Plan B – Is it a myth or is it just misunderstood?
September 4, 2012 in Uncategorized
Let me start by congratulating Western Province with a superb show of total rugby. Those first tries were a thing of beauty and they hammered their point home. The Bulls knew they were up against a non relenting pack and there was nothing that we could do about it. Province’s forwards were rewarded for their efforts when the backline showed their trust in the heavies to do the job by giving the ball some air and they managed to score some superb tries.
OK, hopefully this is the last time that I’ll be forced to acknowledge a good WP performance. Hopefully their days of foolish purchases and mismanagement will start again soon.
Back to the Castle Rugby Championship… (Name change, anyone?)
Apart from everybody’s pet hate, the ‘Skop en Hoop” tactic currently employed by Meyer and his merry men, the Boks’ other shortcoming seems to be the lack of a plan B when this tactic does not work for them. (As were the case against the Pumas last Saturday?) I’m not quite sure what people mean when they call for this so called “Plan B”
By the way, the most popular night club in Upington is called “Plan B”. Now there’s a random fact you can pass around next time you and your buddies have this conversation.
What exactly does it mean to have a plan B in place? Does it mean that a team will go into a match playing a certain style of play and, if it doesn’t work, the captain shouts “Plan B” at the top of his voice and suddenly the whole team approaches the game differently? I cant recall many sides, even the most experienced Bulls, Crusader and All Black sides in history, doing this. These teams built their success on empowering their strengths in such a way that the opposition cant do anything about it.
Basically, they just did what they did best and the opposition just had to adapt, which makes sense if you think about it. The All Blacks always had big, fast and skilled backs that were at home if they were given space and time to mesmerise the opposition and the crowds with their sevens style approach to the game. The addition of the off load pass just added to this. But they always were a good scrumming nation as well. And, especially in the times when rucking was still allowed, their loose forwards always made sure that the backs were supplied with quality ball and that they were supplied with it fast.
If they suddenly came up against a Springbok side that was able to counter their forwards at the rucks and a fly half that kept them pinned in their own half, they seldom tried to counter this with a tactical game of their own. They just found ways to speed up the game and keep their backs in the game with quick throw ins and spreading the ball wide as soon as possible and not standing too deep. But they didn’t change their game plan.
The Boks did the same. If the All Blacks suddenly ran them off their feet, they didn’t try to counter it with a free running approach. They used their forwards to control the pace of the game and their flyhalf pinned them back in their own half, ensuring they did their running from way back. They used whatever advantage they had in the set pieces to gain the upper hand as well. In short, they sticked to what they are good at and didn’t try to do something that the opposition are better at.
Looking at the current Bok side, it seems Heyneke decided that our strengths lie in a powerful game upfront and keeping the opposition pinned back in their own half. And it makes sense. We have powerful runners, excellent kickers and fast chasers. We also have a good defence and our opponents will think twice before they take us on in their own half. Our set pieces aren’t too shabby as well, especially the lineouts.
There isn’t anything wrong with this approach, but we haven’t really reaped any rewards from it.
Is it because the gameplan is out dated? The answer to this seems to be a resounding “Yes”. But it’s not that simple. Please read this quote from Heyneke’s latest press conference:
“Our problem, against Argentina, was not just taking the opposition’s ball at the breakdown, it was protecting our own ball at the breakdown and that is not just the openside’s role that is the whole team’s responsibility. We need to be more effective at the breakdown, our body height should be lower and we should clean out more effectively.”
If this is what’s wrong with you’re team, then any gameplan will look out dated. I am yet to see a team pulling a game off against quality opposition while being manhandled at the breakdown like we were against Argentina. The answer to this isn’t employing a cavalier approach because then you just give them the opportunity to manhandle your backs instead of your forwards. Kicking it away, like we have done against Agrentina, is also not an option.
Something had to be done to at least help us break even at the rucks if we cant dominate in that area. Maybe the addition of a specialist fetcher like Brussouw (Not in the squad, but injured anyway) or Flo on the bench could have made up a more balanced loose trio should the all grunt approach backfire the way it did against the Pumas. Maybe Bismark would have been able to slow a few balls down if he was there.
Whatever the case, the correct approach would have been to win back the ascendancy at the breakdown, not run away from it. The addition of Daniel, Liebenberg and Pienaar went a long way in doing this, but by that time it was too late and the the Pumas had too much fuel left in the tank for us to make any progress.
Suddenly switching to an all attack approach while we were still loosing the battle for the ball would have been wrong and would surely have lost us the match.
I believe, with Meyer, that the problem lies in the execution of our game plan. It definitely is best suited to our strengths and we definitely have a backline capable of scoring a host of tries if they are provided with quality ball, but then the problems at the loosies must be sorted.
So, in short, I believe that your plan B should not be playing in a different way than how you’ve trained. It should only be a minor tweek in your approach to nullify whatever it is that’s keeping you from doing what you are best suited to do.