Front Row Grunt

Rugby … with cauliflower ears

Breakdown … What breakdown?

So the IRB suggested that the referees get stricter at the breakdown … And my oath did they listen! Especially in Cape Town and Joburg where Marius Jonker and Mark Lawrence blew their respective games to pieces … Not holding up your own body weight, sealing off and the assistant tackler not rolling away were blown relentlessly …

As with every new law interpretation, it will take the players a while to get used to this new edict … the sooner the better, though, because the incessant penalties ruined the game as a spectacle for me in week 1 …

It has definitely already had an impact on how teams are approaching the game, though …

The Kiwi sides (barring the mostly inept Hurricanes), already fairly adept at a fast paced game with good continuity, have clearly seen the value in the pick and go, and this, combined with their ability to off-load in the tackle, makes them even more dangerous.

This because defensive teams are just not committing  players to the breakdown – seemingly deeming it not worth risking the penalty. It was apparent in every game, but none more so than in the Cheetahs vs the Lions game, where one would quite literally see 14 men in orange jerseys lined up across the field, with only the fullback hanging back for the kick.

This while the Lions often had three players setting up the ruck, two “Pillar” protectors on either side, and then sometimes as many as three or four players used in setting up a worm to give the scrumhalf more space in which to play or kick …

Simple maths, with the result being 7 or 8 attackers taking on 14 defenders, suggests that the attacking team in that scenario are always going to be up against it …

Hence the Kiwis employing the pick and go, which would not only make them yards, but also draw defenders into the breakdown, giving the backline a little more space in which to work. The Lions eventually did enough to sneak a win against the Cheetahs, but I thought the game was crying out for a few pick and go’s through the middle of the breakdown …

The resultant scenario, with the lack of space and line of defenders, then also demands either individual brute force or spectacular feet to break the defence. Hence the value of power game breakers like centres Nonu, SBW, Sadie, Smith, and Fruean. But hard running loosies and locks like Vermeulen, Smith and Alberts, if able to get the pass away after getting through the half back, could play a similar role.

Down in the Cape, with De Villiers and Habana not able to play the game breaker role, it looked like the Stormers had been focusing exclusively on the rolling maul at training. And while that legalized obstruction has been a magnificent tool for the blue and white, and it did the business again against the Canes, I have a feeling that against better opponents, they are going to need to bring a little more to their attack. In fact, they looked positively idea free when the ball did go past the flyhalf …

It’s a very different game these days, and to be brutally honest, I am not convinced I like it as much as I used to … Seven of those every weekend!

Legalised obstruction ...

That said, it was pretty exciting to see how close the games were … Just 31 points separated all 14 teams and 13 of those came in the Stormers “hammering” of the Canes … Not great for me SuperBru predictions though … A magnificent 2 correct predictions from 7 games for me … Which sees me floundering in every Superbru pool I am playing in … Pierre Meyer got all 7 games correct and tops the Front Row Grunt Pool on a magnificent 12.5 points … Exceptional skills …

Winging it ...

And in exciting Front Row Grunt SuperBru news …. We have a prize – courtesy of the drink that gives you wings!! The overall winner will receive 5 cases of Red Bull – Delivered by 2 beautiful sampling girls nogal. Get in there my friends

Next weekend’s fixtures:

Friday, March 2
08:35: Chiefs v Blues, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
10:40: Rebels v Waratahs, AAMI Park, Melbourne
19:10: Lions v Hurricanes, Coca-Cola Park, Johannesburg

Saturday, March 3
08:35: Highlanders v Crusaders, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
10:40: Reds v Force, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
17:05: Cheetahs v Bulls, Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
19:10: Stormers v Sharks, Newlands, Cape Town

No simple predictions there either …

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Author: Tank

Ex WP prop with a fair amount of experience in all things media ...

2 Comments

  1. Hi Tank, your comments re: ” with De Villiers and Habana not able to play the game breaker role” are spot on. I know it’s early season but De Villiers will need to up his game ! His performance was fairly below par ! Glad to see Etsebeth and Kitshoff doing their best to get a permanent place in the starting line-up. I was particularly happy that Malherbe replaced Harris and not Kitshoff. The experiment with Harris at 1 later during a match needs to stop: he is not able to hold his own at loosehead (that’s my view) !

    • Etzebeth will be a Bok this year. He is a proper “yster” as they say in the hinterland :) Also impressed with Kitshoff and 100% agree re Malherbe coming on for Brok. He will start ahead of him before the half way mark of the tournament …