robdylan

Time to take action on defence


Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 13 Apr 2015 at 14:11
Tagged with : , , , , , , , , , ,

We’ve had a lovely week, full of shouting, apologies, kum-ba-ya’s and any other number of special moments, whether feel-good or otherwise. It’s time to start getting serious, though, about what’s actually going on between the four white lines.

We can talk all we like about character, attitude, commitment, spirit and how much more of it was in evidence this past week (good to see because there was none against the Crusaders). What we should instead be talking about – and asking pointed questions about – is why the Sharks are making such basic errors on defence. We’ve seen this one rear its ugly head in every game so far this season, but perhaps it only really came to a head when the Crusaders scored eight (!!!!) relatively simple tries against us. Last week again, any chance of victory against the Lions was completely scuppered by repeated failings of the defensive system.

I say “system” because it’s very important to distinguish between individual errors and systematic failures. We’ve spoken at length about the players being human and how it’s understandable and forgivable for a person to make errors. Every player is going to miss a tackle now and again, but when the entire team seems to go AWOL on defence for long periods of a season, that’s when you need to look at the system in which they are operating. It’s about reading the play, communicating, knowing when to commit and when to shift – I mean, just basically understanding who is meant to be tackling whom. This area is letting the Sharks down over and over again, in every match this season.

The Lions’ first try, ironically enough, seems to come down to an individual error more than anything else. Elton Jantjies took the ball to the defensive line and then found Howard Mnisi, who started out on Jantjies’s outside but cut back in. Jantjies’s pass was clever, since it wasn’t immediately clear which of Mnisi or Lionel Mapoe was going to pick it up, but with Mo Botha having shifted (correctly, I think) to cover Jantjies, Lourens Adrianse was the man responsible for cover on the inside and he simply didn’t manage to make an effective tackle. Let’s be a little fair to Lourens – it was a clever play from Jantjies and he probably didn’t read it well enough, but these things happen. There was a distinct lack of pressure too, allowing the Lions far too much momentum.

The second try exposed all sorts of failings, not least of which a defensive line which saw Adriaanse, Dale Chadwick, Franco Marais and Etienne Oosthuizen lining up against the entire Lions’ backline. I’m not sure where the Sharks backs were, but surely some of them should have been in that line. Worse, the defensive line lost any semblance of alignment as Oosthuizen shot up on the outside, creating a yawning gap between himself and Franco Marais on the inside. The icing on the cake, though, came when Marais inexplicably shifted his focus to Warren Whiteley (who was already covered by Chadwick) creating a two-on-one situation for the already-poorly-positioned Oosthuizen to cover. Ruan Combrinck didn’t have to do much at all to expose this deficiency and one can only wonder whether there was any communication at all between any of the Sharks defenders. The inside man (Chadwick) should have had Whitely covered and should have made it very clear to Marais that Combrinck was his man to tackle.

This “lazy horseshoe” on defence (where the defenders fail to keep in line) came into play for the third Lions’ try as well; the Sharks came up in a decent-enough line at first, but quickly lost that shape and criminally, failed to re-align despite a deep pass back to Mnisi. The centre somehow managed to fix no fewer than three defenders with a hard, straight run at the line; as Renaldo Bothma, Marcell Coetzee and Andre Esterhuizen all tackled the same player, a simple inside ball to Harold Vorster again exposed the rather slow Adriaanse and it was game over. As the man inside with the best view, it was Adriaanse who possibly should have called Coetzee off the tackle – but that’s assuming he has been given that role (and understands it) within the defensive system.

Big thanks to my pal Morne for helping with this analysis – and I’m going to quote him directly to sum up. “If you get the three things right in defence: alignment, spacing and communication, you achieve one very simple goal, you take away space from the attacking side. If you close down or get in between the spaces they attack they cannot go anywhere – that is how you defend for 20+ phases. Simple systems, hard work, proper communication. The Sharks seem to have no system, do not work hard, and there is clearly no communication.”

A pretty damning assessment, but not far off the mark. Let’s hope that in between all the talk of character, we’re doing some talking about defence as well.



41 Comments

  • We should hire a specialist defence coach… oh wait

  • Comment 1, posted at 13.04.15 14:17:20 by war1 Reply
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    war1Super Rugby player
     
  • Well said. Crusaders also managed to get their backs running against our forwards easily. It’s like hotel is teaching the defensive structure from 1998.

  • Comment 2, posted at 13.04.15 14:23:24 by Dragnipur Reply
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    DragnipurSuper Rugby player
     
  • And hotel is horak. Damn autocorrect.

  • Comment 3, posted at 13.04.15 14:23:52 by Dragnipur Reply
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  • @Dragnipur (Comment 3) : does your hotel have a revolving door?

  • Comment 4, posted at 13.04.15 14:31:38 by robdylan Reply
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  • Besides the glaringly obvious system failure i think the 2 biggest problems on defense is 1. Our tackle technique- we always try go for the ball. And yes now and then it works and we wrap up the defender and get the turnover but often we either get shrugged off or we barely hang on and he attacker makes ground past our line and we get caught offside at the next ruck. and then 2. Our concentration – it seems as those the Sharks cannot concentrate for an entire game. We just completely lose the plot a times. I dunno if its a fitness issue or just plain Attention Deficit Disorder but my word we go walk about at times. and in Every game

  • Comment 5, posted at 13.04.15 14:33:14 by SheldonK Reply

    SheldonKAssistant coach
     
  • We’ve been witness to similar problems with alignment, spacing and communication on attack. Is Horak to blame for those too or is it symptomatic of a deeper issue?

  • Comment 6, posted at 13.04.15 14:37:40 by vanmartin Reply
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  • @vanmartin (Comment 6) : I didn’t say anything about Horak….

  • Comment 7, posted at 13.04.15 14:46:27 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 7) : :mrgreen:

  • Comment 8, posted at 13.04.15 14:55:31 by JarsonX Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 7) : Not referring to the article but some comments in this and another thread as well as on twitter. I understand where the confusion comes from (and I apologise) as I borrowed some concepts from your writing to try and illustrate that our first reaction to any failing at the Sharks should be slightly more imaginative than “fire the bastard!”.

  • Comment 9, posted at 13.04.15 14:58:44 by vanmartin Reply
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  • @JarsonX (Comment 8) : :lol:

    Great article Rob. Blunt, to the point and very much needed.

  • Comment 10, posted at 13.04.15 15:00:19 by StevieS Reply
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    StevieSSuper Rugby player
     
  • So we’re finally able to narrow our problems down to just one area of the game….that in itself is a MAJOR improvement, and something that the coaches should be able to fix.

    What we saw in most of the games leading up to this one, was hard to identify (and stomach) and probably close to impossible for the coaches to fix.

    (I do feel very “glass half full” after the Lions game)

  • Comment 11, posted at 13.04.15 15:03:38 by FireTheLooser Reply

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  • @vanmartin (Comment 9) : “fire the bastard”

    Now THAT has a nice ring to it… :twisted:

    Easier to get the spelling right too ;-)

  • Comment 12, posted at 13.04.15 15:05:52 by FireTheLooser Reply

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  • @FireTheLooser (Comment 12) : Yes, your username served as inspiration for that particular comment :grin:

  • Comment 13, posted at 13.04.15 15:07:24 by vanmartin Reply
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  • @FireTheLooser (Comment 11) : Very true. Though sheer number of times I have shouted at the tv “tackle die bliksem!” whilst clutching the remote with white knuckles is a good indicator of where our defence is at (or not)

  • Comment 14, posted at 13.04.15 15:10:09 by Another Nick Reply

    Another NickSuper Rugby player
     
  • What boggles my mind, is also the fact that after a kick, or even when the ball gets badly passed etc by the opposition, in a case of where we can win an extra 20m of position or so if there is quick pressure on the opposition, the guys will slowly amble up in a half arse line and wait for the opposition to run back at them.

  • Comment 15, posted at 13.04.15 15:13:50 by KingRiaan Reply

    KingRiaanTeam captain
     
  • @vanmartin (Comment 9) : The responsibility to fix this still lies with Gold (as main coach) and Horak (as specialist coach) though. Obviously the players themselves also need to take responsibility for poor technique, any lack of commitment and how hard they work off the ball to get in position. I understand that Anthony is now responsible for measuring players work rate of the ball – so he would come into it as well.

  • Comment 16, posted at 13.04.15 15:18:30 by Bokhoring Reply
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  • @KingRiaan (Comment 15) : Yep, absolutely no line speed on defence, whole line is flat footed waiting for attacking team to run into them. Stupid system.

    I’m not saying we must go all kamikaze rush defence on every ball, but a little bit of urgency on defence would cut the other teams running space in half.

  • Comment 17, posted at 13.04.15 15:23:55 by Dragnipur Reply
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  • @Bokhoring (Comment 16) : It was interesting to see Gold and Horak seated at the front of the coaches box, right next to each other.

    At the tank, Gold is always at the rear of the box….could be nothing, but it was interesting to see considering the pressure Gold is under and the exceptionally poor defense of the Sharks.

  • Comment 18, posted at 13.04.15 15:25:18 by FireTheLooser Reply

    Assistant coach
     
  • @Dragnipur (Comment 17) : You can afford to have two chasers running up, putting pressure on the opposition player.

  • Comment 19, posted at 13.04.15 15:31:38 by KingRiaan Reply

    KingRiaanTeam captain
     
  • @KingRiaan (Comment 19) : Hell just the line moving forward at more than walking pace should already help loads.

  • Comment 20, posted at 13.04.15 15:35:58 by Dragnipur Reply
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  • @vanmartin (Comment 6) : Good question. When Horak was at the Cheetahs in 2013, they had a stellar season (aided by minimal injury disruptions). Is it al Horak’s fault, or as you say are their deeper issues

  • Comment 21, posted at 13.04.15 15:39:08 by KingCheetah Reply

    KingCheetahTeam captain
     
  • @Bokhoring (Comment 16) : 100% agreed, the responsibility lies with more than one party even though it’s Horak’s area of expertise.

    @KingCheetah (Comment 21) : I think our struggle with on-field discipline alone points to the fact that their are most likely some extenuating circumstances.

  • Comment 22, posted at 13.04.15 15:56:01 by vanmartin Reply
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  • The Sharks have me playing club rugby again. I needed to fall back in love with rugby after the last few games. I played my first league game on Saturday after 8 years of rather watching rugby(the Sharks) on tv. All I can say is… WOW!!! Why must we get old? The nerves at the warm-up, the crowd(about 100) :razz: , the first hit, beating a defender, your lungs wanting to jump out of your chest, penalty! scrum, line-out, TRY!!!

    Honestly the best Saturday in months. It is truly the best game in the world.

    My beloved Sharks…just show me you love this game as much as i do and the rest will come.

  • Comment 23, posted at 13.04.15 15:59:42 by Southern_Shark Reply
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  • @Dragnipur (Comment 20) : Too true

  • Comment 24, posted at 13.04.15 16:04:03 by KingRiaan Reply

    KingRiaanTeam captain
     
  • @Southern_Shark (Comment 23) : “beating a defender”

    Plenty of that at the Sharks :twisted:

  • Comment 25, posted at 13.04.15 16:04:24 by FireTheLooser Reply

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  • @FireTheLooser (Comment 25) : :lol:

  • Comment 26, posted at 13.04.15 16:06:05 by Southern_Shark Reply
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  • can I suggest that perhaps we lack sound pace in our backs, bring sithole in at 13, his speed off the line puts pressure on the opposing attacking force. ( its working for Juan De Jongh ) and lets leave Waylon out as he just seems jaded. he struggles to execute a tackle because he has allowed the opposition time to build momentum. And perhaps we need to learn to hold on to the ball more instead of allowing teams to constantly control through the possession they seem to have in abundance. We are chasing shadows for way to long. but when we have ball we seem to score.

    we have pace in this team, but we a churning out slow and cumbersome displays. light the friggen fuse !!

  • Comment 27, posted at 13.04.15 16:12:23 by The Duke Reply

    The DukeUnder 21 player
     
  • @Southern_Shark (Comment 23) : How I wish I could still play the game. Unfortunately, I was a bit reckless on the field and did not care too much about my own safety, and now I suffer the consequences.

  • Comment 28, posted at 13.04.15 16:16:32 by KingRiaan Reply

    KingRiaanTeam captain
     
  • Let’s not forget that Horak is our kicking coach too. Kicking and defence have been well below par this season. :roll:

  • Comment 29, posted at 13.04.15 16:31:13 by Ben Reply
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  • Also think that some self-belief might be missing after the last few games. Just need a few players to spark this, then a lot of other things might come right to.

  • Comment 30, posted at 13.04.15 17:41:34 by T-Shark Reply

    T-SharkUnder 21 player
     
  • @Ben (Comment 29) : He is? Didn’t know he has the skill set in that dept?

  • Comment 31, posted at 13.04.15 18:44:35 by KingCheetah Reply

    KingCheetahTeam captain
     
  • @KingCheetah (Comment 31) : Obviously he doesn’t. :twisted:

  • Comment 32, posted at 13.04.15 19:53:42 by Ben Reply
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  • @KingCheetah (Comment 31) : http://www.sharksworld.co.za/2014/11/17/sharks-confirm-horak-appointment/

  • Comment 33, posted at 13.04.15 19:59:39 by Ben Reply
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  • I definitely don’t have Mornes knowledge and my view is simple,if you have 3 to 4 players walking around for the 80 min you will be exposed on defence

  • Comment 34, posted at 13.04.15 23:49:54 by benji Reply
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  • @Southern_Shark (Comment 23) : Good on you, I hope you enjoy many injury free games.

  • Comment 35, posted at 14.04.15 09:30:59 by Salmonoid the Subtle Reply
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  • @Ben (Comment 33) : Its often fun and interseting going back and reading old posts and their comments.

  • Comment 36, posted at 14.04.15 09:36:12 by Salmonoid the Subtle Reply
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  • @Salmonoid the Subtle (Comment 36) : It was a simpler time back then :mrgreen:

  • Comment 37, posted at 14.04.15 09:56:04 by vanmartin Reply
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  • @vanmartin (Comment 37) : T’was, despite having to wake at 04.30 to walk 10 miles to school through snow…ahh, nostalgia is what its all about.

  • Comment 38, posted at 14.04.15 10:43:04 by Salmonoid the Subtle Reply
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  • @Salmonoid the Subtle (Comment 38) : Luckily a Red Bull was only 2 cents back then which made it slightly less of an ordeal.

  • Comment 39, posted at 14.04.15 10:50:40 by vanmartin Reply
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  • @vanmartin (Comment 39) : if we had Red bull back then o hell my mother would have died…. we would have broke down the town never mind the house……..

  • Comment 40, posted at 15.04.15 00:51:07 by JD Reply
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  • @Salmonoid the Subtle (Comment 38) : nope it’s SA boet not snow it was walking bare feet through cow patties.

  • Comment 41, posted at 15.04.15 00:53:05 by JD Reply
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