Bok tanks rumble in close combat

Oom Rugby

Hi guys. The Rugby Championship is almost on us and soon we will see the further evolution of Rassie’s Springboks after their debut series victory against England in June.

Something I am looking forward to see is how our attack will develop. When I looked back at the England Tests I saw something interesting about how the Boks sometimes set up on attack, and I think it give us some strong clues about what the DNA of this Bok team will be going forward…

The Boks has a scrum on the England 22 so now they will introduce specific patterns and structures in a effort to get to the tryline.

First, Faf play the blindside wing Nkosi flat, and he make a deep excursion into England’s shaky 10 channel. This strike at the 10 is a very standard type play that all teams uses. We want to set up a nice clean ruck, and get our forwards out of the set piece so that we can start to lay down the structure of our attack.

Damian de Allende was running a passing line off Sibusiso. When contact happen he come in and bind and help secure the possession. We also see Duane as well as Siya arriving to clean. The three of them will pile in and make sure that Faf get quick ball.

In a way, this is a first glimpse into the philosophy of the 2018 Boks. Attending rucks, and getting quick, clean ball from the rucks, is a number one priority.

From that ruck, Faf have a 3-pod set up to his left, and he hit Franco with a nice crispy pass. Franco will carry strongly and Jean-Luc and R.G. will clean.

We can see the England openside jackle Curry finally arriving in cover from the scrum, but he will be forced to make the tackle. Again, the Boks commit properly to this breakdown, even though England isn’t necessarily interested in trying to slow or steal.

After another carry to the left where Bongi and Beast clean, the Boks then play back to the right again. Now what we must look at here is the number of Springbok forwards in the picture.

Remember, Beast and Bongi is lying at the bottom of that ruck, and we can see five other forwards all in a close vicinity, so in other words seven of the eight Bok forwards is all relatively close together. The eighth Bok forward is Duane and he is just out of picture to the left.

In this situation, the Boks is not following the modern fashion of spreading forwards out across the park. Our heavy artillery is being used in a more focus and devastating way.

Needless to say, with all that meat in the picture the Boks can send up some big runners. The England defence is maybe not as organised as they want to be anymore. First they had to chase the ball to one touchline, and now they must fight some big carries on the way back.

There is a total of twelve England players in this picture above (the eighth man Vunipola is out of picture at the touchline) so they have become much more bunched and narrow than they want to be.

Plus, if you look at the picture you will see they not exactly connected and on the front foot. The Boks has managed to create the conditions for running rugby.

After some interplay, Siya make a strong carry and the breakdown is cleaned by Franco, Wilco and Jean-Luc. It is such a positive clean that it is very clear when the ruck is formed and where the offside lines is, and so it is easy for the ref to see any transgressions by England.

On their own tryline teams will always try clever tricks to slow you, but when the breakdown is as quick, clean and sharp like this then they can get exposed in the spotlight.

England concede a penalty for not rolling away. Again, the Boks has some big tanks ready to rumble, but they have caused enough damage so it is time to take the ball wide.

Handre is at first receiver in a more traditional position, but the actual first receiver here is Willie. Faf throw a long ball to him that bypass the England ruck defence and which allow the Boks to take on the scrambling England backs.

We can see the close defenders panicking to try get across. Willie will play the ball wide to Sibusiso and Brown will manage to get some fingers on his jersey to stop the try. The interesting thing here is that it will be Willie and Damian who clean that ruck. There is no wide Bok forward in the tramlines.

So why did I show you this? The fashion in rugby today is to play with forwards spread out across the field (we have all heard of the 1-3-3-1 system etc.) The Boks did sometimes go into that shape, but usually what we saw from them was to keep their forwards closer together on attack. This mean they can set up more big carries, they can clean the ball more securely, and they force the opposition defence more narrow.

It is perhaps a return to the strengths of Bok rugby, but then as we see above there is then the ability to strike very wide, very fast.

Another interesting thing is that the ball is then going through the hands of backline players – we not seeing all these “screen plays” behind groups of forwards. No doubt the Boks will do that when it is required, but that kind of rugby is slow to get the ball wide, and the Boks is showing a appetite to hit that width fast.

This combination of power rucking by the forwards and quick hands by the backs gives the Boks good tempo. The total elapse time from when the ball came out of the scrum, through all the rucks to the other touchline, and all the way back into Nkosi’s hands was 28 seconds.

We also saw the Boks sometimes using two wings on one side of the field, another sign that after the Boks soften you inside, they want to get that ball outside and capitalise with their backs

Ok guys, there it is. A sign of things to come maybe. A slightly more traditional approach, but with a lightning ability to strike when the time comes.

It will be interesting to see how this philosophy develop, and if it can successfully break down the defences of the Rugby Championship.

DISCLAIMER: English is Oom’s third language, after Rugby and Afrikaans.

- Oom Rugby

Let's chat

  • Ulrich

    Good simple rugby really.

    The defense will have to adapt in the event of a turnover or in case a carrier gets isolated.

  • John Comyn

    Possible team for Saturday: Le Roux, Dyati, AM, Esterhuizen, Mvovo, Pollard, Faf, Whiteley, Kolisi, Flo, PSDT, Etzebeth, Beast, Marx, Malherbe.

    Bench: Thomas, Louw, Bongi, Mostert, Willemse, Mapimpi, van Zyl

    • Herman Schroder?

      Three Sharks backline players and from the team that scored the least tries in SR ? Test rugby is instinctive so unless you played expansively ( as Oom intimated the Boks will do ) as a natural part of your game you will find it difficult to cope. All season the Sharks distribution on attack was poor. The slick Argies will soon pick on it imo. Cheers.

      • Look Deeper

        The Sharks were also the only South African team to kick for poles instead of going for the maul this season. There was no way they were ever going to score as many tries.

        • Herman Schroder?

          And look what good it did them. lol. Exactly my point. Cheers.

    • Vossie

      Spot on! what about Kitshoff on the bench?

      • John Comyn

        Sorry duplicated Louw should have been Kitschoff on the bench. PSDT covers as a loose forward if needed.

  • Christo Fourie

    Interesting analysis but it would be good to hear directly from Rassie as to his planned strategy going forward… Pity the English grammar
    in this article is so poor, surely someone could proofread it before publishing??? Its rather embarrassing to be honest…

    • Dean

      Yes, Rassie is going to go and publicly announce his strategy for the other teams to work out how to counter him. Lol

    • SweetAz

      Yeah about as embarrassing as your surfeit of punctuation, seriously mate, next time try reading right to the end. Right up to the disclaimer.

    • Sean Spencer

      Christo please note the disclaimer.
      DISCLAIMER: English is Oom’s third language, after Rugby and Afrikaans.

    • boemelaar

      Honestly, the grammar is half the fun… Read some of his previous articles. There’s some gold in there : ) The analysis is fascinating too!

  • Chris

    From the wiki page on John Boyd’s OODA Loop theory.
    John Boyd literally wrote the book on modern air combat and his ideas are used throughout the business and sports world.

    “In order to win, we should operate at a faster tempo or rhythm than our adversaries—or, better yet, get inside [the] adversary’s Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action time cycle or loop … Such activity will make us appear ambiguous (unpredictable) thereby generate confusion and disorder among our adversaries—since our adversaries will be unable to generate mental images or pictures that agree with the menacing, as well as faster transient rhythm or patterns, they are competing against.

    The OODA loop, which focuses on strategic military requirements, was adapted for business and public sector operational continuity planning. Compare it to the Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) cycle or Shewhart cycle.

    As one of Boyd’s colleagues, Harry Hillaker, put it in “John Boyd, USAF Retired, Father of the F16″:

    The key is to obscure your intentions and make them unpredictable to your opponent while you simultaneously clarify his intentions. That is, operate at a faster tempo to generate rapidly changing conditions that inhibit your opponent from adapting or reacting to those changes and that suppress or destroy his awareness. Thus, a hodgepodge of confusion and disorder occur to cause him to over- or under-react to conditions or activities that appear to be uncertain, ambiguous, or incomprehensible.”

    … the proper mindset is to let go a little, to allow some of the chaos to become part of his mental system, and to use it to his advantage by simply creating more chaos and confusion for the opponent. He funnels the inevitable chaos of the battlefield in the direction of the enemy.”

    Last paragraph sounds a lot like what teams like the Lions/Hurricanes employ when they do things like quick tap penalties from with in their own half or try to run the ball from receiving a kick-off.

    • William Botha

      I have used the OODA loop in business to create more agile teams and faster processes, especially in biopharma, where the raw material can be … different! – but never seen it applied so well to the rugby field! Awesome.

    • Herman Schroder?

      Good read old chap. The very opposite of ‘dom krag’ rugby so deeply entrenched in the psyche of most of our failed Franchise teams. Tries scored in SR an indicator of which team is closest to embracing the ‘all out attack’ philosophy. Cheers.

    • SweetAz

      Well spotted, its not expansive rugby at all like some people here think, its an intelligent philosophy and attitude developed to WIN. Some people should also read Sun Tsu, he has many pearls of wisdom applicable to all kinds of contest. If it’s truly what is happening I may have a smidgen of hope for the Boks.

      • Mikey

        It’s not… not expansive rugby! Why not use the full width of the the rugby field? It certainly fits snugly into the concept of OODA.

        • SweetAz

          Expansive rugby is only a PART of the philosophy mate, unlike some closed minded people here we need to understand the TOTAL philosophy, its horses for courses and playing intelligently. You adapt to the weather, circumstances, your strengths, their weaknesses etc etc etc. This fixation that the NZ teams play expansive rugby is a fallacy, for the most part they play intelligent rugby and their players are coached to make GOOD decisions. Expansive rugby is just a small part of it,—you may remember 30 or 40 years ago NATAL were the most attractive rugby side to watch in the Curry Cup playing expansive rugby,—-THEY NEVER WON A DAMNED THING UNTIL THEY GREW SOME BRAINS.

          • Herman Schroder?

            Expansive rugby to me is having your game plan based around retaining possession and using all fifteen players with the necessary skills and the width of the field as PLAN A. It does not however exclude the basic tenets of the game ie physicality, defence, set piece domination etc. They go hand in glove.

            The beauty is that by playing your Plan A continuously you develop those ‘expansive’ skills until they become instinctive and your team members are on the same page and react accordingly. The rise of AB rugby after 2009 until now is based on that. The rise and rise of the Lions exactly the same.

            The conservative teams and their coaches have all fallen by the wayside as they would not or could not develop a game plan that relied on fast, skilled, far more demanding attack structures than is required playing their one dimensional conservative ‘dom krag’ rugby.

            You mention the Sharks, well forty years later in 2018 they are then the exact opposite and still can’t do much. Sharks 135 tries in SR, Lions 229, enough said. Their backline was the poorest this year yet three of them are in the Bok team for Saturday ?. What instincts are they going to rely on ? Remember test rugby is all about playing instinctively, it’s not a training ground.

            As for your final ‘brains’ comment, may I ask, when exactly did they grow some brains ?? Remember that when they did improve in years gone by they were playing in a dom krag world and could get away with playing the same way. Since then the game has evolved and some have been left behind including the Sharkettes. Adapt or die as the saying goes. Cheers.

  • John A

    Vintage Swys de Bruin. Set the platform, generate quick ball and play what you see. Hope Rassie takes him through to the World Cup.

    • Herman Schroder?

      I fully agree. The problem is that most of the players in Rassie’s squad do not play instinctiveand fast ‘play what you see’ rugby with their Franchises. Teaching these guys new tricks at test level is therefore not ideal.Cheers.

  • Herman Schroder?

    All good and well up to the quick distribution aspect. That’s why Willie and Faf were the catalysts for the eventual successful comebacks in the first two England tests, simply because they had the speed and vision to capitalize on the situation.

    In the third test England had adapted to the Bok game plan and the Boks were then found wanting. A team must not only have a plan A, they must have Plan A and Plan B and even a Plan C. The trick is to switch over as the needs of the match unfolds. That’s why ( like the AB’s ) all the players must be super skilled in order to implement and take advantage of every situation as it arises. Whether we have the super skilled players with vision etc to do so is open to conjecture but all will be revealed over the next six tests.

    Rassie has nothing to complain about going into the RC. He has been given everything he wanted and then some and has had enough time to get the Bok ship prepared for battle. He is a ‘no excuses’ kind of a guy or so it seems so the next eight weeks should be very interesting as to how he responds. I wish him all the best. Cheers.

  • Rant

    Oom, thank you for your objective insightful articles. I look forward to them every week as it is the best part of this site in all honesty.

    It is clear to see that Rassie and his assistants are trying to combine the traditional strengths with the more modern instinctive play. We definitely have the players, it is just up to Rassie and co to get them out of their franchise mindset and sink or swim. The reality of it is that some players will fall away while others stand up and take their chances. I certainly hope the likes of Willemse, Am and Dyantyi really look world class in the coming weeks. Heaven knows we need good solid consistent performances for Joe public to get back on board. But I have noted that people are coming around slowly but surely. Just a few months ago some corners where bemoaning Rassie’s appointment and not at all willing to give him time. But now most of us are already speaking about how he goes at the World Cup. I still think we need to get Ackerman and De Bruin on the Boks coaching group permanently.

    Anyway, thanks again Oom, please keep these pearls of wisdom coming!

  • John Comyn

    Maybe the master plan is to bring Ackerman in to replace Rassie after the WC so he can focus on the director of rugby position. Ackers could be doing an apprenticeship in NH rugby.

    • Dean

      Let’s hope so. The media were talking about Mitchell, Ackermann or Davids as replacements. Now that Mitchell has shown his true colours by ditching the Bulls before his contracts up, he must be out of the equation. Ackermann must be the clear front runner, especially with his former right hand man, Swys involved.

      • John Comyn

        Mitch is a snake! Not only does my pet puff adder have more personality than Mitchell it is also way more loyal. I never figured him for a defense coach. His forte is supposed to be attacking rugby. Good luck England!

  • Nick

    Informative article here. Ball retention is crucial. One quick turnover and quick hands and easy space can be found outside. Oom does emphasise close concentrated support around the ball carrier in the build up phases.

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