Monday, 21 March 2011

Back to Basics for Australian Rugby

Complacency and a string of key injuries conspired to send the Waratahs packing on Saturday night. Like most of the pundits, the Tahs thought they only had to turn up to ensure victory against the lowly Cheetahs.

But they were missing their two inspirational forwards, Waugh and Polota-Nau, and in a short space of time Palu and Robinson were also sitting on the sideline.

The failure of the line-out placed self-doubt in inexperienced minds, and as the game progressed the forwards lost structure and increasingly were strung out across the park, enabling the Cheetahs to set a nonporous, flat defensive line.

This type of defense is seen in the NRL every weekend and is what contributes to the often mundane, humdrum complexion of that code.

But when applied to rugby it is even more stultifying because there are 4 extra players and no equivalent of league’s 10 metre rule. 

All the Cheetahs had to do was make their tackles.

To counter this, forwards need to hunt as a pack, stay tight, pick and drive, off-load in the tackle, and use rolling mauls to suck in the opposition and create space for the backs to run into.

These are all things that the Tahs, up until 2 games ago, were good at.

Well-directed tactical kicking can turn defenses around, but most Australian teams usually end up compounding their problems by relinquishing possession to the opposition with misdirected punts. Gerrard and Cipriani are exceptions to this.

Another sad indictment of the basic skill level in Australian rugby was  the amount of ball that was dropped in the two local SuperRugby games on the weekend.

Despite this, at Suncorp the Reds still managed to look good because only one team turned up.

In reality the main shining light was the introduction of Mike Harris, who although 99% Kiwi, was immediately touted as a future Wallaby.

Why not? Half of the Wallaby team is of Kiwi origin, such is the dubious quality of the locally-grown product.

Inconsistency has plagued the Wallabies in recent years, and this season the Force, Reds, Rebels, and Tahs have all been afflicted with the same malady. 

The Brumbies buck the trend, managing to be consistently disappointing.

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