High kick and charge tactics

I must admit I was (and still is) furious about the Springbok lost in the last minute of the match last week against Australia. I am to be honest fed-up with the box kick tactics.

I am not a fan of kicking your possession away. I played for the university u/20 team in the 1980’s mosly as flyhalf and inside center in a time when Naas Botha was the ‘role model’ of flyhalf play in South Africa. I worked hard at my kicking game because Naas sort of set the template for flyhalf play in those days but rarely kicked in matches because I just disliked the idea of kicking hard earned possion away. Nevertheless, I scored or created tries on occasion by utilzing the high kick and charge.

There are in my mind a couple of things that are absolutely essential if you want utilize the high kick and charge effectively. And make no mistake if you use it correctly it is very hard to defend against and create immense pressure. It rattles the oposition especially if you employ it correctly early in in the match.

I’ve selected a few youtube clips from the 2nd test match between South Africa and Australia in 1993 to demonstrate my point.  This test was probably the test that made the biggest impression on me of all the tests I’ve seen in my life mostly because of the way Australia played and won the test. The tactics they employed and the extraordinary precision of execution are impressive.

See in this clip how the Aussies start the game off with a high kick and charge.

High kick and charge

The clip starts with Australia hoisting a high kick. Stransky finds himself under immense pressure and drops the ball.The ball spills backward into the SA in goal area and almost resulted in a try for Australia. There are a number of things to notice about this first hoist. Firstly, the Aussie flyhalf pulls the South African looseforwards and inside backs forward (or towards him) by sitting deep and by drifting sidewards. His 12 and 13 and left wing is sitting even deeper so that they can start sprinting towards to place where the ball is going to land (with no danger of getting in front of the kicker) even before he launches the kick. This is key because they are already at an almost full sprint by the time the ball leaves the kickers foot.

Secondly, notice the place on the field (inside the SA 10 meter area) and thirdly notice where the ball actually lands (almost on the SA goal line) Fourthly, notice the height of the kick and the speed of the of the chargers. The placement of the kick force the receiver to actually turn around so that he can’t jump into the ball. You can’t do this if the defenders expect you to kick. You need to draw the defenders forwards first or force them to run backwards by creating front foot ball before you launch the kick (see the Clip entiled Tim Horan’s try to understand what I mean with creating front foot ball first).

Anyway back to this first clip. The Aussies get a 5 meter scrum but South Africa prevents them from getting a right shoulder by moving the scrum sideways and by turning it. The Aussies then try a set move involving No.10, 12 and Campese from back foot ball. The move basically consists of No.12 (Tim Horan) scissoring on the inside of No.10 who dummies in his direction but passes to Campese coming in on an angle. The South African defense hold and they force a turnover scrum. From the ensueing scrum Hugh Reece-Edwards make the fatal mistake of not kicking out and Campese hoist another league like up-and-under which Tiaan Strauss knock on. Deon Lotter then falls over the ball and get penalized. Marty Roebuck succeed with the penalty and the Aussies lead 3-0.

The thing that makes this second hoist kick by Campese successfull is the fact that he first built-up speed before he kicks. He ran just long enough to:

  1. Force the defence coming forward to tackle him;
  2. Get at least one more team mate (No 14) also at full tilt next to him before he launces the ball into air and;
  3. Stop the Aussie fowards running backwards; they have time to turn around and wait for him.

Again the ball lands just short of the SA tryline and the kick is high and deep enough so that the Aussie forwards can turn and built-up speed towards the place where the ball is going to land. Campese came with such pace that they are never really at risk of being in front of the kicker.

I might be stating the obvious here but the point I want to make is that it is this fact – that the chargers are with both kicks already at full tilt before the kicker kicks- that makes the hoist succesful. The fact that the chargers are already running at almost full pace in the right direction before the kick are hoisted allows the kicker to place the kick deep enough to force the receiver to turn around and/or preventing him to jump into the ball.

The Aussies moved over into a higher gear soon afterwards and produced this fantastic try by Jason Little.

Jason Little try

This is one of my favorite tries for a number of reasons. See how the Aussies first create depth from the line-out. The throw is deep and the catcher drives it up; Phil Kearns then comes storming in to receive the recycled ball from Nick Farr-Jones. They had one more runner taking it up after that and with whole South African team on the back foot they dispersed the ball to the back line. No 10 whips it to Horan who pops it back to No.10 who then cross behind No 12 (Horan) before he flat pass it to Jason Little coming straight but stepping of his left foot -the moment he receive the ball. He pass on the inside of the South African cross the defense and score under the post.

This is a fantastic piece of rugby.

The speed, the depth, backline interplay and the options they had available once No.10 received the ball back from Horan is just incredible. If you stop the video on exactly 0.46 (ball is just leaving No.10’s hands on its way to 13) you can see that they had at that exact moment at least two other options they could have utilized. See the large opening on the inside of No.10 at 0.46 and if he at that moment flipped the ball to Roebuck (No.15) running an inside angle Roebuck would have had a clear run to the goal line. The other option would have been to pass the ball behind No. 13’s (Little’s) back to Campese coming in on an angle and that would have produced a try as well.

This try is produced by the speed and aggresion onto the ball from set piece. SA with its superior line-out should be able to play like this but we never see speed onto the ball. It is the speed onto the ball that create fast recycled ball. By the time the ball went to the backline they can play flat on the gainline because the defenders are running backwards.

Back to the kick and charge.

In the second half Australia tried the high kick and charge tactic again and it produced a try for Tim Horan.

Tim Horan try

See on the video clip how they attack the 9/10 channel twice, first Campese then Horan and the ball then goes to Little who straighten-up before they bring it to the right to Campese who hoist it for Horan. Again the kick comes from fast ball after they’ve forced the Springboks on the back foot. Again they are running at full tilt before they kick. THe hit the ball with pace and only decide to kick once they see nothing else is on. The pace at which they hit the line forces the defenders to come foward because if they don’t the attacker will just keep on running. The kick is part of an attacking process and not a sort of escape option from poor ball.

This lack of speed onto the ball is in essence the problem of the current Springbok team. They rarely create fast front foot ball hence neither running the ball down the backline neither the box kick seems to work.

The box kick or any other tactical kick as well as backline play are dependent on first creating forward momentum. Rarely do we see the Springboks drive through the line-out as is the case with the Jason Little try. Our box kick is mostly from static scrum or line-out ball and hence not deep enough to force the recceivers to turn around.

Meyer’s plan to run at the All Blacks tonight will not succeed unless they first create fast front foot ball.

What to learn from the Lions?

Very interesting that the ‘pasella’ team from two years back are now suddenly starting to win matches. Two in a row against the two bettter performing franchises of the last two years. Yes it’s early season victories and the S15 is not won or lost in February but they are clearly a team with a lot more passion and desire to do well than before 2013.

Why did they need to get sacked from the tournament before they stepped-up, is the thing that bugs me? Not only do they look strong (gym trained) and hard but there is also a urgengency in their play. They are putting their bodies on the line for team and victory; something that was missing in previous years. John Mitchell said there was a culture of softness in the Lions camp when he started to work with them. Now suddenly that softness seems to have evaporated. There is a new culture of ‘in-your-face’ I’ll show you what I can do, in that camp now.

In contrast the Stormers dished up the same old ‘shyte’ of the last 3 to 5 years. Defence orientated game plan with no imagination and no ability to built tries. The lesson from the Lions seems to be; pluck them out of their comfort zone.

The recipe with the Lions was sack the coaching staff and dump them out of the competition. You might argue that they (the Stormers) haven’t walked away with the wooden spoon for 5 seasons in a row like the Lions and therefore do not deserve that harsh treatment, yet.

That might be true in terms of the log points but in terms of amount of tries scored in the last 5 seasons they came very close to last (I haven’t really checked the stats and they might have scored a bit more than I remember).

Irrespective of whether they ended up in the last 5 -in terms of tries scored- if I have, to be honest, real difficulty watching Stormers games lately (last 5 years). It’s dull rugby.  I don’t really like the Aussie and Wales style ‘flap flap’ rugby. So I am not suggesting they should play a run-at-all-cost game plan. All I want is evidence of constructive rugby where you can see the team are building tries and have some innovative starter moves at the right time.

Something need to be done with Stormers rugby and my vote is start by getting rid of the current stale and one dimentional thinking coaching staff. If that doesn’t help drop them a level for a year or two (out of the S15) until they prove that they want to play in the competition. While out of the S15 get rid of some of the senior players; bring some new blood in (like they did at the Lions) and give them a challenge to win back their S15 status. Personally, I believe that new coaches with new ideas will sovle the Stormers problem of predictability. Opponents have figured out how to play them and a new approach is needed to solve the problem as the current bunch seems unable to revamp themselves. Just look what a new coach with new ideas did to the sevens team.

Harsh sentiments maybe but what makes them better than the Lions? Why can the Lions be treated like that and the Stormers not? Ultimately it is not where they end-up on the log that matters, for me, it’s about the quality of the rugby that they are playing. I as a Western Province supporter since I can remember has been treating them like a brother in jail over the last 5 seasons.

I want my team back and are to be frank ‘gatvol’ for the type of rugby I’ve seen from this bunch since 2009.

My springbok team for the 2013 EOYT

Fullbacks

Gio Aplon – For his ability to spark something and the pace that he injects into the backline

Patrick Lambie – I’ll prefer Lambie on flyhalf but want Goossen back in the environment. Lambie showed again in the CC final that he is the best runner-up in the flyhalf berth and there is enough other cover for fullback in players like Willie le Roux and JP Pietersen if Lambie was to be selected to play in the No10 jumper.

Wings

Bryan Habana – For his experience and all round workrate

JP Pietersen – For his pace, defence and ability to manufacture tries

Willie le Roux – For his x-factor ability to constantly keep the defence guessing and his back-up as fullback

Bjorn Basson – Nobody else that put his hand up

Outside centres

Jacque Fourie – Defence in this position was a major weakness this year; Jacque will sort that

JJ Engelbrecht – He’ll do well as impact player either on the wing or as outside centre

Inside Centres

Jean de Villiers- He was inspirational this year and he is growing as a leader

Frans Steyn – For his defensive and distribution abilities and the fact that he has played in Europe/France for a couple of years

Note: Jan Serfontein might be added here because players like Frans Steyn, Gio Aplon ad Willie le Roux has utility qualities making it unnecessary to select a utility back. Serfontein is a youngster and personally I feel he was pulled into the Springbok environment to soon. However, I will not select someone like the Freestate’s Ebersohn (which I personally like a lot as player) into the team if he is not seen as longtime propect. Serfontein clearly has ability and just need to mature.

Flyhalves

Morné Steyn – Was the best in this position this year by far even though he is suspect on defence. That’s why I want Frans Steyn on his outside

Johan Goossen – I am not sure that he has played enough rugby this year to warrant a place above Lambie but I want him back in the environment.

Scrumhalves

Fourie du Preez – For obvious reasons still the best we have in this position

Ruan Pienaar – Because he knows the European conditions so well

Kobus Reinach – He lacks experience but has something that is non-negotiable on this level namely natural speed and a feel for opportunity

No8

Duane Vermeulen – Was the best in this position this year in SA

Flankers

Willem Alberts – He can cover No8 and the lock positions as well

Francois Louw – Our best performing flank at test level the last two seasons

Siya Kolisi – Have not played a bad game for the Springboks yet

Arno Botha – If he has recovered he should be considered otherwise Marcel Coetzee

Locks

Eben Etzebeth – Only class act we’ve got in this position at the moment

Pieter-Steph du Toit – showed in the CC-final he is ready for test rugby

Bakkies Botha – Bakkies on crutches is better than Jaundre Kruger or Flip van der Merwe

Note: Willem Alberts can cover on lock as well. So I’ve got only three locks in my team. The EOYT is normally seen as an opportunity to award CC performers and to develop talent so one of the wings like Basson or Habana might be given a rest (opening a spot in the squad) in favour of giving Juandre Kruger more development opportunity. Kruger however was so poor during the Ellispark test against the All Blacks that I think we need to look at some other options like moving Alberts to the lock position when the subs come on.

Props

Pat Cilliers- It’s time to move beyond Guthro Steenkamps and CJ van der Linde

Tendai Mtawarira – has shown that he can handle the pressure of international rugby

Lourens Adriaanse or Frans Malherbe – We are in serious need at tighthead and it might be time to give one of these guys a chance.

Coenie Oosthuizen – time to see if Coenie can make it as a tighthead

Note: Jannie du Plessis needs a break.

Hookers

Adrian Strauss – No remarks needed

Bismarck du Plessis – No remarks needed

Three things that cost us the game

The All Blacks are a super team and probably deserved winners. They took the boks on at Ellispark and kept their composure.

South African supporters, I believe, are generally speaking happy with the progress our team has shown this year. The Springboks had their opportunities and could have won the game. There were enough line-breaks but the final pass, support and decision making were lacking to round it off. One thinks of the two Willie le Roux opportunities, the Etzebeth and Kolisi breakaways and feel it was so close you could almost taste victory.  Continue reading

Replay the match

We just don’t get a fair contest in NZ. This has been going on since 1956. In 2010 we played both matches in NZ with 14 men due to dubious yellow cards.

Personally, I will not watch a Springbok/AB game played in NZ again. I’ll take my kids to the movies. What is the use of watching something if you know you are going to get screwed.

The game should be replayed. SARU has to give NZRU an ultimatum. We replay the game on neutral grounds or no more games between SA and the AB’s in New Zealand.

I don’t think any SA supporter will object. Why go and play in NZ if you know you are going to be forced into an unfair contest. Also no more yellow cards (except maybe for tip tackles) in AB/SA matches or we don’t play games against them anymore. For tip tackle yellows we want a serious look at it before a decision is being made and both captains -on the field- has to agree that it is a fair decision. If no agreement then a white card so that the incident can be reviewed afterwards.

The referee just has too much power and there is too much money invested in these games to allow one persons incompetence and emotions/views to spoil it as a spectacle. The technology is availble so referee mistakes of this magnitude is just not acceptable anymore. .

This match was the dissapointment of the year; it was a disgrace.

Show some respect Mister Hansen

South Africa was robbed if not from the outcome then from a fair contest. The AB scored 4 tries against 14 men and the Springboks one against 16 men (one more late in the match against 15 men -the referee was still on the field and New Zealand had one in the sin-bin). According to my maths that leaves me uneasy about the results to say the least.

Hansen got angry when asked during the press conference whether the yellow card ruined the contest. Shame on him.  Fact that he got angry says it all. There is an old Afrikaans truism that goes ‘As die muishond stink is die skoot raak’ and that certainly applies to Hansen in this case.  Continue reading

The respect is back

It is the uncertainty factor that produces the biggest satisfaction and enjoyment in sport. That uncertainty brought about by not being sure whether you’ll be able to be victorious or not. That’s why as athletes and human beings we seek and thrive on competition. We find it in challenging ourselves to complete a marathon or to play against individuals or teams with higher rankings. That’s why as nations we play test matches and why even in test matches we want to compete against the very best.

It is sort of boring to play against a team that you know you are going to win. The uncertainty factor is absent and therefore also the real joy in the victory.

I’ve been living in NZ now for 12 years and for only the second time in 12-years there is a real uncertainty in Kiwi land about a test match against South Africa. The last time was in 2010 after the 2009 Springbok victory in Hamilton. The uncertainness in 2010 was not because it was felt that SA played good rugby but because there was uncertainness about the All Black team’s ability to handle the box kick and Matfield in the line-out. Continue reading

Outstanding, bokkies

Willem AlbertsLast week I lamented about the lack of presence, urgency and innovation in the bok team when they played the Pumas in Mendoza. I concluded that on evidence of the lack of presence of the tight five and the slowness of the back row I can’t see them winning in Brisbane. 

The bokke corrected all those shortcomings this weekend in Brisbane. The result; the greatest ever victory in Australia and the first win in Brisbane in 41 years. 

Here is my list of things that really impressed me in this test match followed by a list of things I think they need to work on before they tackle the All Blacks at Edenpark.  Continue reading

1956 Springboks versus New Zealand Maori

25 August 1956 – Eden Park, Auckland

It was the Springboks best performance of the tour. A real confidence booster after the shock defeat against the University side but at the same time a game that had a negative impact in more than one way. It showed New Zealand the danger of allowing the Springboks space to play the Craven-linking pattern. Not that New Zealand was unaware of the Springbok style but it re-affirmed the necessity of keeping the Springboks on the back foot. On the Springbok management side this comprehensive victory left them with the belief that the Craven-linking pattern is the master-pattern; the way to beat the All Blacks. Howe’s sterling performance left the impression that he was the key to unlock the pattern and that earned him a place as flyhalf for the 4th test side.   Continue reading