After a brief foray into “Heads up, ball in hand” rugby that worked in the les structured Currie Cup, defence first rugby is back, to a little too much fanfare says Tank Lanning in his Sport24 column.
So it took a while for the renowned “Wall of Cape Town” to join the Stormers party this year, but with 126 tackles made against the Waratahs last Saturday, and only 20 missed, it seems to be well and truly back.
And what it did, was take the former Super Rugby champs, renowned for an all-round attacking game that includes some fabulous plays via the likes of Foley, Folau, Naiyaravoro and Beale, and slowly smother them like a wet blanket thrown over a fire.
It’s bloody difficult to water the lawn with Kobus Wiese and Toks van der Linde sitting on the hose. And by getting their defensive structure back on track, which sometimes included having the 4th man down the line actually getting 3 or 4 metres ahead of the Stormers defensive line, the Stormers achieved exactly that. They cut the supply chain to the pace and power out wide.
And in getting that right, not only did they stop their little guys out wide like Kolbe and Leyds from having to make one on one tackles in space on monsters like Naiyaravoro, but they also frustrated the Tahs into making errors. Wave after wave of attack (the Tahs made 149 carries to the Stormers 69, 179 passes to the Stormers 86, and 19 offloads compared to 6 from the visitors) was met with this resolute wall of defence. And eventually the home side cracked, giving up golden turnover ball in the process, and boy did the men from Cape Town pounce!
After a brief foray into this “Heads up, ball in hand” attacking game that seemed to work in the less structured Currie Cup, it would seem that defence first rugby is back. The Cheetahs made 173 tackles compared to 62 from the Force, and won. The Bulls made 156 tackles compared to 83 from the Reds, and won. Hell even the Sharks almost pulled off a win against the Lions by making more tackles than they did. What they did differently to the other 4 SA sides, though, was miss 35 tackles compared to the meagre 13 from the Lions, and two of those lead to tries.
The “D” is back!
To a smidgen too much fanfare for my liking it has to be said. But when it takes a country from a four loss weekend to a four win weekend, one can understand. Who gives a toss how it was achieved, as long as we are winning again. Me, I am one of those freaks who would like to see our rugby evolve a little from massive defence, a brilliant kick-chase, and one off runners.
Where we did see more than a hint of that being possible was in Monday night’s Varsity Cup final, in which Shimlas beat Pukke 66-33. Ninety nine points in a final! Sure, it was virtually defence free, but wow it was fun to watch.
Stormers fans are no doubt happy with Saturday’s win built on defence, but how long will it be before they return to bemoaning the lack of an attacking game? Tough old balancing act for the coaches!
Speaking of the Varsity Cup, how does Jason Klaasen, voted forward of the tournament, not make the so called AllStar XV? UJ loosehead Gareth Milasinovich ate every tighthead for breakfast this year, yet is not in the side. And to see Pukke tighthead Dayan van der Westhuizen is a bit of a joke. He saw more of the fans in the front row after being popped than he did of the opposition front row.
Varsity Cup should be the net that catches the players that are not in the so called “System”, yet instead it seems, they are bowing to said system. A bit sad if that is the case.