How Sharks torpedoed Lions

Oom Rugby

Hi guys. Today I want to take look at a interesting moment from the Sharks and Lions game from the weekend. It is the first try scored by the Sharks from a rolling maul. Now, many people hate mauls because they see it as legalise obstruction, but as we will see there is a lot more that go into them that meet our eye. And in this case, there was something especially interesting. Let’s go!

The Sharks call a six-man lineout after kicking to touch from a penalty. The Lions is now looking for signs of what is coming. Will the Sharks maul or will they pass the ball out? And if they maul where will they throw?

First hint is that the Sharks flank Philip van der Walt is standing in the scrumhalf position. This is usually a sign that the maul is coming because the flank will come in to bind on the catcher, rip the ball and get the maul going.

A second thing to look at is that the Lions has set up their men more in the middle of the lineout. The reason is that, for the attacking team, a middle ball maul is better than a front ball maul, because then you have a open side and a blind side to work with. And with a middle ball, it is harder for the defending team to push your maul into touch.

So the Lions is expecting a throw to the middle, leaving Orie, Marx and Cronje to deal with the Shark front pod of Beast, Jean-Luc and Tyler Paul.

Here is the throw. It is a bullet straight to Jean-Luc at the front with no lift. The Sharks has sacrificed the “better” middle ball because they have other goals.

It firstly have to do with maul defence. A maul maybe look like a Tupperware full of mincemeat, but it is actually a fragile flower.

Coaches will tell you the most crucial moment of a lineout maul is the first 1.5 seconds because that is when it can live or die. The defence want to get to the catcher hard and early, and the attack want to survive the first wave and then carefully get the maul going as if it is the last little red coal in the fireplace.

This maul variation is all about setting a very quick platform, and then staying one step ahead of the Lions, as we will see.

Above we start to see what the other goal of the Sharks is. The two “lifters” in the pod – Tyler Paul and Beast – immediately turns into support players because there was no jump. But if we look closer at their binding then we see the seeds of what is coming. It is subtle but crucial.

Tyler Paul bind onto Jean-Luc and that is what a support player will normally do. But Beast is still crouching and waiting. Can you see?

He is actually wait for Marvin Orie to join and then in a very clever way bind more on Orie than on Jean-Luc. It is legal because he is still in contact with Jean-Luc, but make no mistake his role is to actually hit the first arriving Lion player to help dictate what come next.

Above we see how much shape the Sharks already has and the set-up they have created, while the Lions is still coming in to bind.

With the new maul laws, the ball must be passed to the back of the maul and this is easy for the Sharks because they under very little pressure.

We can see Dan du Preez join at the back and he will shortly receive the ball. But what we more interested in is what Beast and Akker is doing on this near side… Beast have a strong bind on Orie and is actually pushing infield with the help of Akker. We can see that they want to wheel the maul.

For a moment, the Lions forwards manages to stop the Sharks drive. They do well to pile in with low body positions and hit in low and fast to stop it in the tracks. But look at the direction of the Shark shove. As we see with the set-ups of Beast and Akker, the Sharks intention is actually to wheel the maul. They not trying to get to the try-line.

And also look at Wright, the Sharks 9. Like any scrummie, he have a crucial role at the maul to communicate to his cattle and organise them. He have his left hand on Dan du Preez and with his right hand he will slap Van der Walt. He is pulling the trigger and we will see what the plan was all along.

The second that Van der Walt feel the slap, he hinge around and “open the door” for Dan du Preez who was carrying at the tail. Du Preez was waiting like a loaded torpedo, and now he can charge forward with almost no obstacles.

Marx get sucked in to make a tackle at the incorrect contact point and Dan have a free ride to get the try.

Above is the same moment from a different angle. We can see how effective the Sharks manage to wheel the maul around to free up Dan on the blindside. It seem like a simple or even ugly thing but when we look closer we see all the “nuance” and subtle things needed to make it work.

By not jumping, the Sharks buy a extra second to quickly set up their chosen platform in a technical way. The unexpected throw to the front meant the Lions forwards has to first peel around to come and join.

The speed of the set-up allow it to be solid and survive the initial Lions counter-shove. That free up guys like Beast and Akker to focus on the plan to wheel the maul. And when the time was right the Sharks could then execute the final step to launch du Preez for the try.

It can be that the Sharks do this because the Lions is the number one lineout poachers in Super Rugby, or it can just be a clever new weapon they have developed. Either way, I enjoyed seeing it and it was a nice opportunity to talk about the maul today!

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

- Oom Rugby

Let's chat

  • Jay

    Awesome analysis Oom. As a backline player I have to admit I found mauls to be tedious strength vs strength but seeing the tactics and strategies used makes it a little more interesting.

    • Oom

      yes more it than we think hey Jay!

  • Chris Mouton

    Wow! That was pretty clever! Good analysis, Oom.

    • Oom

      cheers hey Chris. ja lekker move

  • Rant

    As always, an excellent analysis. Nice to see this sort of thing helping everyone understand the subtleties around these sorts of things. Keep it up, Oom!

  • Barry Smith

    Thanks, interesting article. Nice to see an example of using it so well to good effect! We used to be so good at using the driving maul at international level, but we do not seem to use it as much or as successfully as we once did!

  • Stuart

    Thank you very muchly Oom. Reading your analysis is always very enlightening. I hope you keep them coming!

  • Simon Clements

    Astute analysis as always.

  • dbaggins

    Love your analysis Oom…. bakgat!

    Smart tactic….. turning the maul into something similar to old school scrum by wheeling it to the side and exploiting the one side.

  • Herman Schroder?

    Oom or it could just be a case of ( as they would say in Afrikaans ) – ‘n blinde hoender pik ook raak’. lol. I suppose we must accept the loss to the ‘mighty’ Sharks but if truth be told this was more a case of the Lions defeating themselves.

    Just another point here. Some were criticizing the Lions for playing their Lions style rugby when they should have closed the game down. Whiteley said no they will continue to play their expansive style which has worked for them for nearly three years now. And here’why.

    Look at the logs and the gap between the Sharks and the Lions. Lions 41 points ( 15 games ) – Sharks 32 ( 14 games ). Try bonus points Lions 5 and all the other Franchises 2 each. Those three extra points are crucial if one considers the Lions have won eight and lost seven matches, well below their normal standard but still well ahead of the Sharks and the others.

    The Sharks now need to win both games with try bonus points ( and the Lions to lose to the Bulls ) which, if one looks at the Sharks try scoring ‘prowess’ only 47 tries to the Lions log leading 71 tries, is why the other teams are battling and the Lions for three seasons in a row have topped the logs due to those extra try bonus points. Sum total, Whiteley was correct, TRIES keep you in the race and at least give you a better chance of winning something. Amazingly in the past four seasons the other Franchises have still not twigged except maybe the Bulls but they have a long way to go.

    But let’s hope the Sharks can finally come to the party against the Jaguares in their final game even the Lions may need some help there. Cheers.

    • Dean

      Your idea that the Lions play all out expansive rugby is a fallacy. It only looks pretty when they dominate in the scrums and at the breakdown. Ruan Ackermann and Tecklenburg’s work at the breakdown allowed them that space and time on the ball. Their game is built on winning the lineouts and scrumming well. They haven’t been as good this year because of the loss of those 2 players coupled with injuries to Jaco Kriel and Marx. You have to do the hard yards up front and dominate in the key areas of the game before you can run riot. Before Marx got injured, he was one of the Lions’ top try scorers. Marnus Schoeman has scored six so far. That’s as a result of the rolling maul, which is a key weapon to the Lions game. It’s not all flash. When the Lions are required to play the tactical kicking game, they fail. It happened in wet conditions against the Hurricanes in that final 2 years ago. It happened again at Ellis Park vs the Crusaders in a low scoring game this year. Elton failed to do it again vs Wales. The England game is another example. If conditions are not suited to running rugby or they need to play territory during a game, they falter.

      • Herman Schroder

        Dean my point has never been that you must play attacking rugby ‘willy nilly’. The basics of rugby must still be adhered to and the Lions by and large have done that. It’s the attacking mindset and the player skills and good coaching that makes the difference.

        I’ve already explained your ‘wet weather’ misconception you seem to have in my various other posts so kindly refer to those for enlightenment.

        By the way The 14-8 loss to the Crusaders this year was another case of Jackass Peyper getting it wrong. With seven minutes to go Combrink was upended just like the ‘Kwagga’ incident in the final but he waved it on. A penalty kick into the corner with the Lions in the ascendency and it was game on. But the Crusaders favourite ref did not disappoint. Cheers.

    • Greg Shark

      Sharks 31 Lions 24 …… last year the Lions were comprehensively outplayed by the Sharks in the play offs but managed to ‘conjure’ a last gasp penalty to scrape the game. The problem with your paragraphs 3 and 4 is the exposing of an inability to vary the ‘plan’ when needed….no good scoring tries yet still losing the game!

      • Herman Schroder

        Greg Shark. We still got to two finals playing it and you couldn’t do that over two seasons without varying your game plan and scoring try after try after try. The exception does not make the rule my friend.

        By the way the Sharks lost that game because they tried to close down the game instead of attacking and keeping the ball in hand. How many games have the Lions won in the closing minutes by attacking ? Just like the NZ teams they back themselves. The Sharks on the other hand go into dom crag mode and try to defend their lead. As i’ve said before they get it right maybe once in ten games but they sure won’t win anything playing it that way especially against the better sides.

        If you think about it, last years Lions / Sharks playoff game proves my point, lol. Good try but no cigar old chap. Cheers.

  • Herman Schroder?

    Oom, just a gentle reminder that the correct use of English is – Lions ‘are’ not the Lions ‘is’. Keep up the good work. Cheers

    • Greg Shark

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

      wake up!

      • Dr Hoffman

        this is an english article, u need to wake up!

      • Herman Schroder

        Greg the only reason I mentioned it was because the incorrect use of the plural is repeated so often in all of his posts that it would be remiss of someone did not point it out in order to assist him. Most of the other ‘mistakes’ are cute and don’t warrant intervention so I’m sure you now know that I am fully awake. You on the other hand are just being plain petty.

        This wasn’t meant as a deflection from the sorry state of Sharks rugby was it ? Cheers.

Comments are closed.