Learning to scrum the Scottish way was humbling, says Pierre Schoeman

·4-min read
Learning to scrum the Scottish way was humbling, says Pierre Schoeman
Learning to scrum the Scottish way was humbling, says Pierre Schoeman

PIERRE SCHOEMAN says he was 'humbled' when he realised how much he needed to learn about propping in Europe after making the move north to join Edinburgh from his native South Africa back in 2018.

The 28-year-old former Bulls loose-head reckons that set-piece play is much more technical in the northern hemisphere, but he knows he and the Edinburgh pack will face a mighty challenge in terms of raw power in their United Rugby Championship play-off clash against the Stormers in Cape Town a week on Saturday (4thJune).

“There certainly is a difference [between scrummaging in Scotland and South Africa],” said Schoeman. “When I left the Bulls to join Edinburgh, I felt like I really could scrum, like I was almost a complete player, but then I was really humbled by the massive emphasis on set-pieces.

“I had to learn a lot, mentality-wise and working with scrum specialists to do the job and do it bloody well, because one off moment can put your team on the back foot and be a major shift in the game.

“Having said that, the South African sides have been doing very well in the set-piece as well if you look at the Springboks and all the franchises. So, we know it is going to be a massive challenge next Saturday. They are going to scrum for penalties, they have that mentality.”

It was a 20-20 draw when these two sides met in Edinburgh back in early October, but the South Africans were missing their Springbok props Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe, who were away on Rugby Championship duty. Both are back in harness now and expected to start against Edinburgh.

“They’ll be physical, but it’s also an opportunity for us as a team to exploit,” reasoned Schoeman. “We learned a lot from that 20-all game, and we believe we could’ve beaten them that day at the DAM Health Stadium. Their set-piece was on point, but we’ve also put a lot of work and emphasis into our set-pieces and for me it’s all about the team and going there as a unit and putting in a massive performance.

“Steven Kitshoff speaks for himself, he is going really well, Scarra Ntubeni [hooker] is a great scrummager, and Frans Malherbe gets paid the big bucks because he’s a good tighthead, and Neethling Fouche [back-up tight-head] has done very well this season," acknowledged Schoeman. "So, it is nice to not only go up against big names but world class players because it’s how you want to measure yourself. That’s why we all play, train and try to get better.

"But we don’t want to make it an individual battle, because it’s not a personal thing about me throwing my weight around on the pitch and picking a battle against those boys. They are successful, they are world class players but it’s all about doing your best for the team.

“It’s about doing the small things well in the big moments. It comes down to the simple things like scrumming, making your tackles, carrying well. So, whatever you bring to the team, just do that, and don’t focus too much on the opposition, even though we know what their strengths and weaknesses are.”

While Edinburgh know that they face a huge battle up front, Schoeman stressed that the Stormers are not one-trick ponies.

“We were just going through analysis, and you can see their tight five offloading the ball all over the place,” he pointed out. “They are so proud of their set-piece, and their scrums and line-outs are still decent, but they also have this great attack with a dangerous back-three and Damian Willemse at fly-half, who has quick feet and can create something out of nothing.

“It is similar to what we’re creating at Edinburgh. We have so many tricks up our sleeve here, attack-wise and defensively, and that’s from set-piece as well as broken play. So, we respect them, but we go there with confidence.”

“We don’t have to make changes, but we have to be more vigilant in defence because they can throw the ball around and have the vision to take advantage of any small gap we show them.

“We have two weeks together to prepare so that we hit the ground running when we reach Cape Town.”

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