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.
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:
- Force the defence coming forward to tackle him;
- Get at least one more team mate (No 14) also at full tilt next to him before he launces the ball into air and;
- 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.
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.
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.