Rugby is a beautiful game. But it’s also an uncomplicated game. Or it should be.
If you design a reward system, say an incentive for staff you will always reward the behaviour that you want, the highest. Does that make sense? Say you’re in an administrative environment where you need to process requests from clients. You reward system will in all likelihood be designed in such a way that those who do the most and do it most accurately, will benefit the most.
Rugby is no different. Scoring a try is worth 5 points. It was not always the case. It only increased to 5 points in 1992. In other words, those who regulate the game (IRB) would like to encourage the game to be about scoring tries. A conversion is just the cherry on the cake, an extra 2 points. Penalties and drop goals only 3 points. In simple terms then, what you would like to see is a manipulation of the defence of the other team, creating a mismatch or overlap to score the 5 points.
As you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking: ‘He’s mos a c-word; I wonder if he also supports the All Blacks.’ I could have if I wanted to. My first recollection of international rugby is way back in 1981 when the Boks visited NZ. Wayne Smith the current assistant coach of the Chiefs, was the fly half in those days. Playing next to him was Warwick Taylor, one of the first players arguably in world rugby to offload the ball in the tackle. I mention him specifically as I see Tom, his son, playing for the Crusaders franchise will be making his debut this weekend for the All Blacks. Warwick must be so proud of him! But no friend, I support South African sport and therefore the Springboks. But sometimes I wonder if we really believe we can be No 1. I have lived in various parts of South Africa and try and travel the country where possible, and let me tell you we have tremendous talent. Whether you’re watching schools rugby or Varsity Cup, you are bound to spot immense talent. But it’s how we nurture and develop this talent that ultimately will determine whether they will become world beaters!
Now unlike cricket and soccer, rugby will always favour bigger players. That is not to say that smaller players cannot do well in the game. The current scrumhalf of the All Blacks, Aaron Smith I think proves my point. In SA we have players like Naas Botha and Divan Serfontein, Breyton Paulse and of course many others. It has to do with the collisions. It is not pleasant to tackle someone who is 2m tall and 120kg or more. In fact, it is life-threatening if you’re not properly conditioned.
In cricket players like Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting and many others have shown that shorter players can reach the highest levels in the sport. Lionel Messi is also a good example in soccer. That said, I was surprised to see how big Manchester City players are when they toured SA recently. But I digress. I really want to talk about my concerns with SA Rugby. There is not enough transformation! (I see someone saying there: I knew it! – but wait) Springbok teams do resemble a white bird with brown wings, but that’s not what I want to address here.
We have failed to transform our game into a game of skills. We play predictable rugby. We score our tries primarily through the maul, how boring! We are unable to deceive defenders in midfield. Our fly halves have not been groomed as pivots, their decision making or feel for the game is not always there. Is it not incredible to see how a relatively inexperienced Aaron Cruden makes decisions? We transfer the ball from fly half to flank (forward) which only slows the game down and give the opponents time to reset their defence. Sure we can scrum, we can take line-out ball but beyond that it is often too predictable, too one-dimensional.
At times if feels that we should issue each of these highly paid athletes with a tube of super glue as we seem to lose the ball so easily in contact. And we seem to doubt ourselves so easily! The All Blacks will always play all out to win even if it means taking it in the 82nd minute. If we lead by 9 points with 7 minutes to go, we deliberately play negative rugby, setting up one ruck after the other, to supposedly close the game out. Look, if you’re on the verge of winning the World Cup I will understand.
But I’d like to see that we play with more freedom. In short, and it hurts to say this: we need to play more like the All Blacks!
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