Sweating the small stuff

Written by Nicholas Woolley (Talent)

Posted in :Original Content, Reader Submissions, Super Rugby on 13 May 2013 at 09:02
Tagged with : , , , , , ,

This past weekend’s Rugby produced some very disappointing results for South African teams, all but the Kings lost to their Australasian opponents. The fact is there are a multitude of reasons for these results ranging from travel fatigue to injuries, but to me the most frustrating reason (more like a recurrent theme) is our inability to score with the ease that our off shore opponents do. If it were a competition to see who could work the hardest for their points I’m sure the log would look much different.

Why do they manage to put us away with one phase of attack? Or punish us on soft counter attack yet we struggle to do the same to them? How can we produce bigger, faster, stronger and recently as skilled players as they do and then come up short more often than not? I can only speculate, but speculate I will because I’m confident the problem is an inherent problem throughout our Rugby,from u9 to test match Rugby. I don’t think anyone would be surprised to hear it has to do with structure but some would raise not only their eyebrows but also their voices if I said it had to do with too much structure. However I know there are those of you who would agree with me.

Some of the most successful teams are the most structured, and the least successful are the least structured, ill concede, but an argument can be made to counter that .The argument that teams with a spread it attitude often undo teams entrenched in their structures. By enlarge, I am pro-structure, but an area that I think that structure is hindering our fluidity in attack is the much-maligned breakdown. This is an area we have been thoroughly beaten in the past. It’s a diverse area with so many things that affect it that it is hard to pin point where we are going wrong. I know the pundits will spew their usual; the need of a fetcher, good cleaning technique, good ball carrying technique, placement technique, the need of a bridger and a seal to that bridge(and the walk over to clear the ball) and occupying the space past the ball .Surely with all that you would think we would have covered all our basis ,but I disagree .I think that because we focus so much on going through the motions at the breakdown we begin to execute the drill rather than focusing on the outcome-being quick ruck ball. It is a problem in South Africa across the country; we take too long to get the ball out of the rucks.

To illustrate my point I would encourage you to have a look at the first try scored by the Highlanders against the Kings, and keep in mind the speed at which they got the ball out of the ruck and into the hands of support players .There is such a stark contrast between how Smith and Venter operated at their respective breakdowns and the difference in speed with how they recycled the ball. Okay,so the onus is also on the scrumhalf to produce quick ruck ball, although I’m convinced that our scrumhalves wait until they have secure ruck ball, by means of the previously discussed structures,before clearing the ruck.

There is a word I often associate with South African Rugby that aptly describes our approach to the game; dogmatic.

Are we shooting ourselves in the foot by over protecting our breakdowns ? I think it is a finelybalanced line, but I would gamble constantly secure ball for a more fluid attack and ultimately a lesstaxing ,less body bruising game.

Here is a link to an image that will help you picture what I am getting at.


  • You have a couple of valid points there. We tend to have our moves planned six phases in advance and once our plan is bombed, we have no idea what to do now.

  • Comment 1, posted at 13.05.13 09:34:01 by King Shark Reply
    King SharkVodacom Cup player
  • Oh, Talent, image 10 actually highlights another point beautifully. The smiles on Craig and Tendai’s faces – the guys aren’t enjoying themselves this year.

  • Comment 2, posted at 13.05.13 09:36:07 by King Shark Reply
    King SharkVodacom Cup player
  • I think the problem is that if we try and play a fast paced game we often run out of supporting players and then get dispossessed easily. We have a problem with organization in dynamic situations. The Sharks look especially disorganized at the breakdown – it seems our players often hesitate as to who does what, and that is all the time the other teams needs to disrupt our ball.

  • Comment 3, posted at 13.05.13 10:23:53 by Bokhoring Reply
    BokhoringAssistant coach
  • @King Shark (Comment 1) : Oh Rhi ,thanks for the feed back ;-) coming from a coaching point of view and having coached various age groups from junior to open ,its something I would like to see change .The emphasis should be on getting the first man to tackle area and bridging and straight after the ball should be out.

  • Comment 4, posted at 13.05.13 10:27:19 by Talent Reply
    TalentCurrie Cup player
  • @Bokhoring (Comment 3) : decision making is a large part of breakdown play ,identifying when to clean or bridge is the most challenging thing for our players.

  • Comment 5, posted at 13.05.13 10:29:11 by Talent Reply
    TalentCurrie Cup player
  • @Talent (Comment 5) : That being said, if the ball is placed quickly enough ,the scrumhalf should be able to get the ball out straight away, nullifying the need for our forwards to get dragged into a breakdown tussle.

  • Comment 6, posted at 13.05.13 10:33:48 by Talent Reply
    TalentCurrie Cup player
  • @Talent (Comment 4) : Rather enjoying your new avatar too ;-)

    I might try Miley on for size too… :twisted:

  • Comment 7, posted at 13.05.13 10:50:51 by King Shark Reply
    King SharkVodacom Cup player
  • @King Shark (Comment 7) : :lol: not a bad idea ;-)

  • Comment 8, posted at 13.05.13 10:54:36 by Talent Reply
    TalentCurrie Cup player

Add Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.