Johannesburg – I’m all for being strong defensively… it generally makes up 50 percent of any team’s game because under normal circumstances you only have the ball for half the time during a rugby match. But I can’t help feel coaches are neglecting the attacking aspects of the game.
Sure, an equal effort is put in during training sessions to hone attacking and defensive skills and, yes, the defensive systems of teams nowadays are brilliant. It has become a huge part of the game and when it comes to tournament rugby, such as the World Cup, invariably the team that’s strongest defensively comes out on top.
The Boks won their titles in 1995 and 2007 because they didn’t give away tries. Their defence was top-notch, but when it comes to competitions such as Super Rugby surely teams should try a few more attacking plays… after all, you get rewarded for scoring tries, unlike tournament rugby.
While it is disappointing the Sharks and Stormers have stumbled in Super Rugby this year and now seem unlikely to make the play-offs, I’m not all that surprised they find themselves down in 11th and 10th place on the log respectively. Their de-fensive records are fairly good – 23 tries conceded by the Sharks and a stunning 13 by the Stormers – but their own ability to score tries has let them down badly. After 10 games the Stormers have scored just 17 tries; that’s less than two per match, while the Sharks are slightly better at 22 from 11 games. Hell, even the Kings have outscored the Stormers, with 21, but they have let in 46.
In total so far, New Zealand lead the way in try-scoring with 143, second are Australia with 136 and third South Africa with a paltry 111.
What is it about South Afri-can rugby that teams battle so hard to score tries? It’s not as if we don’t have great backline players, men with skill and pace. Think of Gio Aplon, Jean de Villiers, Juan de Jongh and Bryan Habana at the Stormers. These guys are classy players, potential game-breakers, yet they rarely dominate opponents with their skills and pace.
For so long now Springbok rugby, and for that matter SA rugby in general, has been viewed as having the best, biggest and strongest forwards on the planet. When SA teams get it right up front they can dominate anyone ... now just imagine if we could add the backline play to the forwards play. The Boks would be phenomenal.
The thing is it’s not as if SA doesn’t have the destructive runners, the game-breakers, like New Zealand do. We’ve got them, but it seems coaches are more interested in ensuring the backs can defend, rather than attack.
There is no doubt it’s been the lack of tries scored by the Sharks and Stormers that has scuppered their competition up to now. I hope the Boks don’t follow the same route. – The Star