Brian Smith's Analysis - Playmakers - Green and Gold Rugby

Brian Smith’s Analysis – Playmakers

Brian Smith’s Analysis – Playmakers

In recent times much has been made about the Wallabies and their traditional playmakers at numbers 10 and 12. However, with the World Cup fast approaching it might be more appropriate to look at the playmaking ability of the number 9s.

Over the weekend all of the scrum halves in The Rugby Championship played a major hand in their team’s attack. It seems attacking shape and structure is so last season and playing direct off the playmaker halfback is so now. Here are a few clips to illustrate the impact the 9s had in the two Test Matches.

Springboks v Wallabies

The 23 year old Herschal Jantjies from the Stormers made a stunning test debut scoring two excellent tries both featured below.

For the first try he passed to the overloaded Springbok’s right edge and supported the linebreak running a perfect scrum half support line. His second effort was a sneaky scoot down the blind side. A perfect eyes up play that paid off handsomely. Both tries suggest the Springboks have plenty of depth at scrum half.

Remember there are already 15 Springboks in New Zealand preparing for their next contest. In effect this was a back up Springbok team.



Both Wallaby halfbacks also had an impact on their team’s much anticipated new attack strategy.

First it was Nick White launching Samu Kerevi off the back of a Wallaby maul before getting a return offload in order to link up with the Wallaby outside backs. This direct play off the playmaker halfback was replicated again later in the match with Will Genia getting a great pop ball from Matt To’omua, allowing him to launch Kurtley Beale through the scrambling Springbok defence line. Beale’s offload is a screamer, one for the ages.

The Wallabies will be very pleased with the outcome of their new attacking strategy. It’s very much like the way Eddie Jones and his England team played early in his tenure.



Pumas v All Blacks

In Buenos Aires the All Blacks rested a number of Crusaders players but Aaron Smith from the Highlanders played and left his mark on this Test Match. Usually teams winning a penalty close to the opposition try line slow things down and opt for a lineout or scrum.

However, the Crusaders and now the All Blacks are choosing to pile on the pressure via lifting the tempo. Clearly their halfbacks have licence to tap and go in these situations. Against the Pumas, Aaron Smith makes a brave but good decision to tap and the rampaging 22 year old from the Hurricanes, Ngani Laumape gets the job done.



It would appear that the traditional Wallaby backline including ball players at number 10 and 12 is a thing of the past. The ball playing 12 has been replaced by a power centre with the halfback now expected to be a running playmaker. The attack strategy appears to be shifting away from using shape and structure to create opportunities.

Instead the Wallabies are looking to be more direct off a playmaking halfback before they release the ball to the edges. There were promising signs that the new attack plan was effective in Johannesburg. It will be interesting to see if they can build on their last attacking effort when they face the Pumas in Brisbane.

  • sambo6

    Brian you have cleverly focused on a narrow issue to avoid stating the bleeding obvious about the current state of this team.

    Your columns have always been very diplomatic in that way. I sense you do not want to to be too critical of fellow coaches.

    But its okay, GAGR is a safe space for telling it like it is…..come on down to our level Brian….the water’s fine….

    • Brian Smith

      Fair enough mate I understand what you’re saying but the column is more about a perspective on coachable aspects of a performance. There are plenty of columns focusing on the big picture and the result. I’d like young players & coaches to look at the technical and tactical things that might also be relevant for them and their team. Happy to drink the water with you…

      • sambo6

        Thanks Brian. I should add, fully appreciate the columns you do submit. Always an insightful read.

        Fair enough that you can leave the ranting the rest of us;)

  • Andrew Luscombe

    Interesting article. Thanks.

  • Joe Carbery

    Jantjies is a grand player and an exciting find. However, his second try was a gift, courtesy of Haylett-Petty neglecting a basic defensive task and leaving him a clear run to the goal-line.

    • Bobas

      I really do not know what he could possibly be thinking with that ruck involvement…

      • From NooZealand

        Well, when a player (or team) does not have clear instructions (game plan), they try their best. Not defending anyone, just trying to understand H-P action(s) this and the bombed try.

  • Bobas
    • Jason

      But he’s pushing both buttons! :P

  • KingofDubai

    Your Analysis proves that we are lacking a fetcher at #7. Isnt this obvious to WB coaching staff? We have arguably the best fetcher in the world in Dave Pocock and yet he gets put to #8.

    Hooper has phenomenal work rate yes. But can’t he play #6? He plays so loose as if he was a #6 anyways. I can’t see WB winning matches by not being strong at the breakdown. Why is this so obvious to me and not the WB coaches/ selectors?

    Lastly, I want someone to explain to me the WB coaches approach towards the breakdown. If we are lacking a fetcher, does that mean we hang out, not commit to the ruck as much and try force a turn over from next phase from rush defence or holding the player up? I just want some answers if anyone can assist.

  • Jimmydubs

    “The Wallabies will be very pleased with the outcome of their new attacking strategy”

    I’m not so sure. The only things that worked seemed to be ‘give it to Kerevi’ and Beale slicing up tired giants. Forced passes to Bokke behind the gainline and one out nothingness seemed to make the majority of the rest of the moves.

    Maybe I’m jaded but I didnt see too much to be pleased about.

    With Foley at 10 as a shoveller, i dont think they’ll stick with the 2 big bashers at 12 and 13. Id guess 1 more week at most before we are back to a 2nd playmaker at 12.

    But then again I’d have Quade at 10 with the same Kerevi, Kurindrani centre combo.

    • Brian Smith

      Hi mate, I’m hearing your frustration and I agree with your feelings. However, if the attack changes it’s focus and you don’t get rewarded you’d be gutted as a coach. The Wallabies scored twice from their new “play off 9″ focus so the coaches and players know what they’re doing is effective. It’s a big shift away from the 1/3/3/1 structure of last season. The Kerevi offload and the Beale bust would not have happened last season. Our defence needs to keep teams below 20pts for us to improve our win %. Hope that explanation helps a bit. Brian

  • Huw Tindall

    Playing off 9 has been a trend a Super 2019 so not too surprised to see it continue. Guys like Powell and Phipps have been criticised for playing a traditional 9 role quick to the ruck and get the pass away ASAP rather than mixing it up with running snipes and that’s fair enough, 9 has evolved. Continued problem for the Wallabies is that for a 9 to play a varied attack they need good clean ball which is something we continue to struggle with as our offensive ruck cleanout and ball runner support has been pretty average. Seems you need 2 ruck monsters at the moment with someone in the front row or the 6/8 picking up that duty along with the 7. This would militate towards a guys like Latu and McCaffrey starting IMO. We need ball runners sure but we also need smart breakdown players.

    • Brian Smith

      Agreed…the Rebels had good success playing off 9 early in the season. We can expect to see more of this at the World Cup. You may recall the All Blacks reverted to these tactics against the very strong Lions defence.

  • Duncher

    Hang on, Ngani Laumape is 22?!?!?!?!?!?! FFS, he’s going to be good when he grows up

  • numpty

    Great writeup Brian. No doubt attack now seems to be commonly focused off the 9 to counteract rush defences which are also in vogue. This is also why alot of the play goes to the blindside now. I also agree that the WBs looked best when attacking from the 9. The problem was it was few and far between and didn’t seem to be their focus, instead trying to go around the rush. Knowing that White is good at this style of play, that the brumbies forwards employed it all season and so are familiar with it, and that Kerevi is also accustomed to running off the 9, the WBs should be leaning into it heavily.


Brian Smith is a rare breed who has both played and coached international rugby and doesn't mind telling it as he sees it. He's currently putting his Oxford degree to good use teaching Commerce and coaching rugby at the Scots College, Sydney.

More in Analysis