Brian Smith's Analysis - A Work In Progress - Green and Gold Rugby

Brian Smith’s Analysis – A Work In Progress

Brian Smith’s Analysis – A Work In Progress

Something to Build On

The Wallabies draw with South Africa was not a brilliant performance, but the result has helped steady the ship after losing both test matches v New Zealand in the opening two rounds of the Rugby Championship.

Draws are never easy for players, supporters or coaches to get their heads around because we’re all hard wired to win. However, a draw is definitely better than a loss and, if nothing else, this result in Perth is something for the Wallabies to build on.

In this column we’re going to look at the four tries scored and put some detail around the execution.

The Turnover Tries

After a tough week for Australian Rugby things did not start that well for the Wallabies. They were inaccurate at the breakdown and the Springboks took advantage of some poor clean-out work to post the first try of the match.

It has to be said that Israel Folau usually dominates the collision when he carries into contact but the dominant tackle from the big South African Lock, Pieter-Steph du Toit was the main reason for the loss of possession.

If you focus on the work he does immediately after the tackle you’ll see a terrific second effort to counter ruck and force the turnover. You can coach many things but desire comes from deep within. This is a great clip for any schoolboys locks to learn from.

The Wallabies response to conceding the first try was excellent. They used a short kick off to win the ball in an effort to strike back immediately having conceded points.

This is an area of the game that all good teams are working hard on. We all know that the try scoring teams can relax having posted a try and are vulnerable to a counter punch. This is exactly what happened for the second try.

The Wallabies nailed the restart with Bernard Foley chipping a perfect kick to Folau and the Wallabies steamed ahead in support with Adam Coleman and company. From the quick ruck ball it really looked like the Wallabies would score in the left corner as the Springboks had only one defender outside of the far goal-post.

However, with Michael Hooper indicating late for Will Genia to pass behind him to Folau, things got messy. That’s when Kurtley Beale’s instincts took over. He realised Folau was not expecting the pass from Genia, so he turned and mopped it up. What happened next was pure genius as Beale waved the ball in two hands, mesmerising the Springbok defence and scoring one of the best individual tries we’ve seen so far in the Rugby Championship. He’s a class act and we’re lucky to have him back in the Gold jersey.

The Drive Tries

The Wallabies were the first to strike after the break and they did so with a well taken drive from a lineout 5m from the Springbok try line. At this close range it’s unusual for test teams to contest in the air but the South Africans did so and their lack of respect for the Wallaby pack cost them.

You will notice that Eben Etzebeth is lifted at the front of the lineout and the Wallabies win the ball well behind him. The effect of Etzebeth contesting at the front of the lineout meant the Springboks lost three forwards (Etzebeth and both props) from the drive contest. Even when Etzebeth attempts to join the drive he is pinned to the side of the maul by Conrad Oosthuizen and their joint effort spins and propels the Wallabies drive through what is left of the the Springbok pack.

Going forward I think the Springboks will all stay on the ground to defend the Wallabies drives when they are 5m from their own line.

The Springboks scored the next drive try in response to the Wallabies effort and it was Eben Etzebeth that won the ball and set the foundation for their drive. The Wallabies kept all their forwards on the ground despite the fact that they were 20m from their own try line but, even with all hands to the pump, they could not stop the Springbok drive.

Against such a big pack it’s surprising the Wallabies didn’t try and sack Etzebeth as he landed. Once the South African pack got set they were perfect in the execution.  All of the Springbok forwards had great body shape and they were all square to the try line. Again, perfect technique to show any schoolboy (or schoolgirl) forward pack.

One Last Thing

The Wallabies have struggled for a long time at the scrum without Sekope Kepu at tight head and Tatafu Polotu-Nau at hooker. The Springboks certainly capitalised when Sekope Kepu was replaced.

In this last clip you’ll see the Springbok back-up loose head, Steven Kitshoff, build enormous pressure on Allan Alaalatoa and win a potential match-winning penalty for South Africa.

It can be a very unforgiving place in the front row in test match rugby. Tight heads have a massive job on their hands to contain destructive loose heads. The next test for the Wallabies won’t get any easier, as they go head-to-head with the Pumas who always have some of the best scrummagers in world rugby.

The young Wallaby back-up props need to learn fast. They have a great coach in Mario Ledesma, but we are currently vulnerable at scrum time when Polota-Nau and Kepu are not scrummaging together. This is usually at the back end of games when the bench are expected to finish the job.

It’s a coaching challenge for Michael Cheika and Mario Ladesma. Young props take time to grow, and international coaches are expected to get results.

  • jay-c

    Interesting to note the Beale knockers have been have been pretty quiet the last few weeks.
    Beale has been by far the best wallaby player across the three games. Indeed, we are lucky to have him in gold

    • muffy

      My names Muffy and I am a Beale knocker.

      It’s been ome month since my last Beale knock.

      This is a Kurtly we have not seen, the complete package. He’s had defensive and positional shortcomings that were there for all to see… but he has without doubt fixed those while overseas. Secondly, what ever they fed him over there needs to be in every wallabies diet… he has put on some excellent bulk.

      Additionally the Dickhead Beale (possibly influenced by others) does not seem to be there… he has a track record (ask Di and Link) of being a prat. That’s the stuff he gets knocked on for mostly…

      It’s early days, but if he has been cured of some dickheadery then I will be in the Beale camp.

      That he is an exciting player is without question.

    • hasto

      Beale is killing it, and it is bloody fantastic to see!

    • Gun

      Very true, I’ve knocked him over the years, mostly about defence and taking high kicks but he is very good now.

    • Interesting that the Poms could fix his defence in one season and Aus rugby couldn’t fix it in a decade or more!

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        Maybe a few others could go over there for a season

        • Adrian

          Skelton is, has..

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Yeah, although he didn’t really hit the ground running at Super level. Maybe big forwards take 2 seasons to get going properly

        • Adrian

          He “won” a few team of the week spots early this year before injury.
          He’ll be back early 2019, and pressure Cheika to pick him in WC… maybe….I think they may have had a minor falling out

        • jay-c

          the truth I think, is that he realised, that playing over there made him a better player.
          Far superior coaching as well as s&c
          He’s also young enough to do it (and get better paid while he’s at it)

        • mikado

          Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…

        • Kiwi rugby lover


      • mikado

        Perhaps he’s just matured a bit? Good to see him playing well now though.

      • Who?

        And they fixed Skelton’s softness, too! If you don’t believe me, go back to the Tahs/Chiefs game and watch where he absolutely manhandled Brodie – half a dozen times! It’s the first year where I reckon Skelton’s selection could’ve been justified. He loved it so much, he went back. :-(

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      Mate I admit I am eating humble pie. He has been very very good. Personally I still think his best plays are when he has the space from broken play, such as that gem of a try he scored on Saturday. I’m still not convinced that you get the best out of him at 12, although at least there he can take the kicks so at least some make ground.

      Like Muffy I’m still on the line as we’ve all seen him go backwards in the past. Like a lot I’m really hoping he’s fully tuned the corner. Now can we send some others to the UK for a season so they come back better as well?

      • Adrian

        Agree 100% Kiwi re Beale.
        The advantage of having him at 12 (or 10☺️) is that he can orchestrate an unstructured counterattack from turnover ball, and also attack from broken play.
        My view is that against good defences, the best way to score is via unscripted play, not structured moves…. provided you have the players. Beale is such a player

        • I suspect two things happened for him at Wasps. One was that he wasn’t around a load of people telling him he was a superstar and could do no wrong – Dai Young compliments players, but rips into them, whoever they are, and gets the best out of some real prima donnas (like Cipriani) so handling Beale is easy. Second was that whoever all the mates supporting and enabling the bad behaviour were stayed at home. Now he’s back in Australia, lets hope he doesn’t hook up with them again…

          But he has come back much better, although at Wasps he mostly played at 13, outside Cipriani and Gopperth I think, with some time at 15 too, although Willie Le Roux was mostly their 15. But they did shuffle players around a bit with injuries etc. In the Wallabies line, he seems a better bet at 12 if they’re going to stick with Foley.

        • Braveheart81

          He played 12 and 15. 12 when Gopperth wasn’t playing there and 15 otherwise. Willie Le Roux then played on the wing. It was a pretty even split between the two. More 12 early in the season and finished the season at 15.

    • mikado

      Coleman has been excellent across the three games too. He and Beale have stood out above the rest.

      (In the debit column against Beale a bad defensive read at the end of Bled 1)

    • jamie

      Probably because he isn’t playing like shit, and hasn’t abused anyone recently.

      Hats off to him.

    • joy

      Yeh, and they have said exactly nothing about him crabbing across field!!!

  • MattyP

    The Bok scrum destroyed the Puma scrum in both games.

    Anyone else reckon the scrum is square and steady until Kitshoff seems to angle in and then it all goes to shit? That’s what I thought watching it live and the more I watch that clip it doesn’t get any better. I wish we could see it from the far side. That said, AAA needs to learn to deal with that.

    • Greg

      So the question is…. if it is so obvious to most of us…. why not to the refs? Their issue or are we missing something.

      • MattyP

        Well this ref, perhaps not all refs. If you ref to the “dominant scrum” theory that some seem to subscribe to, then this was fine. But in my view if a ref sees a wheeling scrum which leads to a collapse, the first question should be, why did it wheel? Did it get driven back on one side, or did they angle in and/or step around (i.e., weren’t driving square and straight).

        • Mikka

          That’s the problem with not having a dominant scrum. If you win one with the same boring in on an acute angle type tactics the other team use you will inevitably be penalised whereas ‘dominance’ usually gets you a free pass.

        • MattyP

          Completely agree – we’ve pretty much on the short end of the stick of this, with some notable exceptions (e.g. England in the last World Cup) since 2003.

      • jamie

        Because G. Jackson was a flyhalf. Have you seen Foley try to even make a clean out? That is why they don’t see it. Most were backs.

        • mikado

          Yep good line from the commentary team after Jackson told the packs to improve their scrummaging: “Spoken like a former fly-half.”

          That said, it seems like all the refs have been missing or ignoring boring in this year. The ABs do it a lot and get away with it.

        • jamie

          As a prop, half the time at scrum training is how to scrum, and how to cheat and get away with it. Everyone does it. It’s like Richie. He’s just so good at cheating

      • In this game it might just be that Jackson had a poor game. But I think, given it seems to be something that AAA “attracts” and the fans “see” and a number of referees, even ones that have much better games than Jackson, even N. Hemisphere referees, that there’s something else going on.

        Not necessarily all the time of course, but if the referees are seeing it not as the other prop boring in but as him buckling under the hit and pulling their shoulders in because AAA’s have moved, they’re going to look to penalise Australia more often than not. And if they get that picture in their head, when the other prop does bore in, if they weren’t looking closely (if something didn’t look right on the other side of the scrum say), they’ll assume AAA went first. Note that AAA doesn’t have to go “not square” for this, if his outside shoulder is going up/down or back in the hit or the second shove they might see him as pulling the other player around rather than it being the other player boring in. And it could be fast, subtle and hard to see on the TV.

        The referee generally has a much better view than we, as fans get, even with all the ref cams and so on, although even then they do miss stuff and make mistakes. And they most definitely let stuff go, in the scrum and elsewhere, if they decide “no impact” or if the ball is available for the scrum half to play or whatever. I disagree with Jackson’s definition of “available to the scrum half” which seems to be “anywhere out of the tunnel” although a part of me quite likes not seeing 100 scrum resets in a match and getting on with the play if the ball is there.

        • Who?

          Nick Bishop pointed out just how far Moody’s left leg was outside his body in his piece last week about the AB’s scrum and 7A’s woes against it. It’s not legal to bore, but most scrum tactics aren’t strictly legal. It’s a matter of how much you can get away with. Clearly Nigel missed Moody’s wild angles, but it’s also down to 7A’s needing to feel when the angle’s coming on, so he can drove through and split the opposing LHP off his hooker. If you’re boring in on a big angle, you can’t keep a tight bind. There’s risks and rewards with the tactic from opposition LHP’s, and 7A’s only giving them rewards, not demonstrating the risks – which Kepu has done more successfully.
          That said, Jackson is absolutely clueless at scrum time (because Sio did the same thing against SA that Kitshoff did, but he was the one penalized), so whilst I’m happy to say that 7A’s has some learning to do, I’m also not going to defend Jackson for his performance. Because there was hardly a stable scrum all night. He had props with shoulders engaged on ‘Bind’ (there should be a clear gap), the pressure was coming on ‘set’ (he didn’t require square and steady before the ball was fed), he FK’d the Bokke for an early shove twice in the first 5 minutes (the second FK for an early shove should, according to the GMG’s, be a penalty)… He just didn’t manage the scrum anywhere near well. That doesn’t let 7A’s off the hook, just means that this week’s not the easiest contest to use for data.

        • A leg out doesn’t make you bore in – you need to look at the position of the hips and shoulders. If they’re parallel to the try line and the spine is parallel to the side lines, even if your leg is out to the side, you’re not boring in.

          There’s a biomechanical argument, in fact, that putting your leg out to the side can help keep your back straight if you do it properly, since the forces on the loosehead are basically asymmetrical and on one shoulder but not the other and forcing him (or her, but we’re talking about Moody’s technique here) out to the side. The leg out will counteract that and help keep him straight.

          Having his leg out will certainly make it easier, if he decides to, to swing his hips over so he’s got a big angle with his hips out and he is boring in, and if the lock isn’t doing his job properly and the front row starts to splinter it might mean he’s more likely to swing over like that than if his legs were closer together.

          I would guess Moody’s technique helps him legally bind tighter and push forwards and slightly in on the head without boring in (keeping his shoulder, spine and hips properly aligned). If the opposing tighthead has a suspect technique, or if the 5 does, since he pushes behind the 3, then the scrum could well be in a lot of trouble without the referee ever seeing anything to alert them. If the opposing 3 and 5 are strong, good scrummagers, they might feel a bit uncomfortable compared to other scrummagers but (as Argentina generally did against him) he doesn’t exert massive influence.

        • Who?

          Agreed that a leg out doesn’t FORCE you to bore in, but it certainly assists with boring in if that’s the goal. If you look at the direction the scrum has consistently folded with 7A’s at THP, it’s consistently been him folding inward, as if driven from the outside.
          And whilst a leg out sideways doesn’t force you to bore in, it does split your flanker off your lock, and gives them less to push against. This is a key consideration – if you’re just looking at the biomechanics of the prop in isolation, then sure, throw your leg out wide and you can push straight. But if you’re considering the back five…
          Further, ‘the lock doing the lock’s job properly’ in this age of pod scrums (i.e. 3 + 3 + Hooker + 8, as opposed to an 8 man shove (which the Argentines still attempt, albeit by boring in from both sides equally) does see some pretty loose binds between locks. It doesn’t mean the lock’s not doing the job properly – the lock’s job is to support his prop where the prop wants to drive, not necessarily to ensure that the scrum drives straight…
          I’m more than happy to say that 7A’s has a technical issue he needs to address (I’ve said it in every post). I don’t think that either Simmons or Coleman should be impuned for the scrum’s deficiencies when 7A’s has been present rather than Kepu. That’s not to say I want 7A’s gone, it just means that Mario’s got some work to do.
          Seriously, defending an All Black against claims that perhaps they aren’t angels?! Isn’t that enough to get you booted off this site? :-P :-)

        • I said it doesn’t necessarily make him bore in AND that it makes it easier for him to bore in if he wants to. That’s a curious definition of defending him!

          Perhaps locking has changed in the decades since I played, and I didn’t write it very well, I was thinking of the lock doing his job more in a scrum that’s not going so well. I was taught that the locks bind together and bind the props in to the hooker at the hips, while the hooker and the props bind together at the shoulders. It doesn’t work if the scrum starts going back a long way or fast, but if their scrum is somewhat dominant and takes a step or two over the ball the tight five can remain coherent and in the right shape, and that’s down to the locks doing their job as well as the front row holding it together.

    • Mica

      To me (from the angle provided) it looks like Coenie angles in on Taf and this essentially takes Taf out of the scrum. Once he is underneath Taf and drives up it’s all over red rover for the front row. This is why I think you see Coenie’s pumped up reaction at the end of the scrum. Great attacking THP play (if you can get away with it). I note this happens in front of Jackson too, but what does a flyhalf know about scrums? A rhetorical question? (x 2 actually).

      I think that Sio needs to tighten that bind with Taf and attack the right shoulder/torso of Coenie and try and drive hard into his opposite to help Taf out. I am guessing that to do this he really needs some effective weight coming through from Simmons and Hooper. Any grizzled props out there care to comment?

  • Greg

    Thanks Brian. Much appreciated.

    In the first clip where Folau is turned over, I always wonder how he would go if he stopped the crabbing and/or hop step to get going.

    What about full bore and then step them and or take the impact and spin? He is a big boy.

    • juswal

      Is there anyone else in Test rugby who runs *slowly* towards the defenders? Izzy, take a lesson from Damien McKenzie: go fast, with a curve and a swerve.

    • Brian Smith

      Hi Greg,
      I agree with you…I think all the backs should drink the same coffee as Kurtley…he’s electric right now…sometimes that can be infectious.

      • Garry

        One on my criticisms of Foley is his poor game management, (and ability to close out a match). When that breakout was on, it was obvious to everybody that the next play should have been a try in the opposite corner. So where was Foley (where’s Wally?). A second grade flyhalf should be able to take advantage of the broken defense.
        The WB’s feel like a team playing without a flyhalf, and without a fetcher. Cheika keeps selecting this, so it’s hard to feel sorry for him.

  • Adrian

    Good analysis Brian

    Yes, I tend to agree that we are a “work in progress”

    We seem however, to make some progress in the areas we work on, then slip back in the areas we worked on last week/month/year.

    If we can beef up our ruck presence, and do intensive work on the scrum, whilst at the same time continuing to practice our defence pattern and execution, we should beat Argentina.

    Last week, bookies had us winning by 2.5 or 7.5, depending on the bookie. I imagine we’ll be favourites by something like 7.5 this week, but really, if we don’t win by 15, we are off the pace.

    My thinking is that we must
    1. Get scrum better, especially for finishers. If necessary try an alternative THP, and switch Alaalatoa to LHP on bench.
    2. Toughen up our rucks. I think McMahon might be injured, so I’d put Timani there. I’d rest Hannigan, and use a bigger guy, even if it’s a lock. Ditto the bench backrower.
    3. Give Beale licence to ad lib a bit, and occasionally stand at 5/8
    4. If Genia is just meandering get him off early. If he’s on-fire, leave him on for 80.

    We should have a philosophy of putting them to the sword in the last 20, …but we shouldn’t tell the players until then

    • mikado

      I’m not wild about the phrase “work in progress”. Every team is a work in progress. The frustrating thing about the WBs is that they don’t seem to be making forwards progress right now.

      I think the scrum will go ok vs Argentina. The defence needs to improve (the apparently better showing vs SA was flattered by the absence of ambition and creativity shown by the Boks). Amazingly (to me) the passing needs to improve too.

      • joy

        If the last two games wasn’t progress what was it?

  • Chiller

    Thanks for the analysis Brian. Great insights.


Hopes to play David Pocock in the inevitable biopic. Lifelong fan of whoever Jarrad Hayne is currently playing for.

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