gregkaos

The intricacies of a scrumhalf


Written by Greg Kaos (gregkaos)

Posted in :Original Content, Reader Submissions, Springboks on 13 Mar 2015 at 13:30
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This is an article that I’ve been meaning to put together for some time now but never could get it right. The current debate whether Kolbe should move to scrumhalf has finally given me a good enough reason to give it a shot.

So right off the bat I will say that I disagree quite strongly that he should consider changing position. Mainly because I don’t believe that Scrumhalf is a position that someone can simply take up on a whim.

There is significantly more to been a scrummie than the standard thought that he should only provide crisp clean service or be small and fast. While this is important it does not automatically equate to been a good scrumhalf. Shane Williams, for example, is famous for his exploits at wing but was a average scrumhalf at best the few times he played there.

Firstly do we even know whether Kolbe can perform all the various passing techniques, without thinking where his feet should be placed depending on the situation? Being able to sprint to a breakdown, stop, crouch, collect a ball lying between legs, arms, feet, and various body parts, proceed to pass\kick\run\etc all in one fluid motion comes with natural ability coupled with practice, practice and more practice. This one of the primary reasons short guys make good scrumhalves, as a low centre of gravity is key in this regard. Joost was a statistical anomaly in how good he was, despite his size.

Foot placement, for me at least, is possibly the single most important individual ability that a scrummie must master as it is directly responsible for the scrumhalfs effectiveness. It is what separates the greats like Fourie, Joost, George, etc from the rest. How far apart your feet are and the distance they are to the ball when you reach for it, affect your balance. Without proper balance you will need to adjust your body position prior to making your next move and killing any momentum. Precious seconds lost. Forever.

Where his feet are positioned, the angles, and stance width, will all determine what action the scrumhalf can most effectively perform next. Lets says you’re on attack and quick ball is required. Running up to the breakdown directly from behind will limit your options and kill some momentum. From that position you need to pivot over 90 degrees to get a pass out and also lets the opposition know you are about to stop abuptly to collect. Coming in at an angle gives you a lot more options and gives the defence less time to prepare. Provided your footwork is good, you can collect the ball in a relatively fluid motion and proceed to run into less prepared defence, or pass at an angle that does not disrupt the flow. Obviously you need to be equally proficient doing this left or right. It goes without saying that a scrummie that is only effective in one way, is predictable and doomed to find a Willem Alberts ready to collect his bounty of bones sooner rather than later. So while Kolbe might actually amazing at this, I will remain unconvinced until seeing evidence that he can do this better than the current scrumhalves.

Those little opportunist darts when the scrumhalf attempts to burst through the loosies is accomplishing a very important task even when it fails. It’s keeping that opposition trio in check and making sure they know if they take their eyes off him for a second he’ll be through. This helps in keeping those burly flanks from simply making a B line towards the all important Fly half. In turn it gives the whole backline those important seconds of breathing room. To even contemplate this madness, the scrumhalf must possess that Jack Russell type of complete and utter lack of self preservation mentality that makes them genuinely believe they are in fact bigger, stronger, and tougher than the 8th man. While Kolbe is clearly fearless and pound for pound one of the toughest on the field, I believe he is far more aware of his size and knows how to use it as a weapon, as seen by his evasive running style and excellent tackle technique.

Scrumhalves are also usually operating in congested areas of play. There’s your opposite number in your face at all times, a flanker hell bent on shutting you up even for just a moment and another trying to charge down any kick you make. Awesome scrumhalves thrive in this environment of chaos, absorb and relieve your team of pressure through a range of methods. This is not where I’d want one of my most elusive runners. An explosive runner like Reinach, yes! But not someone like Kolbe, who is so lethal in the open.

Lastly there is one aspect that trumps individual skill and ability and that is communication. There is the constant barking of orders at the forwards, and keeping the ref up to date on the proceedings of the match. How a referee can complete a game without the eagle eyed assistance of a scrumhalf is beyond me. Kolbe does not strike me as the type to have this personality trait. Furthermore the comms and trust between the halfback pair is vital for either of these guys to have a good day at the office. Without that trust and comms, the scrumhalf will be constantly looking over his shoulder for someone to pass to. Just the red flag invitation a flanker needs. This relationship between the halfback pair is something that comes with time. It’s my view that Kolbe’s time is better spent honing his skills at fullback. He would be my alternate fullback for the Boks if it were up to me.



32 Comments

  • You scrumhalves always think what you do is so special. Stop pretending to do anything other than pass the ball or kick it which, by the way, is something you lot can’t manage without bitching and moaning in between. The latter as a trait alone would make Kolbe a great scrummie.

    Us forwards. We do the real rugby stuff without having to think long and hard where to put our feet, especially now that rucking’s been taken away from us. :mrgreen:

    Seriously, though, great piece bud! :cool:

  • Comment 1, posted at 13.03.15 13:46:19 by Spirit of Rugby Reply
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  • I really enjoyed that Greg.

    Agree with you on Colby, probably for the same reasons, but much less intricate than this – it’s not that easy to be a scrumhalf and Colby is already a great fullback..

    What surprises me, is that Nick Mallet, a former Springbok coach first made this suggestion. Does he then not understand or believe in the intricacies of the scrumhalf position, or does he not care, or have information regarding the player, we don’t? …

  • Comment 2, posted at 13.03.15 13:51:53 by Letgo Reply
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  • @Spirit of Rugby (Comment 1) : haha! Thanks and yes. Yes we do! Actually I’m kinda hoping someone does writes something similar with a position they are passionate about. I would love to learn some of the lesser known aspects of say a lock\prop\etc.

  • Comment 3, posted at 13.03.15 13:52:07 by gregkaos Reply
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  • @Letgo (Comment 2) : yeah it surprised me. My gut feeling is that there is a desire to have Cheslin in the Boks side at all costs.

  • Comment 4, posted at 13.03.15 13:55:18 by gregkaos Reply
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  • :shock: Great article, you need to do more writing, like maybe an article on the Sharks scrummie stocks.

  • Comment 5, posted at 13.03.15 14:01:52 by Salmonoid the Subtle Reply
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  • Loved it. Loved it. Loved it. Loved it!

    Scrumhalves lead the way!

  • Comment 6, posted at 13.03.15 14:06:23 by Clayton(PJLD) Reply
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  • @Letgo (Comment 2) : Nick Mallet hasn’t coached rugby for years now, and he has clearly lost what little skill he possessed when he last coached the Italians :twisted:

    Those who can, DO….those who can’t, ends up behind the SS post-game desk, and tries to sound clever whilst not contributing one bit to our beloved game. :mrgreen:

  • Comment 7, posted at 13.03.15 14:08:03 by FireTheLooser Reply

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  • @gregkaos (Comment 3) : Right off the top of my head as a lock I can tell you that one needs to wash the left arm of a number 4 lock and the right arm of a number 5 lock’s jersey at least three times before it’s usable again after a match. ;-)

  • Comment 8, posted at 13.03.15 14:13:18 by Spirit of Rugby Reply
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  • @Spirit of Rugby (Comment 8) : Oh yeah, the props always smell really bad… :|

  • Comment 9, posted at 13.03.15 14:18:12 by FireTheLooser Reply

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  • @FireTheLooser (Comment 9) : Like the trousers of a trenchman after the 100 Years War. :|

  • Comment 10, posted at 13.03.15 14:21:14 by Spirit of Rugby Reply
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  • Great article Greg, always enjoy your contributions. Here’s a question I posed in the other thread where we were playing around with this idea: which SA scrumhalf ticks some or all of these boxes? Reinach mixes the poor with the sublime, Groom gets the basics right at least, Sarel is a more mature Reinach who’s defense seems to always come into question (still think he should have been given a go), the general consensus on Ross seems to be that he’s punching above his weight but getting the job done admirably and the jury is still out on Paige (he seems to be a smart player though). I admit that my enthusiasm comes mainly from the thrill of seeing Kolbe play the false 9 so well and a desire to seem him in a Bok jersey though. It also means he may get to play alongside Frans Steyn instead of against him which I think he’ll prefer ;)

  • Comment 11, posted at 13.03.15 14:59:17 by vanmartin Reply
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  • To be fair to Mallett,can’t believe I said that,Kolbe did play scrum half very effectively for the 7′s team.

  • Comment 12, posted at 13.03.15 15:00:26 by The hound Reply
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  • Confusion at Newlines tomorrow,divided loyalties amongst the Cape Crusaders when Sonny Beeelll,scythes down Kolbe.

  • Comment 13, posted at 13.03.15 15:07:19 by The hound Reply
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  • @Salmonoid the Subtle (Comment 5) : I second that.

  • Comment 14, posted at 13.03.15 15:17:15 by Bokhoring Reply
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  • @The hound (Comment 12) : maybe but that is a whole other ball game with wings playing prop so we can replace Beast with Snyman. :twisted: I don’t wanna be fair to that asshole!!!!!!

  • Comment 15, posted at 13.03.15 15:23:53 by JD Reply
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  • @vanmartin (Comment 11) : Thanks Martin and damn you for the hard questions! :)
    Think you pretty much nailed it though. Sarel and Cobus are currently my two favourite 9s locally. I’m leaning toward Cobus but I am biased. Unfortunately no one in SA is in the same league as FdP.
    That said I do believe Cobus is improving at a hellva rate. If there is someone who could get to FdP’s level it would be him IMO.

    Like you said, jury still out on the younger guys. I haven’t seen enough of them yet. I find it very hard to rate young scrumhalves simply because it takes a while before they get the confidence to communicate properly.

  • Comment 16, posted at 13.03.15 17:29:05 by gregkaos Reply
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  • Great stuff Greg. All the talk about converting Kolbe into a 9 is a bit silly in my opinion.

  • Comment 17, posted at 13.03.15 17:44:37 by Ben Reply
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  • @gregkaos (Comment 16) : I reckon we should be comparing them to Smith, Perenara, White & Genia, because we need good scrummies to take our Bok rugby forward.

    Would either Cobus or Sarel be in the starting lineup ahead of the above-mentioned players at their respective franchises/countries? Doubt it.

  • Comment 18, posted at 13.03.15 17:45:25 by Spirit of Rugby Reply
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  • @Spirit of Rugby (Comment 18) : True. Flip I do rate TJ Perenara out of those 3. That kid is going places that’s for sure. I wish he’d come join the Sharks :)

    @Ben (Comment 17) : Thanks Ben!

  • Comment 19, posted at 13.03.15 18:07:35 by gregkaos Reply
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  • @gregkaos (Comment 19) : Hope springs eternal! :grin:

  • Comment 20, posted at 13.03.15 18:22:16 by Spirit of Rugby Reply
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  • @vanmartin (Comment 11) : I would like to counter your argument by asking you this. How many decent fullbacks do we have in SA? Do we really want to turn a decent fullback/wing into another ordinary scrumhalf?

  • Comment 21, posted at 13.03.15 19:15:54 by Ben Reply
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  • Agreed. I don’t think kolbe will reinvent himself to be at the level of our current incumbents but he has (apart from size) the makings of a good fullback. On wing guys like jp rhule mvovo Hendricks have things sown up. But we lack good and great full backs. Kolbe should focus on being a great utility even if he doesn’t become the next greatest wing. S is too specialist and you have to dedicate yourself to it. WP management probably sees this too. So nicks argument do not fly.

  • Comment 22, posted at 13.03.15 19:33:55 by coolfusion Reply

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  • Kolbe would be able to transfer some of the skills he has from playing the scrumhalfy role in 7s, and he seems like the kind of player who could learn the rest reasonably quickly. It would be very interesting and potentially exciting to see. That being said, I agree with most in that Kolbe already offers class and excitement at 15 and wing. Why would we want to tamper with that? There are loads of natural born scrumhalves in SA that would most likely do a better job with less effort put in by coaches and mentors.

  • Comment 23, posted at 13.03.15 19:39:25 by David12246 Reply

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  • @gregkaos (Comment 16) : Do you really feel Reinach is improving? In what aspect? He seems to be going backwards to me as a scrumhalf. Improving as a wing, maybe yes. :twisted:

  • Comment 24, posted at 13.03.15 20:07:23 by Ben Reply
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  • @FireTheLooser (Comment 7) : Every word you say is true. :twisted:

  • Comment 25, posted at 13.03.15 20:10:28 by Ben Reply
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  • @Ben (Comment 21) : More decent fullbacks than scrummies, that’s for sure. le Roux, Kriel, Coetzee. For cover we have Lambie and Steyn (if SARU can sort out their issues). I’m looking at the national picture by the way. None of the Bok scrumhalves aside from Fourie excite me (Cobus may have potential but needs to work on decision making). If this could help us bring down the All Blacks for instance and get Kolbe capped I’d be for it. If the people that know more about rugby than me tell me it’s a rubbish idea though I’d defer to their wisdom on the matter. It’s a fun thought experiment at the very least and points to a gap in our national side.

  • Comment 26, posted at 13.03.15 20:23:02 by vanmartin Reply
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  • Great article Greg, I tweeted it immediately after the post match views by Nick Mallett that it would be setting Kolbe up to fail. Our analysts need to learn more about our players, if they did that they would know Kolbe played scrumhalf for WP in 2010 at Craven Week and did a proper hash job of it as well from what I heard. The following year he played 15 at Craven Week where he found his position.

    It’s a poor suggestion, most guys Kolbe’s size would never survive in senior rugby, let alone thrive. Cheslin is thriving, growing game by game, he’s a special player. It would be stupid to tamper with that.

  • Comment 27, posted at 13.03.15 21:35:02 by Ludz Reply

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  • @vanmartin (Comment 26) : Kriel and Coetzee haven’t really proved anything yet. I know Kolbe hasn’t either. The chances of Steyn playing for the Boks again are very slim. So does it send the right message to the scrumhalves in our country if we need to convert a fullback to a scrumhalf to be our saving grace? Surely this will do more damage than anything else. You’ll end up with another Francois Hougaardt or Cobus Reinach (a wing playing scrumhalf), instead we need to look at our systems and ask why our scrumhalf depth is so weak. We need to further develop the scrumhalves that we have and put more emphasis on developing the young scrumhalves coming through the system.

    We don’t have a lot of decent centres in SA, should we now look at converting Kankowski into one maybe? My point is the solution isn’t always right in front of you, sometimes one has to dig deeper and be patient.

    Let’s say Kolbe gets converted into a scrumhalf and it takes him two years to fully adapt. In that time we might have more decent scrumhalves than we do have now. Maybe a few that are even better than the ones we have now. What happens to Kolbe then? Career ruined, I’m afraid.

  • Comment 28, posted at 14.03.15 04:10:14 by Ben Reply
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  • @Ben (Comment 28) : And there lies the common ground in our viewpoints, SA is not producing the type of quality scrumhalves it needs.

    I think I like Cobus more than most around here but even I’m surprised that he’s already a capped Bok. It points to a major problem in the development of our scrumhalf stocks in my opinion. I realize a Fourie du Preez is not born every minute but surely which should have found someone who’s mastered all the basics at least?

    You’re right, we need to keep backing our systems but at least thinking outside the box, even though we don’t act on it, doesn’t hurt.

  • Comment 29, posted at 14.03.15 09:21:43 by vanmartin Reply
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  • @vanmartin (Comment 29) : Agreed.

  • Comment 30, posted at 14.03.15 09:24:48 by Ben Reply
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  • @vanmartin (Comment 29) : spot on Martin. Am watching the highlanders vs Tahs game at the moment and their scrumhalves are better than ours.
    Smith is so good, esp when dealing with sloppy backwards ball. Still manages to pass ball in front of a runner.

    Also there is one young shark who I’m quite excited about. Cam Wright. Hope he becomes a Kockett that’s stays in Durban :)

  • Comment 31, posted at 14.03.15 09:38:37 by gregkaos Reply
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  • @gregkaos (Comment 31) : Greg, I’m absolutely with you on Cam and even Ungerer (think it’s him?) looks promising. Worried though that Hoffman is ahead of these two in the queue though. I’m not a Hoff-hater but some faith should be shown in our youngsters if we want them to stay. Otherwise we end up with the same issue we have at tighthead.

  • Comment 32, posted at 14.03.15 13:00:53 by vanmartin Reply
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