Rugby

Analysis: Perthfontein, a blueprint for success?

Analysis: Perthfontein, a blueprint for success?

It’s taken me all week to summon the strength to re-watch The Clusterfµck of Perthfontein, and you know what, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d remembered. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that within it are hints that this Wallaby side could become as good as we hoped, and maybe in not as long away as we’d feared. I believe what’s in the video below, together with a few stats I’ve pulled out, back my reasoning.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHc2bNkb8-4[/youtube]

I’ll readily admit that there was a lot of ugly in last Saturday. Australia lost because of:

  • The error rate. The Wallabies conceded 24 turnovers to the Boks 15
  • Defensive lapses. Three clangers from first phase, two letting in tries
  • Poor decision making. From George’s opening grubber, to the way the scrum was taken from the penalty in the 60th, Australia gave away pressure and points (more on this in another post)

While none of these are to be ignored, and in combination lost the game, they are all facets that can relatively easily be put right (or indeed have been right already this season). Worst about these stuff-ups is that they spoil so much good work that comes before them, thereby burning themselves on your mind.

Less visible perhaps were some fundamental positives and glimmers that started to appear. Just as the Boks did, AntipoDeans’ Wallabies unleashed a different attacking plan in this game. They only kicked 19 times vs South Africa’s 27. In the previous games vs New Zealand and South Africa, Australia had kicked 31 and 41 times respectively.

Last Saturday there was a much stronger emphasis on ball in hand. They ran in total 117 times for 743 metres. That’s close to double what all teams have been doing in the Tri-Nations so far. While you can argue that so many metres are wasted without points (largely due to mistakes), the Wallabies ran in 3 tries, all of them from hard earned field position through ball in hand. Imagine the same runs and metres with half the number of mistakes. In any other match that would be devastating.

A key to this strategy, and well demonstrated in the video, is the Wallabies’ counter-attacking off Springbok kick clearances. By putting an extra man or two back, they made more kick return metres than any other game so far and established both territory and possession time and again in the South African half. Looks like Dingo was watching Kafe’s chalkboard.

Another valuable step forward for the Wallabies was in the penalty count. They smashed it to less than a third of what it had been running (from 13 to 4). Through their scrum dominance (see video) and territory, Australia pressurized the Boks into conceding 16. Poor goal kicking and decision making kept this from having the impact on the game it should.

Finally, there were also some strong performances that have either gone unnoticed, or even wrongly labelled. Again Rocky had a heroic game, making more runs than any other player from both sides for the most metres (13 for 101m). He also hit the most rucks of any other forward on the field, as well as being Australia’s go to jumper.

Also solid, but less conspicuous (which is very welcome!) was Mark Chisholm’s effort. He made more tackles than any other Aussie, many of them dominant, and got stuck into the dirt. Ben Alexander had a similar game.

In the backs Gits rekindled some form, and showed an interesting dynamic with Quade at 1o late in the game. What’s puzzled me though is the bad press that Lakky Turner has had. Sure, there was the Habana try (unfortunate / unlucky) but I thought he repaid that not only with a try from pure explosive pace (something few others of the Wallaby backs show) but had a number of good touches and kicks around the park.

The Wallabies have been criticized from all and sundry for their reliance on poor kicking so far in the Tri-Nations. In Perthfontein, they showed a game plan that built pressure on the World Champions. With a little more composure – one of those things that comes with experience – this would have been a match winner against anyone.

Stick with it Robbie, you’re onto something.

stats-perthfontein


Rugby
@MattRowley

Matt started G&GR just before the 2007 Rugby World Cup and has been enslaved ever since. Follow him on twitter: @MattRowley

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