The beauty and destruction of a dominant tackle

Harry Jones Roar Guru

By Harry Jones, Harry Jones is a Roar Guru


29 Have your say

    Not all tackles are equal. There’s the ankle tap that seems to require several strides before it takes effect, the ‘hold on to Julian Savea for dear life by an appendage until help arrives’ tackle.

    There’s the wild, swinging arm that used to escape penalty, the boring tackle around the edge of the ruck made simple because the tighthead ball carrier was already subterranean and looking for a place to curl up in the foetal position and present the ball.

    But there is also this thrilling thing called a ‘dominant tackle’.

    You see it when the offensive player is rocked back into kingdom come, his brain jelly slopping about in his skull, his legs losing all drive – maybe he is even driven back into his teammates like a rag doll.

    There is some subjectivity in this stat, but it’s like defining pornography: hard to delineate between fine art and smut. But, just as with porn, you know a dominant tackle when you see it.

    I decided to find the ‘busiest’ defenders, who make a high ratio of dominant tackles, without also missing many altogether. Hunting for that bone-collecting smash-tackle can result in a few whiffs.

    So, the players in Super Rugby making a high number of dominant tackles are wild-eyed Michael Hooper (11), the maniacally busy Pieter-Steph du Toit (10), tough guy Guido Petti (8), hardman Paul Schoeman (8), the borderline legal Tehoje Mohoje (8), and then guys like Jean-Luc du Preez (see: the Waratahs game), old Tah favourite Jacques Potgieter (7), the workhorse Warren Whiteley (7), bully Reinhardt Elstadt, underrated Philip van der Walt, and then, the surprisingly physical No.9 from New Zealand, Tawera Kerr-Barlow.

    As far as who make a high rate of dominant tackles with at least 22 tackles in total:

    45 per cent of PSDT’s tackles are ‘dominant’, followed by J-Pot (39%), Petti and Schoeman (36%), Whiteley (29%), Hooper (28%), Elstadt (25%), Mohoje (22%), and TKB (18%).

    Brumbies flank Alcock made a lot of tackles (the most this year, tied with van der Walt), but only seven per cent are dominant. Other players who you might think bring the wood but don’t are Pablo Matera (only six per cent of his 34 tackles are dominant) and Eben Etzebeth (6%).

    However, there seems to be a correlation between the dominant tacklers and their miss rate. PSDT has the worst success rate in the big-tackle-big-dominant group (59%), compared with his mate Etzebeth’s 94 per cent rate (and this has been Etzebeth’s rate for four seasons, or higher). Petti, Elstadt, Hooper, Schoeman, and Mojohe are missing 14 per cent or more of their tackles.

    Here are the players achieving a great balance between the knockout tackle, and missing those tackles:
    TKB: 33 of 35 attempts successful; six dominant
    Whiteley: 32 of 34 attempts successful; seven dominant
    Potgieter: 22 of 24 completed; 7 dominant
    du Preez: 42 of 46 completed; seven dominant
    van der Walt: 44 of 45 completed; six dominant

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    The Crowd Says (29)

    • Roar Guru

      March 17th 2017 @ 2:55am
      Harry Jones said | March 17th 2017 @ 2:55am | ! Report

      Source: Vodacom Rugby app.

    • Columnist

      March 17th 2017 @ 4:45am
      Nicholas Bishop said | March 17th 2017 @ 4:45am | ! Report

      Nice article Harry… There is indeed a correlation between big hits and a higher number of misses – outside shoulder or frontal tackles usually mean planting the feet to get leverage and that also means vulnerability to footwork or late movement.

      A bit like the big puncher who sets himself for the knockout blow but leaves himself open to the counter 🙂

      • Roar Guru

        March 17th 2017 @ 7:25am
        Harry Jones said | March 17th 2017 @ 7:25am | ! Report

        Good analogy. But as long as you have a phalanx of Etzebeths waiting behind PSDT… maybe a few misses ok

    • March 17th 2017 @ 6:03am
      Rob said | March 17th 2017 @ 6:03am | ! Report

      What I’d love to see more of from them are ‘counter rucks’. They do happen, but not as frequently as I think is possible. You’ve got all the momentum going forward, and I imagine many use it to bounce up and contest the ball but many will be ‘croc-rolled’ off. With help from a vocal team mate, he could bounce up, have a shove / be secured by a mate and just drive over the contact area. I try and work on this a lot with my team…. but we also don’t forget that a ‘passive tackle’ is a great opportunity for a George Smith-esque jackaller to pounce on a ball that is now on our side, rather than laid back on their side as is usually the case with a dominant tackle.

      • Roar Guru

        March 17th 2017 @ 7:37am
        Harry Jones said | March 17th 2017 @ 7:37am | ! Report

        But after a dominant tackle

        A lot of consequences ensue

        Usually the “attacking” team kicks (of they retain the ball)

    • Columnist

      March 17th 2017 @ 6:46am
      Geoff Parkes said | March 17th 2017 @ 6:46am | ! Report

      Thanks Harry, very interesting read.

      Were any of those dominant tackles as good as this one from the master of dominant tackles?

      Would be a definite yellow, borderline red under today’s new guidelines…

      • Roar Guru

        March 17th 2017 @ 7:41am
        Harry Jones said | March 17th 2017 @ 7:41am | ! Report

        Yes!!!! That’s salty

      • March 17th 2017 @ 9:23am
        Wardad said | March 17th 2017 @ 9:23am | ! Report

        Why would it be a red or yellow even under todays sooky laws ?
        Dont see him with his arms above the shoulder just a good driving tackle but maybe like Bizzies tackle on DC the ferocity and result over rides the legality of the hit.
        So I suppose I have answered my own question.

      • March 17th 2017 @ 11:47am
        Ruckin' Oaf said | March 17th 2017 @ 11:47am | ! Report

        The master of the tackle for mine would always be the Chiropractor

        Anybody keen to have their joints re-aligned ?

    • Roar Guru

      March 17th 2017 @ 7:28am
      Nobrain said | March 17th 2017 @ 7:28am | ! Report

      Well done handsome Harry!!!! the player with more dominant tackle has to be O. Mohoje. He chops the heads.

      • Roar Guru

        March 17th 2017 @ 7:36am
        Harry Jones said | March 17th 2017 @ 7:36am | ! Report

        Thanks you handsome devil

        He is wild

        Got to calm down

    • Roar Guru

      March 17th 2017 @ 7:39am
      Machooka said | March 17th 2017 @ 7:39am | ! Report

      Thanks Harry. Confronting. Smashing. Get a dog up ya stuff.

      I do miss Jackpot… badly!

      • Roar Guru

        March 17th 2017 @ 7:41am
        Harry Jones said | March 17th 2017 @ 7:41am | ! Report

        Jackpot knows only one way

        • March 19th 2017 @ 1:31pm
          hopalong said | March 19th 2017 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

          Nice article Harry.Thank you and good morning.

      • Roar Guru

        March 17th 2017 @ 11:20am
        John R said | March 17th 2017 @ 11:20am | ! Report

        Jackpot was like a talisman at the Tahs. Specially in 2014, lifted the physicality of the whole pack I reckon.

        • Roar Guru

          March 17th 2017 @ 12:42pm
          Machooka said | March 17th 2017 @ 12:42pm | ! Report

          If he were still here… I’d give him a BIG hug 🙂