Tactically naive coaches produce tactically naive teams

Written by Morné Nortier (Morné)

Posted in :Original Content on 6 Apr 2011 at 18:37
Tagged with : ,

Success in rugby, and so to failure, is more often attributed to the appreciation for tactical awareness than any other factor.

I often get frustrated with coaches who highlight his team’s tactical naivety as the reason for their defeat.  Not only because it is obvious, but it is an area any coach directly controls.

Analysis, training, team selections all play a part in any team’s tactical approach to the game of rugby.  At Super rugby level, these are also areas no coach should ever sell himself short on given the resources available to him.

With the Super 15 one/third done, it is interesting to see which teams are at the top of the pile, and which teams find themselves languishing at the bottom.

Where it is important to note that a tactical team approach is the responsibility of every player from 1 to 22, no-where is this more important than in the half-back, or 9 and 10 combination.  It is here that a team more often than not loses momentum and ultimately the plot.

The three table-topping teams in each conference currently read, Reds, Stormers and Crusaders.  It is also interesting to note the influence either one or both the half-back’s have in their respective teams.

The second placed teams in each conference also shares this trait, where either one or both of their respective half-back combination are players with extensive Super rugby or international experience.

This is not some weird co-incidence.  Some will point out that some of the bottom placed teams also have influential players in these positions, but the trend is far more obvious in the top placed teams than what you would find at the bottom.

Is it then surprising that the Sharks started their losing streak the same time they lost Pat Lambie?  Or the Lions having won 1 in 7 thanks to their wunderkind, Elton Jantjies, never kicking on from the promise he showed in 2010?  One can even look at the Springboks of 2010 when they lost one of the most tactically astute players in modern rugby, Fourie du Preez.

Similarly, is it surprising that the Stormers are looking a different team altogether since the return of Peter Grant?  Or that the Bulls are slowly showing signs of the form that won them the 2010 Super 14 is coinciding with Fourie du Preez slowly getting back into his groove?

In fact, I am struggling to think of one team in the last 10 years that played in the Super Rugby play-off’s without at least one, if not both, their halfbacks were hugely influential for their team.

So as much as coaches are not wrong for highlighting tactical naivety as a reason for a poor game or poor run of form, it is ultimately their responsibility to ensure that this does not become a problem in the first place.


  • The losses can be blaimed on our bad set piece and forwards at the BD .
    Must be noted that when our backline plays from deep and get caught behind the advantage line our forwards have to do a U turn to be on side.
    Execution has not been a strong point .

  • Comment 1, posted at 06.04.11 19:53:29 by Talent Reply
  • Can a tactically astute captain, like Smit, overcome a tactically naive coach, and still lead his team to success or glory? (Not implying that either the Sharks or Bok coaches are tactically naive, just asking the question) In my opinion, rugby and cricket captains have more influence on tactical decisions on the pitch than captains of other sports (except for bowls and curling).

  • Comment 2, posted at 06.04.11 19:58:52 by Dancing Bear Reply
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  • @Talent (Comment 1) : I think your point about standing too deep is well taken. How much do you think that is because of Lambie not playing (attacking 10 that takes the ball flat) and JLP who tends to stand much deeper, is playing? Not sure if that is a tactic enforced by the coach. The same argument was made with Butch 4 years ago, he took the ball much flatter than any other SA 10 playing at the time.

  • Comment 3, posted at 06.04.11 20:01:13 by Dancing Bear Reply
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  • @Talent (Comment 1) : Doesn’t Morne Steyn take the ball very deep as well, much like his predecessor at the Bulls, D. Hougaard.

  • Comment 4, posted at 06.04.11 20:01:59 by Dancing Bear Reply
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  • @Dancing Bear (Comment 4) : Agree. I know very little, technically, about rugby, but to me JLP looks like a Bulls bencher when he plays. You can take the bull out of the Boerestad but never the Boerestad out of the bull, it seems.
    I am completely blonde when it comes to the finer points of the game, but IMO, for what it’s worth, Morne and JLP display the same predictable style of play. It’s boring to watch and oh so easy to read for the opposition’s defence. Like Naas and a string of Bulls FH’s in between, Morne never seems to be there at the BD, tackles sporadically and completely ineffectually and numbs the other side into submission (and bores all watching to death at the same time).
    Lambie’s taking of flatter balls, his obvious love of tackling and voracious attacking style is more dynamic and less easy to predict, which makes him a real force to be reckoned with. He’s much lighter on his feet than Morne, knows how to step, and is there at every BD. And his partnership with McLeod mobilises our midfield and galvanises the entire backline into action. The result is a completely different dynamic to what we have seen over the last three weeks. And one we are missing terribly.
    I maintain that the Saders game would have had a completely different outcome had Lambie been on the field. Ditto for the Stormers last week.
    But then, what do I know about rugby? 😆

  • Comment 5, posted at 06.04.11 20:24:41 by SharonvanWyk Reply
  • @SharonvanWyk (Comment 5) : Hi Shaz, always good to hear from you. It is interesting that the only three Bok 10s for the last 20 years to play flat were Honiball, Butch James, and now Lambie. All Sharks. All other Bok 10s, DeBeer, Hougaard, Stransky, Braam, Morne Steyn, etc, stand very deep and were generally considered to be kicking 10s. The biggest detractors of Honiball said he did not stand deep enough to kick effectively. Also interesting that the best three defensive 10s were the same three, Honiball, James and Lambie.

  • Comment 6, posted at 06.04.11 20:31:02 by Dancing Bear Reply
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  • The interesting thing is that when Morne Steyn was the understudy to Hougaard, he was considered a running 10. He worked on his kicking, and apparently the Bulls coaching team got him to take the ball deeper. Now look at him, he is purely a kicker, one would never believe he ever was a good running 10.

    Remember in the U21 World Cup with PdV as coach, he picked Ruan at 10 with Morne Steyn at 12. Steyn was also quite a good running fullback before the Bulls coaches ruined him.

  • Comment 7, posted at 06.04.11 20:38:31 by Dancing Bear Reply
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  • I also remember Morne Steyn getting a red card for a dangerous tackle against the Sharks. It would seem that he actually did try to tackle at one point in his career. 😉

  • Comment 8, posted at 06.04.11 20:48:05 by Dancing Bear Reply
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  • @Dancing Bear (Comment 7) :

    You forgot Grant, who is also a Bok and also plays close to the advantage line.

  • Comment 9, posted at 06.04.11 20:53:04 by Morné Reply
  • Interesting point on this however, I don’t think Lambie is an advantage line player…

    Much like Jonny and Carter, he just varies his plays extremely well…

  • Comment 10, posted at 06.04.11 20:57:45 by Morné Reply
  • But I must be off, will catch up tomorrow.

  • Comment 11, posted at 06.04.11 20:58:17 by Morné Reply
  • @Dancing Bear (Comment 3) : Im sure that has alot to do with it ,backlines wont fire if the fly doesnt get the midfielders running onto ball or into space ,at angles whatever…Thats why I think JLP a center ,is.

    Forwards though have been poor poor

  • Comment 12, posted at 06.04.11 21:44:44 by Talent Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 10) : Good point .
    Something to consider; I wonder if lambie and FDP could ever work in tandem ,they both dicatate play ,they make the calls ,and if not on the same wave length…

    In any 9-10 combo I think you have a Leader and Follower
    Thats why lambie will work well with a “passing” 9 rather than a FDP or FH type ,FDP is the boss of the current bulls and bok one .

    Butch and FDP actually played well together ,in sync minds
    Tho thier minds where probably like ice and fire

  • Comment 13, posted at 06.04.11 21:52:07 by Talent Reply
  • Lambie must be one of the 10 for the boks!

  • Comment 14, posted at 06.04.11 21:59:23 by Honey Badger Reply

    Honey Badger
  • @Morné (Comment 11) : I’ve always believed this. Superrugby winners history is littered with in form halves starting with the powerful scrummy Ofisa Tonu’u and the young dynamic Carlos Spencer to Marshall/Mehrtens to Gregan/Larkham etc.
    To me the Reds turnaround last year was centred around the sublime form of Genia and the confidence of Cooper.
    The RWC winners history also shows a healthy trend of world class halves playing at the peaks of their abilities.

  • Comment 15, posted at 06.04.11 22:06:32 by beet Reply
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  • Really hope Meyer Bosman starts at 10 against the Lions with JLP or Adi at 12.

  • Comment 16, posted at 06.04.11 23:46:17 by vanmartin Reply
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  • @ Morne: Very good article and it really emphasizes the importance of having a good half back combo. Similarly the Sharks struggled in last year’s S14 when they lost a string of FH. Only when they got that sorted did they start winning again.

    Winning team ALWAYS has a good half back combo and I have not seen a team winning a competition without one.

  • Comment 17, posted at 07.04.11 07:31:51 by Viking Reply
  • @Talent (Comment 13) : I think a guy like Sarel Pretorius can play very well with Lambie. Nothing against his current partner McCleod, but Sarel does not necessarily dictate the play but has the ability to vary his play and sync with his FH.

  • Comment 18, posted at 07.04.11 07:33:59 by Viking Reply
  • Good arti Morne.
    What I still find baffling is why JLP and MB just doesn’t seem to work at 10/12 for the Sharks. They were pretty decent when playing for the Cheetahs? Is it that they cant adjust to our gameplan? or are both just a little “out of form”.
    Pat is the definate future. But once again it seems like we don’t have a decent backup @ 10…

  • Comment 19, posted at 07.04.11 07:45:51 by SharksRTB Reply

  • @SharksRTB (Comment 19) : MB may have started a bit slow but I believe he has adjusted to the Sharks setup now. He had a really good game against the stormers with a couple of line break. Just unfortunate that we did not convert it into points. Same when he played against the Crusaders at 10 for the last 20 he looked really good and got the backline going. Give him time. We will see the best of MB soon.

  • Comment 20, posted at 07.04.11 07:51:16 by Viking Reply
  • Good morning guys and girls.

  • Comment 21, posted at 07.04.11 08:02:50 by Ben Reply
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  • @Ben (Comment 21) : And a good morning to you form a cloudy Jozy…

  • Comment 22, posted at 07.04.11 08:19:40 by Viking Reply
  • @Viking (Comment 22) : Its sunny as always in Rustenburg.

  • Comment 23, posted at 07.04.11 08:21:05 by Ben Reply
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  • @Viking (Comment 20) : So you`re saying drop JLP, start Bosman at ten?

    Wonder what his kicking % is at the moment.

    I`ll go with that. We need to shake things up. We`re in danger of dropping completely out of contention here.
    Remember if we finish second on the SA log we`ll have to go to Christchurch or Nelson for the semi . .. that is a huge ask.

  • Comment 24, posted at 07.04.11 12:15:00 by Original Pierre Reply
    Original Pierre
  • @Original Pierre (Comment 24) : I see that Plum went with JLP at 10 for Saturday but at some point we will need to make a call and see who is the #2 FH. Probably not fare to call JLP on 2 games in the position but he needs to pick up the pace. He has to play closer to the advantage line. Wonder who can drill the bulls mentality out of him?

    If JLP cannot deliver the goods then MB nmust be given a go at some point.

  • Comment 25, posted at 07.04.11 12:22:08 by Viking Reply
  • @Viking (Comment 25) : Agreed.
    Here`s the problem though. Lambie will be back after the break, so JLP reverts back to the bench. What if something else happens to Lambie closer to the business end?

    You`ve got the sharks team? Would you put it up for us?

  • Comment 26, posted at 07.04.11 12:30:02 by Original Pierre Reply
    Original Pierre
  • @Original Pierre (Comment 26) :

    The Sharks

    1. John Smit (Captain)
    2. Bismarck du Plessis
    3. Eugene van Staden
    4. Steven Sykes
    5. Gerhard Mostert
    6. Keegan Daniel
    7. Willem Alberts
    8. Ryan Kankowski
    9. Charl McLeod
    10. Jacques-Louis Potgieter
    11. JP Pietersen
    12. Meyer Bosman
    13. Stefan Terblanche
    14. Odwa Ndungane
    15. Louis Ludik

    16. Tendai Mtawarira
    17. Jannie du Plessis
    18. Ross Skeate
    19. Jacques Botes
    20. Conrad Hoffmann
    21. Adrian Jacobs
    22. Lwazi Mvovo

  • Comment 27, posted at 07.04.11 12:32:22 by Viking Reply
  • @Viking (Comment 27) : 😐

  • Comment 28, posted at 07.04.11 12:47:34 by Charlie Reply


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