All Blacks

Getting a kick out of this year’s Tri-nations?

Getting a kick out of this year’s Tri-nations?


It has become clear from watching this year’s Tri-nations, the key to success is to kick more than your opposition. In every game thus far the team that has won is the team who has kicked the ball most often. As part of some downward spiral, in every game the amount of kicks per game has increased as teams search for an advantage and have effectively turned rugby into some sort of rough and tumble kicking duel.

This increase in kicking reached its high point (low point maybe?) with the Bokke vs Wallaby game at Newlands where there was a total of 73 kicks for game, with the Boks kicking 40 times in general play, while the Wallabies booted it 33 times. Neither side showed any intention to play rugby and seemed more comfortable giving away possession rather than trying to retain it.

The first game of the Tri-nations yielded 47 kicks in general play. On a wet and windy night in Auckland, this figure probably wasn’t unexpected. It was somewhat surprising that at a bone dry Bloem a week later, the total kicks in general play increased to 51. For the third game of the Tri-Nations, albeit in wet conditions at Durbs, there were 54 kicks in general play with the Boks kicking twice as often than the All Blacks.

The story gets worse when you take into account how little time the ball is actually in play. After taking out the time spent setting up for line-outs, scrums and 22 re-starts, as well as the time spent by kickers pondering over conversions or penalty goal attempts, these kicking stats are damming.

Although I didn’t sit watching the last Tri-nations game with a stop-watch beside me, a reasonable estimate suggests that the ball was only ‘in play’ for about 35 minutes. That’s right, more than half the game was spent with the ball not actually in-play and when you factor in the 70-odd kicks for that game, it means there was a kick roughly every 30 seconds the ball was in-play.

I wonder if the ELV haters such as the Jones boys, Stephen and Eddie as well as Northern Hemisphere propagandist,, have been enthralled with the way the teams have adapted to the uniform laws introduced by the IRB after the demise of the ELV’s. One of the main aims of the ELV’s was to increase the amount of time the ball was ‘in-play’ and it is clear that with the abolition of these laws, this year’s Tri-nations is descending into farce.

While you have to have a begrudging admiration for the brutal simplicity of the Boks game plan you also have to admit that it is pretty fucking hard to watch. What a sad indictment on the current state of rugby it is when the World Champions, with the embarrassment of riches they have in their backline, choose to do nothing more than kick the ball at every opportunity.

How has rugby become a game that is so conservative you actually win the game by giving the other team the ball?

The Boks have become masters at this neo-conservative style of play and are winning games comfortably, which suggests they won’t be changing their approach any time soon. Maybe as a precursor for what is to come for the rest of the Tri-nations, the Wallabies have already shown their willingness to kick the ball rather than attack.

More ominously the All Blacks, if their last performance is any indication, will no doubt re-think their tactics after the folly of trying to run the ball was exposed and employ a more territory focused, kicking style of game also.

Ticket sales for the Bledisloe game in Sydney are struggling and unlikely to improve with the brand of rugby that has been on offer so far this year. In fact, sales are so bad the ARU is trying to boost volumes by offering what is effectively a 50% discount on adult tickets when they are purchased with children’s tickets.

As the ball is only in play for about 50% of the 80 minutes of play you are paying for, you shouldn’t be expected to pay full price anyway I suppose.

All Blacks

Mr Consistently Average

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