Well, what can we say, after a horror round this week’s Tuesday Top 5 does a little CSI on what happened, revisits the weekly questions about contact while players are in the air, and what’s on the menu for the last round of Super Rugby 2016.
What the hell was that?
It’s a bit like that well known “morning after“ talk. It seemed like a good thing beforehand. You brought your “A” game, you were excitedly looking forward to it but it started badly and just kept going downhill from there and ended badly. Well, as awkward as it is we have to talk about it, so here is the ugly and awkward breakdown of the… ahem … “performance”.
So let’s be honest and straight up about our game. Is it really what we think it is?
We talk up a good running game, and even say were committed to it, but are we really running the talk?
It’s a tough read, and hard to face up to the fact that we can’t walk, let alone run the talk. The stats above are damning and show our backlines are just not able to fire a shot in anger.
We all need to take a moment to give a bit of kudo’s to the Rebels Sefanaia Naivalu who single handedly tried to keep it respectable. He stood up and ran for 173 metres; putting some respectability into the above numbers and making it look like we at least run half as far as the Kiwis.
But it’s how you use it, right?
The running stats were tough, and it’s OK to feel a little embarrassed and defensive. The truth hurts. Running’s not the be all and end all right? So let’s look at how we used it then.
So first up how much opportunity did we have?:
The Blues helped us out with this number as their attack (ranked 13th for total tries) is not as potent as the other Kiwi teams and needed time to work harder to get the results. Still, it’s undeniable that we had plenty of opportunity.
Did we kick away our opportunities?
No, again the numbers are telling us that even though the Kiwis almost doubled our meters running they also kicked more than us.
So what do we do when we have the ball?
The evidence is mounting; we play Loig! One up hit-ups to the line and take the tackle the majority of the time.
The above stats are revealing, and certainly support the argument that Aussie rugby is of a lower skill set than the Kiwi’s.
Union can be a complex game, but at the same time can be very simplistic. In looking for answers we sometimes overlook the obvious.
“Use it or lose it!”; the stats above show that we really don’t use it much at all!
So where do you point the finger?
That’s the million dollar question. What is going on?
One thing the stats above do tell us is that although it doesn’t happen enough, we are doing the same things as the Kiwis, so the ability is there. The lower skill set could simply be attributed to the fact that our players aren’t asked to use the skills that often, so they are less practised, developed and not second nature. Generationally skills usually improve, but it hard to have an improvement in skills when our default option is to either retain the same players or bring back the old.
Is the philosophy of the game here in Australia wrong? It is a valid question and could be closer to the truth than we like.
We tend to be Wallaby centric, but the reality is that the Wallabies should be nothing more than the cream; scraped off the top layer for limited special occasions. The cream when collected should be the best of the best; in form and just needing to be gelled together into a game plan.
The coaching should be done at the Super Rugby level and below. A stark difference between the NZRU and the ARU is how they manage the game at the Super Rugby and provincial levels.
It is clear we are seeing some significant coaching issues. Over the weekend we saw four teams suffer under what I term “plug and play” game plans. The Brumbies flawed game plan that got exposed in round 6 is still being used. The Reds backline; it doesn’t matter who lines up it yields the same outcomes, and the Rebels, well they still haven’t got a plan to beat a team above them. The Tahs; they are still struggling to get the old blue prints to fit a new and different team.
Most sports are confident in evolution through generational change; improving skills, players having a better understanding of the game etc. But a quick read through forums, and media reports shows talent departing our shores through lack of opportunity, and our team rosters reflect this with the old generation being brought back in or preferred over the next generation.
There are a lot of aspects to consider, but maybe its time we stopped looking at what is happening on the field, and look off field at what is producing the outcomes on the field.
One of the biggest drivers at the moment is of the fear of losing, which is driving decisions for short term gains that are already coming back to bite us.
Every part of Australian rugby need to be brave enough to take a “selfie” right now as a reminder of what wrong with the game so we don’t repeat the past mistakes.
We also need to remove the emotional attachments and start running the game like a business; the business of winning!
I know I would happily pay to watch any Australian team beat the Kiwi’s, South African’s or English! I don’t care how, as long as we are winning.
Up in the air …
Another round of Super Rugby, another handful of yellow cards for tackling players in the air. This week there were 3 incidents where players were yellow carded for this offence. Jack Tuttle, Reds v Chiefs, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Waratahs v Hurricanes and Daniel du Plessis, Stormers v Force.
I know, we have covered this before but after this weekend I have seen many questions asked about World Rugby’s sanctions in regard to tackling players in the air.
Video of the three incidents shows that they were all quite different, yet all received the same sanction, a yellow card. This is because:
“At a meeting in April 2015, the Laws Representation Group (LRG) considered the areas of the Game where, it had been agreed that Law amendments were not required but that current Law was to be enforced by match officials including:
Challenging players in the air – Law 10.4(i)
Play on – Fair challenge with both players in a realistic position to catch the ball. Even if the player(s) land(s) dangerously, play on
Penalty only – Fair challenge with wrong timing – No pulling down
Yellow card – Not a fair challenge, there is no contest and the player is pulled down landing on his back or side
Red card – Not a fair challenge, there is no contest and the player lands on his head, neck or shoulder”
Dangerous is dangerous, there is no doubt about this. When you compare Tuttle and Du Plessis’ cards with that of Naiyaravoro none of them were a fair challenge, none of them were actually a contest and in all of them the player landed on their back. However it appears that there is a fairly obvious difference.
Tuttle was running in at a fast pace with his eyes on the ball until the last second and was unable to pull out in time to avoid the player is the air. It was definitely careless and deserved a yellow card.
Du Plessis was again running at pace with eyes only on the ball. It might be fair to say he wasn’t expecting Brache to be in the air, as Brache jumped from a distance towards the ball, but again it was a collision with the player in the air, yes careless and yes yellow card.
Naiyaravoro on the other hand did not have his eyes on the ball, for the last 10-15 metres of the chase he was watching Barrett, who was in the air. He still made the decision to tackle the player, clearly taking out his legs, there appeared to be an element of intent, or at least knowledge that Barret was in the air and yet a choice was still made to follow through with a dangerous tackle. The only thing that saved it from being a red card was the fact that Barrett landed on his back, and common opinion seems to be that he was lucky it was only a yellow card.
SANZAR has since suspended Naiyaravoro for one week after the incident, stating that it met the threshold for a red card. Which when you look at the letter of the law as written, it didn’t. Barret landed on his back, not his neck or shoulder.
Clear as mud, right?
Who goes where, who plays who?
Here we are at the final round of Super Rugby for 2016 and the final positions are still to be decided.
So what do we know so far?
Well we know that the Lions have claimed top of their conference, therefore will be in the finals, as have the Stormers. The South African Wildcard spot looks likely to go to the Sharks, provided they beat the Sunwolves this weekend. If they lose and the Bulls beat the Cheetahs then the spot could fall to the boys from Pretoria.
We know that either the Brumbies or the Waratahs will finish top of the Aussie conference and it all depends on their results this week. If the Waratahs lose to the Blues by more than seven points the Brumbies will advance to the play-offs regardless of their result against the Force. If the Waratahs lose to the Blues by fewer than seven points the Brumbies will need to either beat the Force or lose by fewer than seven points as well. If the Waratahs beat the Blues the Brumbies need to beat the Force. If the Waratahs secure a bonus-point triumph the Brumbies need to do the same against the Force. Whoever finished top of the Australian conference will be fourth seed in the finals.
We also know that the New Zealand conference is an all-out battle for top spot. They have four teams who will definitely be in the finals, the Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders and Hurricanes, with all still in contention to finish top of the conference. The final round is made all the more interesting with the Crusaders and Hurricanes playing each other, while the Highlanders will face the Chiefs.
So to sum up, the Lions, Stormers, Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders and Hurricanes are all in the finals. Positions on the ladder and who will host home finals is still unknown. Either the Brumbies or Waratahs will miss out, as will either the Sharks or the Bulls. Odds are in favour of the Sharks and Brumbies, as both are playing the bottom placed team in their respective conferences. But then we all know what a crazy game this is, and anything can happen, so stay tuned for an exciting weekend of rugby!