted it’s beneficial to have two No.4 locks, Ruben van Heerden, who is fulfilling the role of a five at the moment, and Adre Smith – scrumming behind the front row.

“I always say to the locks, you should able to play like a No.4 lock at the scrums and call the line-outs like a No.5 lock.

“We are moving towards a situation where we are looking for ‘positionless’ players, who operate at No.4 and No.5.

“And also the loose forwards, Neethling always waits in front of the change rooms to check if the loose trio are wearing long studs and that is how crucial the whole pack is.”

Familiar faces

This weekend, the Stormers pack faces another difficult opponent – when Sale Sharks head to Cape Town for the Champions Cup Round Three match.

The Sharks pack boasts some familiar faces like Ernst van Rhyn, Cobus Wiese and brothers Jean-Luc and Dan Du Preez, who might run out for the must-win Pool Four encounter.

“As much as they [Van Rhyn and Wiese] know the Stomers, we also know them well. So, the intel they have is the same as any other team would have,” Hlungwani said when asked about the former Stormers pair.

“Regardless of who is going to play, our main focus – from a preparation point of view – we will look at how they play; how they contest the line-outs and how their systems are run.

“We studied them well. They are a good scrumming outfit. It is going to be a battle.

“They have conceded a couple of scrum penalties during the Premiership but it’s something they have adjusted and improved.

“We know they are going to come for us, but we will be ready.”

According to the Champions Cup stats, the Stormers have a superior scrum compared to Sale Sharks. They better Sale with a 95 percent scrum success rate, while Sale has 86 percent over the two rounds.

Stormers have won 18 of their scrums, and Sale only 12.

Sale takes the lineout battle with 89 percent, beating Stormers with 83 percent.

However, the two sides share the spoils with line-out won.

VIDEO: The intricacies of the Stormers' scrum post Kitshoff


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