The Reds have the style, the Tahs have the substance, which is better is a matter of preference. Do you like your team to grind the opposition into submission, or do you like your team to play the style of rugby that makes you want to watch?
The Tahs have ground out results this year based on their low risk, percentage game plan, it may have left some screaming in frustration, but others basking in its brutality. There is nothing subtle about the Tahs, they play to win and are not ashamed of the affect it has on crowds or Rupert’s pay-TV ratings. I like the way they command the game, there is nowhere for the weaker opposition to hide.
The opposite is true of the Reds. I like their game because they don’t seem bound by the normal conventions of what makes a winning rugby side. They are like the Crusaders before they learnt how to defend – the mentality of “sure, you might score 26 points in the game, but we are going to score 36!!”
Where will this leave us come late Friday night well read on…
The Tahs don’t seem to be entirely comfortable when they have the ball, all too often they will give it away and then rely on the conservative nature of the opposing team to make a mistake. The Reds aren’t conservative, and, as Reds’ assistant Damon Emtage, said somewhat prophetically stated after last week’s win against the Cheetahs – “You kick to us at your peril!”
The Reds will challenge the Tahs to tackle and contain them, every game thus far the Reds have displayed a run-it mentality that may have been to their detriment, but has yielded tries. If the Reds can temper this enthusiasm with some well placed kicks from Cooper and Barnes, the Tahs may well struggle to get the field position they need to get the cheap points they specialise in.
The Tahs on the other hand can totally stuff the Reds by making the game a slug-fest, which is what I expect them to do. They may well have the better of the Reds in tight and will use Cliffy as the basis for most of their attacking raids. The Tahs will want this game to be won at the bottom of the rucks and mauls, the dirty stuff that they are so adept at.
Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese military strategist, probably had this game in mind when he said words to the effect of – to win a battle you must draw your opponent from his position of strength, and make him fight on your battle field – this is what both teams will be trying to do.
Which team can impose their style on the other and make the game the one type they are most comfortable playing?
The Reds finally showed last week that they can control possession; they dominated although they didn’t turn this advantage into tries. The Tahs on the other hand don’t seem to be able to create things for themselves; they are like low level predators that prey on the weak and infirm.
The Reds could well match the Tahs in the Piggies and this should allow the rapier-like backline of the Reds to ask questions, which, the unsettled Tahs’ mid-field will struggle to answer. Last week the Reds showed a penchant to off-load the ball the ball rather than go into contact at the breakdown. This worked well and it is not something the Tahs have come up against this year.
The game won’t be pretty, it won’t be expansive but I still expect the Reds to have the scoring power and the defensive prowess to get the better of the Tahs…style over substance?
Cote (who is a Man of style) says – Reds by 9