Sharks vs Western Province: Numbers

Match Moment: Numbers Game

OOM RUGBY shows us what critical defence lapses look like, why they occur, and how to avoid them inn future.

Rugby is about many things, but in one sense it is just a simple numbers game.

When coaches come up with strategies they are actually just trying to manipulate numbers and create mismatches. And in unstructured phase play it become the player’s job to read numbers and try and exploit them, or read numbers and try to stop problems before they start.

So for today’s Match Moment I want to look at a failure of numbers that lead to a try in the Sharks vs Province game this weekend.

Province use a lekker move at the tail of a lineout to put the Jack Russell flank Chris Cloete into space. He make meters, but the Sharks manage to scramble back and realign. There is another Stormers pick and go and the Sharks get ready for the next wave. But the seeds of the coming try has already been sowed…

Because if we look at the picture above we see that there is a imbalance of too many Sharks defenders on the right side of the ruck. You will not believe me but there is SIX Sharks defenders on that blindside (Sithole is out of frame on right). From the previous play there was a small possibility that the ball will come down the blind, but it did not happen. And if we watch the game tape we see that the Sharks had enough time to shift and send men to the openside. But they did not. This become even more of a issue if I tell you that Rynhardt Elstadt (1) actually jog all the way over from the blindside and the Sharks STILL did not move across to where play was developing.

Like I say I don’t like to isolate players for blame, but maybe one guy who contribute a little bit to the problem was the flank Jean-Luc du Preez (2). As you can see there is already a Sharks pillar defender on the right side of the ruck, so Jean-Luc is not needed there. Worst than that, he have actually taken up a useless position behind the ruck in no-man land. That is when we shake our head and say “No man!”

And when Elstadt decide to jog over to the open side, Jean-Luc did not track him. He just stay hanging around on the over crowded blindside. As a forward, Jean-Luc have a crucial role to play in goal line defence. By not deploying himself urgently into a good position he put incredible pressure on the rest of his team.

Because we can see the Sharks spacing issues and personel problems on the left. There is only two Sharks forwards to the left of the ruck, and they are committed to the Stormers inside runners. Then it is just Joe Pietersen (3) and he will not be able to stop Elstadt when he charge for the line.

So how does this happen? How does this failure of numbers occur? For me it come down to three things:

  1. It is a failure of anticipation. Players did not recognise what was happening.
  1. It was a failure of communication. Nobody in the situation took charge and direct his teammates to where they were needed.
  1. It was a failure of attitude. The body language of the Sharks in that passage of play was slow and casual.

So what is the cure?

I do not know who the Sharks defence coach is, but it is time for him to become the player’s worst nightmare. It is time for no more Mr Nice Guy at King’s Park. He must drill those Sharks boys to a point where even if they sit in church on Sunday they stress about their alignment and spacing!

It must become second nature, like a army guy who fall flat to the ground when a balloon pop. [The defence coach will have to chuck some hand grenades at the players, Oom; but okay – Ed.] It is time for drills, drills, drills and more drills. The cohesion, the communication and more important, the urgency, will all improve.

The Sharks is lucky – the attitude we see in the picture above is something they can fix. But they must fix it before their number is up.

- Ami Kapilevich