Through my involvement over the years with various coaches, players and technical analysis, I will from time to time visit different areas of play where I believe we get it wrong, or could improve our game.
The ruck or tackled area is arguably one of the most contentious areas of the modern game.
So much is left to interpretation by the referees but equally, players are their own worst enemies.
South African rugby in particular sucks on the hind-tit in this department in my view simply because we get it wrong technically. Our skills are not adapted to suit the modern game in the ruck situation.
This is not because we lack the necessary skills in my belief, but more to the fact that we do not appreciate the ruck for what it is intended for.
Rucks are the foundation of multiple phased play, and if done correctly will create space for opposition to attack. How effective, and importantly, quickly, we set up and clear these rucks will determine how successful you are.
Defence in rugby is arguably one of the areas of the game that has evolved the most. It is a lot more organised and even believed to win you games!
Logically that in itself is an absurd statement because I am yet to see a defence score you tries but let’s leave it at that other than to add one thing, and that is our defensive mindsets is what probably contributes most to our mindsets when it comes to rucks.
Technically I cannot define or explain rucks any simpler than to point out that it is supposed to be a ‘dynamic’ phase or area of the game. However, in South African rugby, rucks more often than not is a static phase of our game.
The main reason for this is South African rugby players will rather tend to go to ground at a ruck situation, than stay on their feet. Once this happens the ball becomes static, hence the phase or area of the game becomes static.
This directly results in movement of play stopping and depending on the time it takes to clear the ruck, momentum has to be built up from scratch again because your defenders had time to re-align.
I therefore find it amusing how we put so much emphasis on the fact how teams go through 5 to 10 phases of play thinking they are actually in control and ‘building’. The fact remains, if you become static, no matter if you are in phase 1 or 10, you are not building on anything, you start from scratch.
This is also why the attacking team sometimes looks clueless after more than 3 phases. Simple fact is because they have becomes static, defenders have much more time to re-align and truth be told, it is easier to organise defences and defensive lines than it is to organise good attacking platforms – the time needed is much less.
The idea of a ruck as a dynamic phase or area should be to continually have your ball carrier with his support runners cross the advantage line and drive defenders back. Cleaning effectively from there and continue to do this through 3 or 4 phases.
But for that, the mindset and skills of the attacking side has to be to stay on their feet for as long as possible driving through tackles supported by his ‘drivers’ (players supporting the player to stay in his feet, protect the ball or eliminate potential poachers off the ball or ball carrier) who then become cleaners as soon as the ‘mini-maul’ goes down.
Legally defenders are constantly retreating and when the ball goes to ground and having ‘drivers’/cleaners already supporting the ball carrier, they can and must only enter through the ‘gate’ giving the ball carrier more time to protect and place the ball effectively.
In the South African game two things stop us from doing this.
Firstly as mentioned, our players simply go to ground too quickly and too easily and when doing so, struggles to place the ball correctly with opposition defenders hands and feet all over them.
Secondly, in multiple phased play the tendency for specifically backline players is not to engage in rucks but rather fall out and into the backline again waiting for the next play. These players are more often than not the closest support players to the ball carrier and should commit to supporting them first before anything else.
Smaller things include cleaners over extending in the ruck, meaning they clean too far off the ball (taking players out way beyond the ruck) and exposing the ball as well as player not presenting the ball correctly at the ruck.
But for rucks in our game to become dynamic and set up attacking platforms we will need to realise that we need to avoid becoming static too often and allowing defences to set. Your success rate on bridging and breaking defences is simply too low. And for that we need to realise that a ball on the ground is anyone’s ball, but a ball in the air is the possession of the team carrying it.Tweet