Leicester 22-17 South Africa XV, Welford Road, November 6
Muir concerned by scrum shortcomings
Scrum.com
November 6, 2009
Leicester's Lote Tuqiri salutes the Welford Road crowd, Leicester Tigers v South Africa XV, Tour Match, Welford Road, Leicester, England, November 6, 2009
Former Wallabies international Lote Tuqiri salutes the Welford Road crowd after making his Tigers bow in the victory over South Africa © Getty Images
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South Africa assistant coach Dick Muir admitted he had never seen a Springbok front five so comprehensively outmuscled as they were in the shock 22-17 defeat to Premiership side Leicester at Welford Road.

The Tigers marked the return of midweek warm-up matches to the autumn international calendar by exposing glaring weaknesses in the world champions' pack ahead of their Tests against France, Italy and Ireland.

In temporary charge before the arrival of Peter de Villiers, Muir named nine uncapped players in his matchday squad, but the presence of Jannie du Plessis and Danie Rossouw ensured they were no pushover for the Guinness Premiership champions.

"You can't play this game without any possession," said Muir. "We were poor at the breakdown and poor at set pieces so we couldn't get the game going. We just move on. We came over here with an experiment and perhaps it didn't come off as planned.

"I don't think I've ever seen (a South Africa pack) as bad as that, especially from a coaching perspective. We were given a bit of a lesson at the scrums. Hats off to the Tigers. They were incredibly strong in that department so we've got to go back to the drawing board."

Muir, the former Springboks centre, believes this defeat should spur the Tri-Nations winners on to improved showings in the potentially imposing arenas of Toulouse, Udine and Croke Park.

The tourists should also be bolstered by the return of their inspirational locks Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha for next Friday's clash with France, who may now scent another upset.

Muir added, "Nobody likes losing. When you take a squad like this and have a short turnaround maybe you're not as well prepared as you might be. It will probably cause the guys to be a little bit more determined. When you're on the top of the pile there's a lot of sides who want to knock you off, so that's the territory we've created for ourselves."

Leicester were expecting to exploit the gala occasion to mark the opening of their new £14million, 10,000-seater Caterpillar Stand, but the match soon took on greater significance when Lucas Amorosino's weaving try sent the Tigers into the lead, which they held to the end.

South Africa captain Chiliboy Ralepelle admitted the team's new players will have to learn the harsh lessons of international tours after their humbling defeat.

"It can't get worse from here," said Ralepelle. "It's a challenge for our youngsters as it was very new to play in these conditions. They have to learn that when you play away from home it's never easy. Leicester came at us very hard and were much more prepared than we were, I believe.

"We always knew the Leicester pack were going to be tough up front. They pride themselves on that in club rugby. But we let ourselves down in that department. I'm part of the pack so I include myself in that. One of the biggest disappointments for me is that we were all waiting for one man to create some magic.

"At this level you can't wait for someone to do that. If you can't do it yourself it's best that you sit at home."

Richard Cockerill refused to speculate on the magnitude of the result, but the Tigers head coach was keen to prove wrong those who questioned the timing of the game, given Leicester's lengthy injury list and their upcoming Anglo-Welsh Cup clash at Leeds on Sunday.

Before this match, former England scrum-half Austin Healey predicted his old club would be "tonked" and only add to their injury list, because "that's what happens when you play South Africa."

"I'd have to take my hat off to the players. I read some criticism this morning about the fixture and the two sides that were put out," said Cockerill. "It was all about us tonight and the facilities we're trying to provide. Maybe South Africa are a little shell-shocked that club rugby can be like that.

"The spirit here is second to none and I don't know where it comes from. Our scrum was immense and Geoff Parling was superb in the front row. Rugby can get quite scientific in its analysis these days. Sometimes you just need 15 blokes to come here and roll their sleeves up. The scientists can't quantify that. And that's what we did tonight."

Veteran All Black Aaron Mauger, shuffled to fly-half to accommodate a teenage centre pairing in Manu Tuilagi and Andy Forsyth, agreed with Muir that Leicester's ferocious performance was vindication of the quality of the Guinness Premiership.

We don't really agree with some of the comments being put around about the Premiership being a weak competition. It's tough, week in, week out. Even Leeds and Worcester can beat anyone," he said. "We've always had a strong system with Academy players coming through to the senior ranks, and we had a full mix of that.

"The centres were awesome. Manu was always going to bring that physicality to the game but he and Andrew were very composed during the game. All the guys kept talking to them and got them through. They both have big futures in the game."

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