“IT WAS GOOD.” The succinct response from Heinke van der Merwe after winning his second Springbok cap and getting the better of Leinster teammate Mike Ross in successive scrums.
Having faced Ross in training drills for two and a half years, the South African finally got the opportunity to take him on at an Aviva Stadium he had planned to attend as a spectator only a week previous.
Van der Merwe arrived on the pitch with his side 13-12 up, 63 minutes on the clock and Ross close to spent after a grueling evening’s work against CJ van der Linde.
Ross told TheScore.ie, “With the South Africa game, I was disappointed how I finished up. Myself and Heinke know each other pretty well so that probably helped [him] a bit.”
“I reviewed those videos a couple of times,” he added, “and with the first one it was the referee’s interpretation. I nearly went early, stopped myself, then he was on top of me and I fought my way out of it but it was too late by then.”
The penalty conceded by Ross made it a four point game and ruled drop goals or penalties out of Ireland’s late gameplan.
“Scrumming is about the whole pack so they all must get a pat on the back,” said van der Merwe. He chose words, and opportunities, carefully.
No rest for Ross
Expectations that Ross, as the country’s premier tighthead prop, would be rested against Fiji proved unfounded but the Cork native is pleased with the ‘good work-out’ provided by the Fijians.
Argentina, and their pack, are different beasts entirely but Ross insists a win, rather than ranking point permutations, is the team’s focus.
He said, “They’ve benefited hugely from the Rugby Championship. Playing against the top three sides in the world can only bring your game on.” Ross added:
I know they’ve had issues with player release from French clubs. This weekend Juan Figallo is gone but they’ve brought in Maximiliano Bustos, who is a very good scrummager, so I don’t think they’ve lost anything there.”
Ross was impressed with the Ulster trio of Craig Gilroy, Luke Marshall and Paddy Jackson in the 53-0 win over Fiji and reveals that training this week has had some extra bite to it.
The prop has been a fixture in the side since he started against Italy in the 2011 Six Nations and has easily fended off positional challenges from Declan Fitzpatrick, Jamie Hagan and Stephen Archer.
The arrival of Michael Bent from New Zealand has thrown up a new front row contender but Ross sees it as an extra reason to raise his game.
“I think everyone is under pressure. If you’re not thinking that you’re being too relaxed … That’s one of the things that has come out of this series – that there are two, if not three, players pushing for every spot.”
“The way I look at it,” he added, “is I’m on the runway but there’s a big queue, or taxi, of planes behind me but I have to stay on there as long as I can.”