The Unwrap: Who will miss the most tackles this season?

Harry Jones Roar Guru

By Harry Jones, Harry Jones is a Roar Guru

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    It’s not easy to repeat as the missed tackle champion of Super Rugby.

    Usually, coaches drop you. Or you learn to tackle. Or the defensive coach is replaced.

    Missing a lot of tackles – so many that you the leader in misses – requires several conditions, most of them rare.

    First, you have to play a lot of minutes.

    Last year, Raymond Rhule led Super Rugby and the Rugby Championship in missed tackles. He missed 38 tackles as a Cheetahs winger.

    That’s not abysmal in and of itself. Pieter-Steph du Toit also missed 38 times as a Stormer, but the big lock-flank also completed almost 150 tackles (Rhule only managed about 70 successful stops). PSDT’s 30 “dominant” tackles were only exceeded by star smashers Liam Messam, Michael Hooper, and Siya Kolisi, events which turn games, create turnovers, and lift your team.

    None of that happens when Rhule tackles.

    He just misses.

    I’m not bashing him – the player – for being selected as a Springbok and a Stormer.

    A player wants to play. He brings his flaws with him. Rhule looks like a guy who could learn to tackle. He’s quick, laterally as well as straightaway. He’s not afraid. I’ve seen him put his head in front of Liam Squire’s high-pumping knees. He’s built strong. He has very quick reactions.

    But it’s not really working. Yes, he breaks the line on offence. But he’s missing 38 per cent of his attempts to tackle this season. Last year, he missed ‘only’ 35 per cent.

    Let’s compare that efficacy to the tackle production of the best tackler in Super Rugby over the last decade: the Sunwolves’ steal, Lappies Labuschagne. Lappies has led the total season tackle count several times, yet misses fewer than ten tackles per year. This season Lappies is in the top five top tacklers again, even only having played three games, and has missed only one tackle.

    A digression: to lead the competition in missing tackles, it helps to play on a team which has to make a lot of tackles. My Stormers are a good choice for Rhule.

    A club coach has to find the best way to work on those flaws with a willing player.

    I’m less sympathetic to the national selectors or the club administrators who keep picking Rhule.

    And my Stormers are guaranteeing the opposition a good look at two or three tries every round when Rhule is on the wing.

    Of the fourteen missed tackles this season, six tries and three penalties resulted.

    Also, Rhule’s teammates expect him to miss, so the cover defence shouts ‘Rhule!’ The umbrella springs into operation. Nizaam Carr, a particularly hard tackler, is racking up big hits by being the ‘second tackler’ after Rhule’s misses.

    Rhule does not miss tackles in exactly one way.

    He has several styles.

    First, the premature dive. When Rhule does this, he goes subterranean at the boots of a big opponent before the man has even started to step.

    This might confuse some, but usually they just politely lope around the prostrate matador.

    Second, there’s the over-exuberant Muay Thai clinch. Here, Rhule hugs the carrier, but is punched over in a heap.

    Third, Rhule adopts a perfect replica of a Labuschagne hit, but misses by a metre, and he looks up as the opposite winger scores, bemused. He typically shakes his head after the “swing-and-a-miss” as if Dale Steyn just bamboozled him with pace. But he’s usually the fastest player on the pitch.

    Fourth, he’s fended. Rhule is easily fended. It’s possible someone has failed to inform him he is allowed to counter-fend. He is a very nice guy, so maybe he is actually just not offended by a fend. I was always an especially nasty and truculent player; to me, a fend was an invitation to fight. Not for Rhule. He seems to nod after he eats a hand sandwich, as if to say ‘tasty.’

    Finally, Rhule misses some tackles because he’s too fast. That’s never been Lappies’ problem. Lappies crowds a ball carrier because he knows if the guy gets past him, he’s gone. Rhule knows he can catch everyone except Beauden Barrett and Courtnall Skosan, so he uses the Milnerton Matador move, and then chases. But then, as he looks at Ben Smith’s boots, he is hypnotised. He does not even attempt an ankle tap.

    Rhule may need to add a few new ways to miss. He faces a real threat: Johnny Faauli, a midfielder for the Chiefs. Faauli has missed as many tackles as Rhule this year, in about half the minutes. Faauli has missed a staggering 42 per cent of his tackles. But as he plays for a Kiwi team, he will fix that or be benched.

    So, maybe Rhule’s streak is safe.

    His Bok career is likely over, but his Stormers coach seems to still like to play Raymond Roulette.

    As a long-suffering Western Province man, this is a new source of misery.

    Stay tuned.

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    The Crowd Says (93)

    • Columnist

      March 19th 2018 @ 8:11am
      Geoff Parkes said | March 19th 2018 @ 8:11am | ! Report

      That could easily have been a bash-a-thon Harry but great credit to you for being far more nuanced.

      Stormers v Tahs would be interesting. Would Fleck be entertaining enough to switch RR to the right side just so we can all see how he handles Naiyarovoro?

      • Roar Guru

        March 19th 2018 @ 8:24am
        Harry Jones said | March 19th 2018 @ 8:24am | ! Report

        I’ll ask Fleckie. Maybe Naiyaravoro will get tired after his hat trick, and Raymond can get a few back. Nobody denies Rhule is good on attack.

        • Roar Guru

          March 19th 2018 @ 8:40am
          Harry Jones said | March 19th 2018 @ 8:40am | ! Report

          Fleckie believes in RR, Dr P.

          After missing 38 SR tackles and 18 RC tackles in 2017, RR was sought out by the WP “brain trust.”

          Eben Etzebeth has not missed 56 tackles in his entire career.

          • Roar Guru

            March 19th 2018 @ 8:43am
            Harry Jones said | March 19th 2018 @ 8:43am | ! Report

            Take 2015 for an example:

            Missed tackles by EE:

            – SR: 1
            – RC: 1

            And he was in the top 5 for tackles made.

            You have to take pride in the “tackles you don’t miss.”

    • March 19th 2018 @ 8:15am
      Highlander said | March 19th 2018 @ 8:15am | ! Report

      You really aren’t going to let this one go are you Harry, poor old Raymond will be seeing you around every corner.

      To compound his defensive issues, int he recent game at Forsyth Barr Stadium your guys insisted on sending contestabke kicks out to Rhules wing where he was up against Naholo, I think we scored 2 direct from that, not tactically very smart really.

      • Roar Guru

        March 19th 2018 @ 8:22am
        Harry Jones said | March 19th 2018 @ 8:22am | ! Report

        Haha! No, I won’t. I always loved seeing Rhule for the Cheetahs when we played them: I think even Robbie Fleck knew to aim our simplistic attack at that side of the pitch. The weirdest thing is we went out and GOT a player who cannot tackle. We have plenty of guys who can.

        • March 19th 2018 @ 5:58pm
          cuw said | March 19th 2018 @ 5:58pm | ! Report

          CHESLIN KOLBE – not as big or pacy , but can tackle and catch a high ball.

          so much in the DMAC mould…..

          • Roar Guru

            March 19th 2018 @ 11:29pm
            Harry Jones said | March 19th 2018 @ 11:29pm | ! Report

            Kolbe was named the Top 14’s best buy.

            I’d say he was Stormers’ worst “sell.”

    • Roar Guru

      March 19th 2018 @ 8:24am
      biltongbek said | March 19th 2018 @ 8:24am | ! Report

      Third, Rhule adopts a perfect replica of a Labuschagne hit, but misses by a metre, and he looks up as the opposite winger scores, bemused

      😂

      I don’t think Rhule is a particularly exciting finisher either. Comparing Dyanti’s Skills in finishing show Rhule up.

      • Roar Guru

        March 19th 2018 @ 8:25am
        biltongbek said | March 19th 2018 @ 8:25am | ! Report

        Harry you forgot to mention the moments when Rhule is simply out of position, and not available to tackle

        • Roar Guru

          March 19th 2018 @ 8:31am
          Harry Jones said | March 19th 2018 @ 8:31am | ! Report

          Hahaha I know. If it wasn’t my team, I’d find it really hilarious.

          I was watching this weekend to see if other players compensate for RR’s poor positioning. Sure enough!!!! I saw Nizaam (isn’t he a smart rugby player?) shadowing RR’s channel. Jeez!!! Rugby is hard enough when you have to focus on your own job…

          • March 19th 2018 @ 4:43pm
            cuw said | March 19th 2018 @ 4:43pm | ! Report

            isnt it strange that CARR has gone up a notch after his stint with WASPS?

            i mean most peeps here like to say how rubbish Aviva ( and Europe in general) is when it comes to skills and competition ? 🙂

            u will have a hard time keeping NC , once his contract is up – Wasps have the cash , then need to replace Haskell ;P

    • March 19th 2018 @ 8:33am
      bigbaz said | March 19th 2018 @ 8:33am | ! Report

      Forget Rhule, I miss a lot of tackles when I go to the fridge for a refreshment, miss a few conversions and trys as well. I’ve got him covered.

      • Roar Guru

        March 19th 2018 @ 8:36am
        Harry Jones said | March 19th 2018 @ 8:36am | ! Report

        Best refreshment during rugby on TV?

        Would it include avo?

        I like to snack on the spiciest chips I can find, washed down with amber beer.

        • March 19th 2018 @ 9:01am
          bigbaz said | March 19th 2018 @ 9:01am | ! Report

          Makers on ice and corn chips, probably an article there somewhere.

          • Roar Guru

            March 19th 2018 @ 12:51pm
            Harry Jones said | March 19th 2018 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

            Any superstitions on snacks?

    • Roar Guru

      March 19th 2018 @ 8:43am
      Diggercane said | March 19th 2018 @ 8:43am | ! Report

      Poor Raymond 🙂 but well written. Thanks Mr Jones.

    • March 19th 2018 @ 9:18am
      Ken Catchpole’s Other Leg said | March 19th 2018 @ 9:18am | ! Report

      Poor Raymond.
      You are tough on the guy, Harry.
      Wing is a difficult position to defend in. After half a dozen articles on the subject of your team’s selection of a matador for a finisher, we are getting a picture of some disagreement with your coach, no? How many articles written before this is classified as an obsession?😉

      In another direction, could you pretend to be a Wallaby fan and write about how some players end up in our team without core skills for the position?
      Tight Fives without tightness. Props without propping. Playmakers who don’t make plays.?

      • Roar Guru

        March 19th 2018 @ 12:53pm
        Harry Jones said | March 19th 2018 @ 12:53pm | ! Report

        Just call them your Loose Five, your Pops, and your Undermakers!

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