Hi guys. I was watching the Currie Cup final between the Sharks and Western Province with my friend Mr Howie, a retired engineer, and he make the observation that in a game of rugby we can often “pinpoint” a moment when the game turn.
It is a typical engineer to look for the moment when the “stress point” occur, but he is right. In this game it is just before halftime when Province have a scrum on the Sharks’ line. Let us take a look at what happen and why I think it was the moment that set the foundation for the victory…
This is the scrum and what is interesting is that Province not dominating like the other scrums. Could be because Vermeulen is now at flank behind Geldenhuys, but the more clever guys will have to tell us why!
One thing we do know is that Wilco Louw did not dominate Thomas du Toit to the extend that people saying. The dominance happen on the other side of the scrum. In fact, in this scrum Du Toit put huge pressure on the WP blindside, as we can see.
This mean Daniel is free to break and deal with Carr, so Province does not get as quick ball as they maybe hope for next phase.
Above is the ruck from Carr’s carry. It is many seconds later so it is very slow ball, but that is actually fine because, as we will see, Province going to play a long game now.
We notice in the picture the excellent communication and control from the halfbacks. They driving the forwards like a John Deere tractor. Du Preez is not seeing opportunities yet so he is telling them to keep the ball tight. Duvenage is already getting the next carriers in position as Wiese pick and go.
Province keeps going left with Carr on 4th phase. Now guys, it is one thing to grind like this in a red zone, but it is another thing to protect the ball successfully and not make a mistake.
Remember that Sharks doesn’t have to drop back to defend the kick so they can have all their defenders waiting in the line. After Carr is tackled, Am immediately get low over the ball, but as we see above Leyds manage to clean him off.
What is interesting is the wonderful technique of Leyds, who is a back. Because Am get there first he is like a perlemoen on a rock. Leyds must bind on top of Am and this is the most difficult type of clean to do. Well done to the skills coach and the player for this crucial execution.
This is 6th phase and Province now starts to play back to the other touchline. It is a long, slow test of the structure of both teams.
Duvenage will pass to Louw who will smash it up again. There some people who think contact in rugby is one dimensional, but as we see above it can be hugely valuable. When Louw make contact, all the Sharks players on the left of the screen must run around that ruck to try get to the other side to deal with the next WP carry. It is called “folding” and it is how and where defenders recycle themself from ruck to ruck.
It is 10th phase. After Province play up to the right hand side they now start to come back to the left again. The important thing to realise is they not necessarily looking for meters, they trying to stress the Sharks defence organisation.
And this moment is when the seeds of trouble begin… Wiese smashed it up and now the Sharks players is starting to fold incorrectly. Not only are they all bunch up on the far side, but we see the scrumhalf, flyhalf, wing and two centres all there. That mean somewhere in the field is a forward who is defending in a backs position.
Notice the Province players coming around for next carry.
Duvenage play out to Van Zyl. Sharks has ended up with less men now in the line on that side, but they still have options. If Van Zyl carry, they make the tackle. If he play out the backdoor, they can shift and drift. It is all about players having eyes up and communicating with each other so they can act with cohesion.
But here it become the shape of a pear. Van Zyl hold onto the ball long enough to keep Sharks interested, and they take the bait and “pinch” together on his run and run of decoy Louw. We can see Daniel is pushing out but Marais and Geldenhuys is going straight up. Willemse is first receiver on this screen play and Van Wyk actually make a good read to shoot on him because he see there is big trouble, but Willemse evade him and the rest is in history – Leyds score in the corner.
Red zone play is the ultimate test of our systems. If we failing or succeeding in big moments like this then it can affect our whole cohesion, confidence and the trust between our players for the rest of the game.
I believe this is the moment that was the stress test that dent the Sharks’ cohesion and give WP the assurance to dictate the game in the second half and win.
DISCLAIMER: English is Oom’s third language, after Rugby and Afrikaans.