Hi guys. Something I find interesting is when people talk about the players they want in a Springbok team. Too often guys get seduced by flashy play and they forget the core role a player must fulfill in his position. If I can exaggerate, it is like choosing a tighthead prop because he can sidestep. No! A tighthead must scrum!
And so it is with the position we call blindside flank. In South Africa he wear a 7 on his back, rest of the world he wear a 6. Some coaches has the philosophy that there is no blind or openside flank – just a similar left and a right flank who shares responsibility. But… most coaches believe these flanks does have different roles, and in the game between the Stormers and the Bulls we get a hell of a reminder what the difference is.
In the picture above we see Schalk Burger being tackle by the Bulls blindside Jannes Kirsten. Schalk is not a featherweight and the Stormers wants to use his power to create go-forward ball. But Jannes tackle him and drive him back a metre-and-a-half. This what we pay our blindside to do. In the nutshell, he is a momentum-creator and a momentum-stopper. He do all his work in the tight and tight loose and we do not always see him. Think of him as the tighthead prop of the loose trio.
Why is it important? Look at the picture again. The dot line is where Schalk and Jannes will go to ground, so that is where the new gain line will be and it will create the new offside lines. So the Bulls players can easily run forwards to attack that ruck, but the Stormers players must run backwards, and then they must still turn around to legally come through the gate of their own ball. It is a disaster. Worst case there will be a turnover, best case the Stormers has slow ball and the Bulls defence line is reset waiting for them.
And now it is a chain reaction. If you do not get quick ball, and if you are not playing “onto” the ball, then your backs has a very tough time. They want to run at a defence that is retreating but instead they run at guys who are organised and waiting on the front foot to smash them.
But our blindside must not just stop momentum, he must also help us create it. We want to send this into contact to suck in defenders. Zinzan Brooke explain the blindside like this. “You have to be able to carry the ball to defensive lines and through defensive lines. They’re used to punch holes because they’re bigger and can draw two defensive players, and if you can do that you’ve created a hole somewhere else.”
If we are honest the Stormers loose trio on Saturday did not have a power flank and they suffer a little bit for it against the Bulls tough tackling. Siya and Nizaam is amazing players with great skills but their strength is not the same as the Jerome Kaino, Juan Smith, Jerry Collins, Willem Alberts type guys. And in Test rugby, where it is a even tighter battle, we absolutely need a “bouncer” in the number 7 jersey.
Who can be a Springbok blindside? I think if we look at Zinzan’s words we realise there is not many true blindside superstars on our radar. Jannes Kirsten was good but he is still raw, same with Jean-Luc Du Preez. Schalk still have the heart and strength, and his massive Test experience count in his favour so maybe Allister will choose him.
Otherwise we must do what coaches has been doing for many years and that is to convert a skillful lock to the blindside position. Don’t forget the impact of Danie Rossouw when he moved to blind and even Mark Andrews playing 8th man in the ’95 World Cup Final. At the moment we have two great options in Franco Mostert and Pieter-Steph du Toit who I think can be devastating at 7 and sort out the Kaino’s of the world.
Not only do they give us a important third lineout option but they also have the skill and speed to be genuine superstar blindsides. They will add power and grunt into the contact points and that will free up our 8th man and openside flank to do their jobs. The loose trio is all about balance, and a power flank at 7 is key to unlocking that balance.