Le Roux deserves full backing
I believe that the game of rugby can and should be played in various ways. If all the top teams were to adopt the self-same tactics, the oval game would certainly be very boring.
While I’m of the view that each team should possess a unique playing style and identity, just as importantly, players need to be coached in such a way that they are able to adapt and back their skills in various match situations.
Having narrowly avoided defeat in Mendoza, Heyneke Meyer is likely to revert to the conservative route. For me, he is not a coach that likes to take risks. The impending selection of Zane Kirchner at fullback serves as a fitting example.
Tactically, while Kirchner may be better under the high ball and a safer option defensively than Willie le Roux, the former’s selection at fullback would certainly limit the Boks on both attack and counter-attack.
Kirchner is far too predictable when he attacks from fullback. After gathering the high ball, his natural inclination is to run a few meters before kicking the ball into the air and ultimately back to the opposition.
While Kirchner is certainly not the only culprit, I am astounded by the high volume of senseless kicking which our sides are guilty of. It has become like watching a tennis match or aerial pin-pong, which for me, is not what rugby should be about.
While tactical kicking, as the All Blacks have shown, can prove effective if executed efficiently, I believe rugby should primarily be about the duel between attack and defence.
I would retain Le Roux’s services at fullback owing to the fact he creates uncertainty within the opposition’s defence. While he will make mistakes, as evidenced in the Mendoza test, he will create more positive than negative play.
In the early stages of his Bok career, he has displayed touches of brilliance with inventive running lines and bullet passing proving his trademarks.
Furthermore, having played at flyhalf earlier in his career, he possesses the tactical nous required to slot in at first receiver, which offers the Boks more deception on attack.
While Le Roux is talented enough to fulfil any position in the backline, I would advise against selecting him on the wing as it will stifle his attacking threat.
As both Bryan Habana and Bjorn Basson can attest, when the Boks employ the ‘Bulls blueprint’ they become frustrated bystanders on the respective wings.
In fact, I expect Australia to target South Africa’s wingers on Saturday. Both Habana and Basson have frailties within their defensive make-up.
Habana defends from the outside in a lot. The Wallabies will be aware of this and, as such, will employ tactics to draw him inwards, away from the outside channel, so that they can attack that channel with numbers.
Basson on the other hand is often caught out of position. Pacy wingers such as Basson believe that they can rectify poor positioning on defence with their natural speed. However, I can tell you that this does not work.
Most of the time, Basson finds himself in no man’s land. He is either caught positioned too deep for a kick or too flat to defend with the rest of his backline. This is a dangerous tactic as it’s easy for attackers to manipulate such a defender.
While the Wallabies will attempt to expose the Bok wingers on defence, this does not mean the home side will play wide all the time.
This type of attack can be launched from first phase or from phase ball on the open or short side. Alternatively, the Wallabies can probe that part of the field with tactical kicking.
Aside from the tactical nuances, this match will be underlined by aggressive ball-carries, big hits by forwards and missile-type clean outs at ruck time.
Dangerous play in this department, which I term legal thuggery, is not being controlled effectively by the referees.
If a player so much as touches an attacker on his collar in an attempt to make a tackle, the referee and his assistants, point it out immediately.
However, players flying into static rucks with shoulders onto the necks of opponents are overlooked. This should never be allowed. It’s dangerous and not even the strongest players in world rugby can move a static ruck when players are lying on the ground.
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