The unprecedented programme, called “Biomechanics of the Rugby Scrum”, was launched by the IRB in 2010 and is being run in conjunction with the University of Bath in England, who are using state-of-the-art testing and measuring techniques to ensure that no stone is left unturned when it comes to assessing one of the Game's most recognisable and important facets.
The aim of the two-phase programme is finding and gaining an understanding of how to minimise any injury risks and maximise performance and stability in the scrum at all levels of the Game.
“When we were first asked if we would get involved in this study, we immediately said yes because we will always help where we can if it means improving the game,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“It’s great that the IRB are investing so much into improving the game and we’re happy to be able to help.
“This also provided us with a good opportunity to get all our forwards acquainted with the new scrum engagement sequence and I’m sure there will be information emanating from this study that we can also use to our advantage.”
IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “The scrum is integral to the shape and character of rugby. I’m delighted that the South African Rugby Union is throwing its full support behind this critical project and the analysis from this programme will provide a comprehensive set of research and data that will shape a better understanding of the dynamic forces at work in the set scrum, identify key focus areas and shape player welfare policy, promoting the best possible techniques for playing, coaching and refereeing this unique area of the game.”
Grant Trewartha from the University of Bath, who is in charge of the study, was very thankful to the Springboks for helping out. “We asked the Springboks to help out with one of our sessions and they were more than willing to get involved,” said Trewartha. “To have a top class team like the Springboks help us out in a Test week is just brilliant and we’re very thankful to them.” Trewartha explained that they had been tasked by the IRB to particularly look at the demands placed on the front rowers during scrum time. “The main question is that if you change way front rows engage, does it reduce the forces they are experiencing during scrums,” he said.
“We looked at various levels of teams, from Under-18, university sides, women, clubs, professional teams and ultimately international sides, where we’ve already worked with Scotland and Wales. We are due to deliver our final report to the IRB by May 2013.”
On Saturday against Ireland, the Springboks will for the first time play under a new scrum engagement sequence of “crouch, touch, set”, something Northern Hemisphere teams have been playing under for couple of months already.
“We’ve found that it doesn’t take teams too long to get used to the new engagement call and it certainly looks like teams prefer the new three-stage call,” said Trewartha.
The ongoing programme is scheduled to be completed in early 2013.