- Warren Whiteley has highlighted New Zealand's penchant for rugby innovation by pointing out a new trend in Super Rugby Aotearoa.
- The Lions' lineout guru says the Kiwis are using the scrum more actively as an attacking weapon rather than just a tool to create pressure.
- But it doesn't mean that South African rugby should suddenly forgo the way its been using the set-pieces.
Super Rugby Aotearoa hasn't merely provided starved fans worldwide with the sheer thrill of live action again, it's also entrenched New Zealand's reputation of being at the forefront of innovation.
Lions legend Warren Whiteley, nowadays one of the franchise's forwards coaches, has been having some fun analysing trends from the competition and gained one very pertinent insight.
"If you look at New Zealand's competition, there's been a bit of a shift," he told a panel discussion in the latest instalment of the Lions and Wits Sport's coaching webinar series.
"Their emphasis has changed a bit. They're now using the scrum as an active attacking platform. In other words, they use scrums to score tries from."
Even from a more casual perspective, that definitely seems to be the case.
All five Kiwi franchises have been using their eighthman as an impromptu scrumhalf, who passes to a flat-lying actual No 9.
Meanwhile, the flyhalf is standing deeper in a more free-roaming playmaking role.
Jason Holland's Hurricanes have been particularly keen to use that tactic.
Despite South African rugby consistently being hailed as a powerhouse in the scrums, its teams still primarily use the set-piece in a more "traditional" manner.
"We like to use the scrum to put the opposition under pressure. It's a platform to generate penalties, where you either go for poles or kick to touch. It's understandable because lineouts remain one of our key strengths," said Whiteley.
"New Zealand hasn't abandoned it, the scrums have just become more of an attacking weapon."
It doesn't mean that the tried-and-trusted focus on the potency of a strong lineout is suddenly out of fashion.
"Overall, the stats still showed that most of the tries in Super Rugby came from lineouts within the first three phases of that set-piece," said Whiteley, who's main portfolio is coaching the Lions' group of jumpers.
"In fact, we've also seen some new tweaks to it. One very interesting trend is the use of a six-plus-one line-out, with a loose forward at No 9. Theoretically, you're able to maul or play off the top to that flanker who acts as a scrumhalf or set a dummy maul that becomes an attacking platform.
"What that creates is a lot of doubt among the opposition's defenders. It's an extremely difficult set-piece to defend in most cases because of its fluidity and now the six-plus-one dynamic is adding more value."
- Compiled by Heinz Schenk