No waiting in the wings – the devil takes the hindmost on defence!

Nicholas Bishop Columnist

By Nicholas Bishop, Nicholas Bishop is a Roar Expert

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    Marika Koroibete plays a crucial role in the Wallabies' defence. (Photo by Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

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    What do the numbers four and six have in common?

    Yes, they are both even numbers. They also represent the number of phases of play allowed before you have to prove you have achieved something concrete on attack in the two other great collision sports on the planet – rugby league and American Football.

    In league, you get a set of six tackles to score before possession is automatically turned over to the opponent. In gridiron, the demand is to make ten yards in four downs.

    By way of contrast, in rugby union there is no legal limitation on the number of offensive phases you can run. The only boundaries are set by your physical conditioning and creative spirit with ball in hand. With the recent trial changes at the tackle area, the balance of the game has shifted in favour of the attacking side, and possession has once again become nine-tenths of rugby law.

    Defence coaches around the world are already formulating their counter-measures. Most involve the use of more ‘stand-up’ techniques in contact to fill the line with more bodies, and ever-increasing speed off it to hustle attackers into error.

    The days of simply numbering up on the defensive front line and drifting out to pin the attackers against a touch-line now seem like a very distant memory. Now it is all about cutting off the wide play, and with or without numbers you attack, attack, attack. Preventing line-breaks is no longer the be-all and end-all because of the greater strength of the scramble in the secondary layer of defence.

    The basis of that layer still lies in the concerted work of your players on the two wings and at fullback. Other defenders like the two halves will also be involved in specific circumstances, but in the professional era, the back three have tended to operate as a pendulum.

    When the attack goes towards one particular side, the winger on that side swings up into line, the fullback shifts across to fill the space he’s vacated, and the blindside winger is drawn into fullback. This happens constantly as the offence probes first one side of the field, then the other, and it is why wingers with fullback experience have become such a valuable commodity in the modern game.

    The Wallaby defensive system designed by Nathan Grey takes a more extreme view of the function of the back three. With Henry Speight, and more latterly Marika Koroibete, on one wing, Australia decided that a straightforward pendulum would not work.

    Marika Koroibete Australia Rugby Union Wallabies 2017

    (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

    Koroibete, in particular, has very little high-level rugby experience (he has only played 13 games for the Rebels and eight for the Wallabies), so Grey keeps him in the front line at all times. Koroibete defends on the openside wing from lineout whether the set-piece occurs on the right or left side of the field.

    He never drops into the backfield or plays at fullback where he might have to catch or kick the ball or make decisions. Those who followed the Melbourne Rebels closely last season will know that those are situations fraught with danger for the defensive team!

    That, in turn, restricts the wider movement of the pendulum. The fullback (Israel Folau or Kurtley Beale on the end-of-year tour) is not as free to track away from Koroibete’s side, and a different arrangement has to be found on the other wing, which the Wallabies addressed via a mixture of Bernard Foley, Reece Hodge and Will Genia on tour.

    Let’s take a look the positives first, using the Scotland tour match as our template. The positives occurred mostly when plays came directly towards Koroibete’s side. Although Scotland created several attacking opportunities and even broke the line, all were smothered by the second layer of defence and Australia even scored a turnover try from a partial Scottish break in the second half.

    In the first instance, Scotland have rumbled more than 20 metres upfield from a driving lineout:

    Michael Hooper, Samu Kerevi, Tevita Kuridrani and Koroibete are all defending in a compact line with Koroibete at midfield. Scotland, meanwhile, have preserved their width with the last attacker standing out near the left-hand touchline.

    Although the situation nominally favours the attack, this is no longer as big a red flag for a modern professional defence as it once might have been:

    Despite being short of numbers and unable to cover the outside men, the Wallaby line rushes anyway – ‘and Devil take the hindmost’. Huw Jones picks a nice line inside Koroibete, but finds himself up a blind alley in the second tier of defence. Hooper folds in behind to make the tackle on Jones and Genia and Foley have covered across so there will be no way through for Scotland #9 Ali Price, even if he does take the pass.

    At the beginning of the second quarter, Koroibete was to be seen defending at left winger from a lineout won clean off the top by Scotland:

    The whole sequence is instructive in terms of the modern philosophy of aggressive defence at all costs:

    Again, Scotland seem to have nice width and the overlap is available, but Koroibete makes a good read to break off his rush and close quickly on the ball-carrier. As he makes the tackle on his opposite number, the situation is a comfortable one for Australia:

    This was a theme throughout the first half – Australia rushed upfield and, even when Koroibete was beaten, trusted the second layer of scrambling defenders to do their job:

    In this case, it is Koroibete himself who gets back to finish the job, although there is plenty of help in attendance, with five other Australian defenders converging from different angles:

    Grey’s policy had its ultimate pay-off towards the end of the first half. At first, it appears Scotland have a very promising attack shaping up down the short-side, with a six-to-three advantage in numbers:

    The rest of the sequence showed how the modern bait-and-switch works, with an attacker first becoming isolated in the space he wanted to occupy, then (fatally) losing control of the ball (go to 1:04 on the reel below):

    The real issue that Marika Koroibete’s selection in particular, and that Grey’s backfield system in general, raises, only becomes evident (paradoxically) on the other side of the field!

    Scotland made five clean breaks down that side in the first hour of the game:

    Here Bernard Foley and Samu Kerevi are the last two defenders over on the Australian right, with Kurtley Beale still protecting Koroibete on the other side and Reece Hodge planted in the backfield.

    The scoring opportunities Scotland created on the flank away from Koroibete tended to be significantly more clear-cut:

    If the final pass is more accurate, there is little likelihood of either Beale or Hodge being able to prevent a score in the corner. The awkwardness of having a ten and a nine as your last two defenders on the line is full pointed. That awkwardness was a feature of the game:

    Hodge is inside, Foley is outside with Genia in behind – again not the ideal arrangement in this part of the field.

    Australia conceded a try down this side in the simplest (and most embarrassing) of circumstances from a tapped penalty in the second half. In the highlight reel at 4:15, Huw Jones is able to beat Kerevi with an outside move one-on-one. Reece Hodge is caught between staying out on the final man and coming in to take Jones, and he is a non-factor in the play.

    The constant juggling of roles on the wing opposite Koroibete – with Genia, Foley, Kerevi and Hodge all appearing as the final defender at various times – and with Hodge having spent most of the Rugby Championship in 2017 defending at 12, begs the question whether anyone is being given the necessary time and space to learn nuances of the role in any depth.

    It is a question for both Nathan Grey to answer in his position as the Wallabies’ defensive coach, and for Reece Hodge to answer in the context of his playing career.

    Modern defence at the elite level is becoming increasingly aggressive, as more passive systems go out of fashion and the older requirement to number up seems more and more purely reactive.

    Nowadays the more progressive coaches don’t worry about numbers or apparent space so much, and their defences frequently aren’t tidy in that respect. They will even give up yardage or short line-breaks if they feel it offers turnover possibilities further downfield, or with the aggression working to their advantage the next time around.

    Without a four or six-play end in sight, and a higher proportion of uncontested rucks under the new tackle laws, there is more responsibility than ever on defensive coaches to create pressure and force turnovers without waiting in the wings. The devil really does take the hindmost in the modern game.

    Australia are trying to incorporate this aggressive stance by playing Marika Koroibete on the line constantly, in the hope that his tremendous closing speed on the ball-carrier will reap more dividends than deficits. And it works for the most part, at least on his side of the field.

    On the side opposite Koroibete, Australia frequently look ragged and disjointed on the line, with their backfield cover thinner and less consistent behind it. You can only imagine the confusion of poor Reece Hodge, desperately trying to remember the details of his newest assignment in the Australian backline! He must be allowed to settle somewhere and learn one position in depth.

    If there is any lesson for Nathan Grey – and indeed Australian rugby in general – to take on at the beginning of a new season, it must be this: let the dust settle, and let clarity emerge from turmoil.

    Nicholas Bishop
    Nicholas Bishop

    Nick Bishop has worked as a rugby analyst and advisor to Graham Henry (1999-2003), Mike Ruddock (2004-2005) and most recently Stuart Lancaster (2011-2015). He also worked on the 2001 British & Irish Lions tour to Australia and produced his first rugby book with Graham Henry at the end of the tour. Three more rugby books have followed, all of which of have either been nominated for or won national sports book awards. Nick's latest is a biography of Phil Larder, the first top Rugby League coach to successfully transfer over to Union, entitled The Iron Curtain. He is currently writing articles for The Roar and The Rugby Site, and working as a strategy consultant to Stuart Lancaster and the Leinster coaching staff for their European matches.

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    The Crowd Says (175)

    • Roar Guru

      February 21st 2018 @ 4:41am
      Corne Van Vuuren said | February 21st 2018 @ 4:41am | ! Report

      Love the new mini clips, really does aid the explanations.

      • Columnist

        February 21st 2018 @ 4:44am
        Nicholas Bishop said | February 21st 2018 @ 4:44am | ! Report

        Thanks BB – yes they are more succinct, and they last a lot longer (the longer clips tend to get taken off after a while)!

        I see you’ve been flying under the radar lately – looking forward to Rassie’s Boks?

        • Roar Guru

          February 21st 2018 @ 4:50am
          Corne Van Vuuren said | February 21st 2018 @ 4:50am | ! Report

          Yeah Nicholas, I have been more casual than committed to sport the last two years.

          I sincerely want Rassie to succeed, but in all honesty our culture has to change, SARU needs to step up and work on coaching issues and a more collective approach.

          There is little continuity in the coaching system in SA. That I believe is our biggest shortcoming currently.

          • Roar Guru

            February 21st 2018 @ 5:15am
            Harry Jones said | February 21st 2018 @ 5:15am | ! Report


            This discussion reminds me of our old article:

            • Columnist

              February 21st 2018 @ 5:24am
              Nicholas Bishop said | February 21st 2018 @ 5:24am | ! Report

              Very interesting article Hazza – though I have a higher opinion of Meyer (& Van Graan) and his achievements as Bokke coach than you appear to hold.

              As someone who worked against him, I felt he understood the Bokke mentality and the tempo at which it could be dragged (kicking and screaming) into the modern era. His changes (like Willie le Roux for Zane Kirchner at 15) were gradual and progressive, and this is borne out by his win ratio – 67%, like Jake White’s and only just behind Mallett.

              I believe that South Africa improved in his tenure and would have improved further if he had been reappointed after 2015.

              • Roar Guru

                February 21st 2018 @ 5:26am
                Harry Jones said | February 21st 2018 @ 5:26am | ! Report


                The spectrum of my articles about Meyer were largely positive.

                But we did wonder why there was regression after the first years.

                And he was too programmatic, I think, in the end, as fear set in.

                And we wanted clicks, so we went crazy with graphics and fun.

                We were one Dan Carter drop kick or one Victor Matfield neck roll away from a probably World Cup win, after which all would have been forgiven.

              • Columnist

                February 21st 2018 @ 5:32am
                Nicholas Bishop said | February 21st 2018 @ 5:32am | ! Report

                The English coaching group greatly respected HM Harry – and we found SA the most difficult side to prepare for, including the All Blacks! Despite the fact we knew what was coming our way. Defence and set-piece were always good, and they had some X-factor to boot 🙂

            • Roar Guru

              February 21st 2018 @ 5:50am
              Corne Van Vuuren said | February 21st 2018 @ 5:50am | ! Report

              Agree Harry.

              Nick the frustration for us came in the regression of Meyer’s supposed evolution. It grew stagnant.

              • Columnist

                February 21st 2018 @ 5:53am
                Nicholas Bishop said | February 21st 2018 @ 5:53am | ! Report

                Everything works in cycles BB – and I felt HM was far from finished in 2015, he would have regenerated himself (if he didn’t have a heart attack in the coaching box first) 😀

          • Columnist

            February 21st 2018 @ 5:16am
            Nicholas Bishop said | February 21st 2018 @ 5:16am | ! Report

            There is little continuity in the coaching system in SA. That I believe is our biggest shortcoming currently.

            I agree, and I think it applies to player selection too. The desired political emphasis needs to be introduced in a far more organic way – for example by integrating black or coloured coaches/players in the national set-up when they are truly ready for it. Then the whole process will be far more credible, and produce better results.

            Rassie should help, because like Nick Mallett I feel he is an enlightened man.

            • Roar Guru

              February 21st 2018 @ 5:20am
              Harry Jones said | February 21st 2018 @ 5:20am | ! Report

              NickB and Biltong

              Morne du Plessis pointed out once that the Lions toured SA in 74 and won everything, by using 17 players total and the Boks used 34

              And then in 1980, the Boks beat the Lions, with SA using 17 players and the Lions using 33…

              Also, every single great test team ever, has had combinations with 6-7 years in the making…

              • Columnist

                February 21st 2018 @ 5:28am
                Nicholas Bishop said | February 21st 2018 @ 5:28am | ! Report

                South Africa have always enjoyed success by extracting every drop of value out of experience H – remember ‘Lofty’ Nel recycled for one last series against the AB’s in 1970 by Johan Claassens. It is part of the culture and should be respected!

              • Roar Guru

                February 21st 2018 @ 5:51am
                Corne Van Vuuren said | February 21st 2018 @ 5:51am | ! Report

                Yes, similar to the success of Kitch Christie in 1995

    • Roar Guru

      February 21st 2018 @ 5:06am
      Nobrain said | February 21st 2018 @ 5:06am | ! Report

      I enjoy this peace a lot NB. Tnxs

      • Columnist

        February 21st 2018 @ 5:28am
        Nicholas Bishop said | February 21st 2018 @ 5:28am | ! Report

        Cheers NB!

        • February 21st 2018 @ 9:12pm
          Armchair Sportsfan said | February 21st 2018 @ 9:12pm | ! Report

          Hi Nicholas,

          I’d be interested in a sort of ‘summary’ piece for the wallabies, which collates a number of articles you’ve written which take the form of “Here’s a ‘normal’ pattern; and here’s what the wallabies do to compensate for player X’s deficiencies or non-traditional srengths”.

          From memory, you’ve written this sort of pieces focusing on Michael Hooper, Bernard Foley, Izzy, now Korobeite. I cant remember if there are any others?

          So clearly (in your view) Australia are eschewing traditional systems to squeeze players with non-traditional positional skills into the team. I would think this might be okay here and there, but if you’re suggesting they are doing it for 4-5 different players…that seems like a recipe for disaster? or is this what all teams do in one shape or another?

          • Columnist

            February 21st 2018 @ 10:04pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | February 21st 2018 @ 10:04pm | ! Report

            I think I wrote one about Hodge when he was selected to play 10 against Japan AS 😀

            All teams move players around in certain circumstances but it’s important to understand that the WB defensive system is unique, and has only been employed elsewhere by Grey when he coached the Waratah D. No-one else has taken it up as far as I know.

    • Roar Guru

      February 21st 2018 @ 5:24am
      Harry Jones said | February 21st 2018 @ 5:24am | ! Report

      Good look at the pendulum, Nick.

      Enjoyed this article very much.

      Was there a worse pendulum in world rugby ever than the Bokke in Albany in 2017?

      Rhule-Coetzee-Skosan was practically a welcome mat: PLEASE SCORE AROUND OUR FRINGES.

      • Columnist

        February 21st 2018 @ 5:29am
        Nicholas Bishop said | February 21st 2018 @ 5:29am | ! Report

        True H. The need for all-round footballers is greater now than it has ever been in the back three, and I doubt Coetzee and Rhule qualify on that count…

        • Roar Guru

          February 21st 2018 @ 5:57am
          Harry Jones said | February 21st 2018 @ 5:57am | ! Report

          We need more physical wings (remember Ray Mordt?), but I thought Leyds did well when he got a chance (he can create his own breaks), and I also think Gelant shows all-round skills. I wouldn’t hesitate to bring Willie back, because he can play either wing or FB and I think he actually became more skilled at Wasps, if I can say so. I know that’s SH heresy.

          • Columnist

            February 21st 2018 @ 6:36am
            Nicholas Bishop said | February 21st 2018 @ 6:36am | ! Report

            Yes Leyds has shown something, and there’s also Ruan Combrinck to come back also. He has the full-back skills and that big left boot….

            • February 21st 2018 @ 8:05am
              Fionn said | February 21st 2018 @ 8:05am | ! Report

              Between Mapimpi, Combrinck, Gelant, Le Roux and Pietersen SA look totally fine in terms of outside backs.

              • Columnist

                February 23rd 2018 @ 2:45am
                Nicholas Bishop said | February 23rd 2018 @ 2:45am | ! Report

                Getting J.P. Pietersen back into the frame would be a big bonus.

          • February 21st 2018 @ 6:46am
            mzilikazi said | February 21st 2018 @ 6:46am | ! Report

            Ray Mordt…the Rhodesian….I remember him well. He was one of the most frightening wingers I had ever seen at that stage of life.

            Did not see him in ’74 in Salisbury v Lions as I only got out for the last two tests…..actually would need to check that one, as Mordt may have been too young then to play.

            But I did see him in ’78 when Rhodesia had a very good team with a real shot at the Currie Cup and the war torn country really got behind them when they played the mighty Bulls at the Police Ground. Though Rhodesia lost, Mordt gave the Bulls trouble…..a true ‘hard man” who reveled in hard collisions….indeed sought them out.

            Actually some very interesting players in that game….Rhodesia also had Ian Robertson and David Smith who went on to play for the Boks, and the All Black Alan Sutherland…….I think he would have been the first high profile AB to leave and play outside NZ at a high level.

            It was of course the amateur era, so I assume there was no money involved. And Sutherland was lucky enough to marry a Rhodesian girl, which was probably a big reason why he was there.

            The Bulls players I remember of the top of my head were Naas Botha and Louis Moolman.

            What a game that was, with such an emotion charged atmosphere.

            • Columnist

              February 21st 2018 @ 7:23am
              Nicholas Bishop said | February 21st 2018 @ 7:23am | ! Report

              Do you remember Gerrie Germishuys too MZ? He was one of the SA backs most highly rated by the Lions back in 1974….

              • Columnist

                February 21st 2018 @ 7:45am
                Geoff Parkes said | February 21st 2018 @ 7:45am | ! Report

                Amusingly, NZ commentator Keith Quinn used to pronounce his name like he was trying to cough up phlegm from the back of his throat.

              • February 21st 2018 @ 9:45am
                mzilikazi said | February 21st 2018 @ 9:45am | ! Report

                Do indeed ,Nic. He was indeed an impressive player.

                Found this as I write…I’m sure you have seen it all already, but others might not have.

              • Columnist

                February 21st 2018 @ 9:54am
                Nicholas Bishop said | February 21st 2018 @ 9:54am | ! Report

                Great tape thanks MZ – Mordt and Germishuys combining together in one of those tries against the 1980 Lions!

              • Roar Guru

                February 21st 2018 @ 9:55am
                Harry Jones said | February 21st 2018 @ 9:55am | ! Report

                I may or may not have got 6 cuts from the Woodworking teacher in Standard 6 for repeating Gerrie’s name 45 times in one minute as he chased me around the classroom

            • February 21st 2018 @ 10:11am
              Taylorman said | February 21st 2018 @ 10:11am | ! Report

              Yes remember the Sutherland’s from Marlborough along with Steve Marfell and Brian Ford at the time.
              Ian Robertson went up against Bruce Robertson and Gerrie was the winger in the 76 series.

              Mordts hat trick vs the 81 ABs was fantastic.

              All uncompromising players andvwith Herbert and co those were the guys that kept kiwi fans on their toes.

              Graeme Thorn the permed commentator also stayed on and married a South African. He was actually a very handy midfielder from the reels I’ve seen.

              • February 21st 2018 @ 12:42pm
                mzilikazi said | February 21st 2018 @ 12:42pm | ! Report

                Saw one AB game only on that tour….v Quaggas at Loftus.

                Quaggas had the huge kicker at 10 that day…fascinating name , at least to an Irish boy…Wouter Johannes de Wet Ras !!

                Seem to remember he holds a few kicking records…though Frans Steyn may now have gone past him.

              • Columnist

                February 21st 2018 @ 5:40pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | February 21st 2018 @ 5:40pm | ! Report

                Yep remember De Wet Ras, they had some huge punters back then.

                Do you recall Peter Kirsten, father of the cricketer Gary? A 10 way ahead of his time….

              • Columnist

                February 21st 2018 @ 5:24pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | February 21st 2018 @ 5:24pm | ! Report

                Yes wasn’t Thorne the wunderkind of NZ rugby at one stage, but a bit of a maverick?

            • February 21st 2018 @ 6:03pm
              Bob Wire said | February 21st 2018 @ 6:03pm | ! Report

              MZ, I was at that game in ’78, Police ground, Salisbury, after the game, the spectators rushed on to the pitch and I saw a bloke clip the ref on the head, this wa s observed by Thys Lourens, I think he was the captain of NT?, well he took off at speed, chasing the guy that belted the ref, I did not see the outcome, but would not be surprised if one person did not make it home that afternoon, Lourens was a tough flanker, I think he played for the boks..

              • Columnist

                February 21st 2018 @ 6:16pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | February 21st 2018 @ 6:16pm | ! Report

                A lot of the ’74 Lions said that they had to get off the field pronto at the end of games Bob – they used to get pelted by small oranges (naartjies) and empty beer bottles and there were a fair few controversial matches on that tour – Quaggas (again) and Natal (Tommy Bedford versus JPR) among them…

              • February 22nd 2018 @ 9:49am
                mzilikazi said | February 22nd 2018 @ 9:49am | ! Report

                Hi Bob, wrote you a reply but has not been posted…pity, but think they may have taken some offence/not pol. correct in some way. I did not see the ref. belt…..interesting though….great game….been even greater if Rhodesia had won!

      • Roar Guru

        February 21st 2018 @ 5:49am
        Corne Van Vuuren said | February 21st 2018 @ 5:49am | ! Report

        Harry, that combination in the back three was somply just poor, it is unbelieveable to think an international coach could select them, and then continue to believe his own Justofications around their selections

        • Columnist

          February 21st 2018 @ 5:54am
          Nicholas Bishop said | February 21st 2018 @ 5:54am | ! Report

          How much of it was due to quota requirements though BB?

          • Roar Guru

            February 21st 2018 @ 5:58am
            Harry Jones said | February 21st 2018 @ 5:58am | ! Report

            NB–he had better options with other players of colour. RR (from Ghana) just cannot tackle and he led SR in missed tackles for two seasons. And A Coetzee was keeping W Gelant from playing, so it wasn’t quota, really. It was stubborn domkop.

            • Roar Guru

              February 21st 2018 @ 6:07am
              Corne Van Vuuren said | February 21st 2018 @ 6:07am | ! Report

              Yep, it is easy to just blame quota, but there were more options than just Skosaan and Rhule

            • Columnist

              February 21st 2018 @ 6:40am
              Nicholas Bishop said | February 21st 2018 @ 6:40am | ! Report

              Are you ready to put all those eggs in the Gelant basket then H??

              • Roar Guru

                February 21st 2018 @ 7:04am
                Harry Jones said | February 21st 2018 @ 7:04am | ! Report

                No, I just wanted him to get 300 or so minutes in the Bok jersey in 2017, to see…

    • Roar Guru

      February 21st 2018 @ 6:17am
      Kia Kaha said | February 21st 2018 @ 6:17am | ! Report

      I agree with Biltong. Love the GIFs. It’s like little rugby pixies dancing in my phone.

      Great article. The AB think tank is severely weakened by the loss of Wayne Smith on defence. But we need someone to step up with innovative ideas on attack to undo this aggressive defence.

      • Columnist

        February 21st 2018 @ 6:38am
        Nicholas Bishop said | February 21st 2018 @ 6:38am | ! Report

        What more could one want than ‘little rugby pixies dancing in my phone’ eh KK? 😀

        Totally agree that the new ideas department is severely compromised by Wayne Smith’s absence – best rugby thinker of the pro era…

      • Columnist

        February 21st 2018 @ 6:38am
        Nicholas Bishop said | February 21st 2018 @ 6:38am | ! Report

        What more could one want than ‘little rugby pixies dancing in my phone’ eh KK? 😀

        Totally agree that the new ideas department is severely compromised by Wayne Smith’s absence – best rugby thinker of the pro era…

    • February 21st 2018 @ 6:27am
      mzilikazi said | February 21st 2018 @ 6:27am | ! Report

      Really interesting article, Nic. And a great discussion to follow with the South African’s. Thanks.

      • Columnist

        February 21st 2018 @ 6:41am
        Nicholas Bishop said | February 21st 2018 @ 6:41am | ! Report

        Thanks MZ – don’t know why the topic has become ‘South African’ – perhaps it is because South Africa always used to produce the best full-backs in the world game?

        • Roar Guru

          February 21st 2018 @ 6:48am
          Corne Van Vuuren said | February 21st 2018 @ 6:48am | ! Report

          The South African flavour is because the Aussies are all still sleeping ?

          • Columnist

            February 21st 2018 @ 7:35am
            Nicholas Bishop said | February 21st 2018 @ 7:35am | ! Report

            Now that I’ve mentioned Springbok full-backs I cannot help but go ahead with….. Andre Joubert, HO deVilliers, Gys Pienaar. Enough said.

            • Roar Guru

              February 21st 2018 @ 7:38am
              Corne Van Vuuren said | February 21st 2018 @ 7:38am | ! Report

              Gysie was a legend, had little opportunity to play for SA, but he got his chance in 1986 against the Cavaliers. By memory Jaco Reinach scored a majestic try against them down the line.

            • February 21st 2018 @ 7:51am
              riddler said | February 21st 2018 @ 7:51am | ! Report

              nick i am going to being a complete prat now,, had a few so that’s my excuse..

              played a few games against the rolls royce.. great guy… swapped jerseys… his jersey and a few others that i managed to swindle by chance over those long gone years will be with me till i die..

              great memories of this great game..

              • Columnist

                February 21st 2018 @ 8:21am
                Nicholas Bishop said | February 21st 2018 @ 8:21am | ! Report

                Aye to that Riddler…

            • February 21st 2018 @ 11:13am
              mzilikazi said | February 21st 2018 @ 11:13am | ! Report

              Gysie….Ruan ‘s father. Gets me thinking about Ulster…..not good !

              Good Leinster result on the weekend there, Nic.

              • Columnist

                February 21st 2018 @ 5:27pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | February 21st 2018 @ 5:27pm | ! Report

                Yes needed to put a marker down against Scarlets (who won pretty convincingly in last year’s Poro 12 playoffs) even if a lot of top names were missing.

                And yes was thinking about this the other day – Gys and Ruan, the two Schalks, even Pieter-Steph du Toit and his Grandad Piet du Toit! Even in the pro era, rugby seems to run in families!

        • February 21st 2018 @ 6:56am
          mzilikazi said | February 21st 2018 @ 6:56am | ! Report

          Probably a bit to do with the fact that the Australians are all still asleep, and have not weighed in yet. Mind you the New Zealanders are up and about. They will pitch in soon, I’m sure.

          You know all these religious types who predict the end of the world on a specific day ? They will not ever get it right….because it is already tomorrow in New Zealand !!

          Those guys are always ahead of the rest of the world !! Especially where rugby is concerned!!

          • Roar Guru

            February 21st 2018 @ 7:04am
            Kia Kaha said | February 21st 2018 @ 7:04am | ! Report

            Some of them have been sent back in time to report on current events to the future. You can’t rival that forward thinking. 😉

    • February 21st 2018 @ 7:04am
      Old One Eye said | February 21st 2018 @ 7:04am | ! Report

      Hi Nick. I always enjoy your analysis pieces but can I ask you to pull out your crystal ball (no double entendres please) regarding the new breakdown laws? Do you think the result will be less defenders going into the breakdown or perhaps could things go very old school and encourage more to commit in an attempt to drive over the top of the tackled player? Maybe not quite rucking but more like an old fashioned ruck. It seems to me that the “new” rule to let go with the hands as soon as a player from both sides has engaged (AKA forming a ruck) is just how the game was played some decades ago before the advent of the true jackle and the forwards would attend the breakdown en mass hoping to secure a turnover by driving forward over the ball. Maybe the modern game is too fast for that?

      • Columnist

        February 21st 2018 @ 7:40am
        Nicholas Bishop said | February 21st 2018 @ 7:40am | ! Report

        Hi OOE. I’ve written a few articles about this lately – here is the last one:

        I don’t see any signs of a return to old-style rucking at all, tacklers are simply breaking off into the defensive pattern without getting absorbed into the breakdown. Highly unusual now for more than three defenders to commit to any single ruck!

        • February 21st 2018 @ 9:53am
          Old One Eye said | February 21st 2018 @ 9:53am | ! Report

          Thanks Nick. I have my suspicions that as always, the law of unexpected consequences will come into play and maybe some novel approaches to the breakdown. I’m hoping that we don’t enter an era of constantly uncontested rucks and endless phases.

          • Columnist

            February 21st 2018 @ 5:28pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | February 21st 2018 @ 5:28pm | ! Report

            SR season will be interesting litmus test OOE. I’m sure there will be new plans to exploit the laws on both sides – will keep you posted!

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