Hi guys. The Super Rugby group stage come to a finish this weekend, and just like the young pastor after his honeymoon night we are more confuse than when we started. All the South African teams was very inconsistent and not one of them “step up” as a clear representative for the conference. Just when we think one of our teams have turned the corner then they drive into a lamppost.
Anyway it have not been all gloom this year, there been some moments of light in the darkness, and today I want to look at a wonderful maul variation that the Bulls pull out against the Lions in their match on Saturday. Let us take a look!
It start with a Bulls lineout on the Lions 5m and in the picture above we can see things is already getting interesting. Firstly, the Bulls lineout is not even in the picture yet. They taking their time to get there because as we will see this whole thing rely on surprise. In fact the Lions is already starting to smell trouble because we can see Marx and Smith is pointing away from the lineout where the real action is starting to develop…
A big warning is that the people who came to join the lineout is mostly backs. Above we can see Kotze, Odendaal, Hendricks and Specman join Snyman who is now the only forward in the lineout. The alarm bells must be flashing! At the bottom of picture we can see where all the Bulls forwards is gathering like a reunion at the railway bar. We can understand why the Bulls try to delay the “picture” of what is coming because it all rely on the opponent not being able to adjust and move personnel around in time.
Let us go to a different angle above to see it more clear. The ball is coming out to Warner, and (importantly) he will send a long bullet straight to van Staden so the trap can spring right away.
What I find interesting is that the Lions has not 100% seen the danger developing yet… To us it is a clear picture, but on the field I am sure the players is still trying to cover all eventualities. Maybe they think this is a diversion? Because even though the Bulls throw quick to the front, the Lion forwards in the lineout actually still try to attack Warner and move upfield. It is easy from the couch, but if guys did see this picture developing before the lineout already, then they must communicate where the real danger is going to be and get the right players there fast.
Above we see it is a hell of a problem for the Lions. Cyle Brink is there but for him to try stop what is coming is like when our brother-in-law try stop the boat trailer at the slipway in Ramsgate when it come off the hook of the Hilux.
Van Staden will take contact, which create a maul, and then it is a question of how fast the Lions forwards can get in place to stop it. But… there is a big problem for them and it is maybe the most clever thing about this whole manoeuvre. Simply, the Lions forwards is moving laterally from the lineout to try stop the maul. So it is hard to come around and get in position legally in time, and it is hard to get into a strong position aswell.
Above we see the lateral path the Lions forwards must take, but there is something else interesting here which is that Cyle Brink almost manage to stop this on his own… The reason is that in a normal lineout situation a maul is form in a much more “watertight” way. Lifters will immediately “lock in” around the catcher when he land on the ground. But because the Bulls is building this maul on the run, it is more messy and the ball carrier have become vulnerable.
As we can see, Van Staden is turning his back to get into the classic maul position, but that cause him to lose connection with Kirsten, who is meant to protect him. And that give Brink a gap to attack the ball carrier directly, which is the death of any maul.
But end of the day there was not much the Lions can do. Brink unfortunately lose his footing and that chance is gone. The Lions first hope was to act early, and we can still see them trying to come around to try join legally. It was just impossible. And we see Herbst getting knock over like the treasurer of the Ramsgate skiboat club.
This maul was build for speed – instead of setting up for a fight, the Bulls want to avoid a fight completely and move fast. We can see this by the fact that Van Staden is still running backwards over the line and he actually place backwards to score! Normally we see the ball get passed to the back of the maul and scored from there. But the Bulls doesn’t want to waste one second. This is all about speed so that the Lions forwards doesn’t have time to join properly.
So this was a wonderful piece of innovation that we saw and it will be interesting to see where it go from here. In future teams will be alert to the triggers of where the Bull’s forwards is grouped and who is in the lineout, so if the Bulls is clever then they will already think of that and have a variation ready in their back pocket… Anyway guys, here is hoping that at least one of our teams can go through to the semi’s and that we will see some more clever thinking and inventiveness!
DISCLAIMER: English is Oom’s third language, after Rugby and Afrikaans