Ireland can target the South African scrum to turn their strength against them, according to former Munster and Ireland hooker Keith Wood.
The World No. 1 Irish side host the World Champion Springboks at the Aviva on Saturday November 5th. It is less than a year out from the two sides meeting in the World Cup in France in 2023.
While much has been made of South Africa's 'Bomb Squad' and physicality in the pack, Ireland's flair and attacking mindset makes the clash of styles an enticing encounter.
However, Wood believes that it is the size and strength of South Africa that could count against them if Ireland employ a more technical scrummaging plan.
Speaking on Wednesday Night Rugby, Wood explained where South Africa's scrum strength comes from.
"It's fairly universal," Wood said. "I think if you looked at the fundamental standard for South Africa is that they are bigger men, so they're taller.
"[Malcolm] Marx is tall. Now, Dan Sheehan is tall. We are beginning to manoeuvre our way into that idea. But they tend to have a taller front row, they tend to be much bigger men.
"They want to scrummage at a height. Now, the laws would lend themselves that you have to scrummage not lower than your hips, you can't be too low.
"That's fine, but you don't have to scrummage at the height of South Africa's hips. You can scrummage at the height of your own hips.
"So, you try and get yourself into a position where you are able to deal with it. They want to keep it at the highest level possible, because that's where they are at their strongest.
"We'll be trying to bring it lower so that you can use their weight against them."
Wood believes that if Ireland get lower than their visitors, while remaining legal, they should be able to neutralise one of South Africa's biggest strengths.
"Whatever manoeuvring Ireland can do to unsettle them, because you don't want to play into their hands, you want to make them uncomfortable," Wood said.
"Even though there's no hit in the scrum, you want to get that balance right where you get more comfortable in the scrum."
South Africa's eight-man scrum
South Africa will try to keep the ball at the back of the scrum for as long as possible in order to gain the advantage of a penalty.
"They tend to put all eight pushing incredibly hard into it," Wood said. "They will try and hold the ball at the back of the scrum, so the scrums tend to last longer on their put-in.
"They know how hard it is to hold that scrum. So, they want those scrums to last as long as they possibly can to see if they can eke a penalty out at the end of it."
In addition to this eight-man shove, Wood explained how the Springboks utilise their bench in a way that Ireland cannot.
"The benefit of having a front row on the bench like they have is they don't really lose any umf when those guys come on," Wood said. "We do change our subs a little bit later, and rightly so. Our subs are not at the same standard that South Africa have.
"Probably the only teams are France, South Africa and maybe Argentina that have that strength in depth for scrummaging that comes in off the bench. But I think we'll stand up to it pretty well."
Andy Farrell's men are buoyed by a successful tour of New Zealand and will be looking to pull off a big win at the start of their Autumn Nations series. Kick-off is at 5:30pm in the Aviva.
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