Sitaleki Timani – A Closer Look - Green and Gold Rugby Blog
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Sitaleki Timani – A Closer Look

Sitaleki Timani – A Closer Look

Prior to the third Test against Wales I expressed my surprise at the selection of Sitaleki Timani in the Wallabies starting side. 

My reasoning was that Timani hadn’t done enough in Super Rugby for the Waratahs or in the match against Scotland to justify his elevation from outside the 22 the week before to the starting side. I believe he was selected on potential, not performance.  I see him as a work in progress: he has good potential that needs to be developed, probably as a bench player in 2012.

Barbarian put together a video earlier in the week showing clips of 33 of his 42 involvements in the match – click here to see that video. Unfortunately with that many clips to show, you can only include a small grab of each involvement and that doesn’t allow you to really analyse performance.

When conducting player reviews with a player you’re coaching I think it’s important to show positives and areas where improvement could be made. There are plenty of positives to find in the video Barbarian put together — some of his breakdown involvements and tackles were good. His offloading is something that can provide good opportunities for any team he plays in.

So to add to Barbarian’s work I decided to take a closer look in the following video at the areas where I believe Timani can improve his game.

[youtube id=”RbTnT9-kZXw” width=”600″ height=”350″]

Having watched his performance closely to put that video together, my initial view on his selection in the starting side stands. I also don’t think a player rating of 6/10 was justified; for my money, 4/10 would be more accurate.

For 45 breakdowns of 140 in attack and defence I recorded Timani standing in effect out with the backs – that’s 32%.

There will be times when this is unavoidable based on what occurred the play before. For example, from a scrum on the right side of the field you certainly don’t want all your forwards rushing to a wide breakdown on the far left side because then you’ll leave yourself short if the opposition comes back over. Same when a player is involved in a breakdown on the right side of the field and then the ball is shifted wide to the left. It’s also not realistic to expect any player to be able to follow the ball for every breakdown during a game.

You’ll also see in the video that often there are other forwards wide with Timani. I don’t have a problem with forwards playing wide; in fact, I think it’s a necessary part of the modern game. With a much faster game and more structured defences a high percentage of attacking opportunities start from a kick return or turnover and you need to maintain width to take advantage of those wide opportunities and to be able to defend against them.

When forwards come out of a ruck they should reload straight back first, not automatically chase the ball across field, so that the team keeps width across the field in attack or defence. Then as the next phases occur the forwards need to work towards the ball. We’re not quite at the point of playing dedicated left and right side players but there is an element of that coming into the game.  he important thing for me is that forwards work towards the ball, not stay wide waiting for the ball to come to them.

It helps to have at least one forward staying wider in attack to bend the defensive line a little wider and help open up spaces for the backs, and in defence to help defend against opposition forwards who are stationed wide. The one forward who I believe should operate wider than the other forwards in both attack and defence is your number 6.  That’s a tactic that a lot of teams now use — think how Rocky Elsom and Scott Higginbotham play. I know that puts me at odds with Bob Dwyer, who is critical of Higginbotham playing in this way, but I believe this is the way the game is developing.

However, being wide on 32% of breakdowns during the game is far too high for a lock. I’m sure that when Bob Dwyer has a chance to give us his views on this game he’ll be horrified at how wide Timani was playing.

He can also be much more effective with his breakdown work.  Despite the SportsData statistics suggesting he had only three breakdown involvements, I recorded 20 occasions where he went into a breakdown. (Statistics can often leave you wondering what’s going on — in the same match SportsData recorded Timani as having played all 80 minutes and Simmons having not got on the field when in fact Simmons came on for Timani in the 72nd minute!) Of the 20 breakdowns I recorded Timani going into, I judged him effective in 11. Being effective at only 55% of breakdowns is well short of where he could be.

With James Horwill out for the season and no apparent chance of a return by Dan Vickerman, the Wallabies are short on locks for The Rugby Championship. It’s great that Nathan Sharpe has committed to the Wallabies for at least that tournament and he’ll be an automatic starter as long as he stays fit. We need another good lineout operator in the squad in case Sharpe gets injured so I expect Rob Simmons will be in the 22 for each game (even though in the past I’ve shown you problems in his game that have not been rectified, and I haven’t been short of criticism of his performances either).

It seems to me that Timani and Hugh Pyle are the candidates for the third lock spot. If Sharpe does retire after The Rugby Championship, the Wallabies’ Northern Tour will give us chances to see the other up and coming locks get some time in green and gold.

So I do think Timani should be the squad’s third lock at the moment. And once you’ve decided the three locks, the question becomes who should start alongside Sharpe. My opinion is that it should be Simmons, but no doubt there are plenty of others who’ll have a different view. And isn’t that the beauty of Green and Gold Rugby? We all get to have our say, even though it will make no difference whatsoever to what Robbie Deans does with his selections.

  • Swat

    Great work Scott. I’ve clearly been distracted quite a bit by the odd big cleanout. Will have to watch him much closer next time the tahs play.

    • The Rant

      yeah bloody hell. I was all for him but you got me pretty convinced…

  • Well done…and agree with Swat.will take more notice of his efforts next time for the Tahs..

  • RugbyNoddy

    Nice work Scott. I’ve never seen the worthiness of ST as a player that others have pronounced, seeing him only as an impact player. This was great analysis. Cheers. Would be good to compare to a Sharpie or Kev sometime.

  • johnny-boy

    Wow. Appalling really. Confirmed my suspicions he was lazy and green. Not that that worries Deans. The more potential wonder coach Deans thinks he can untap the better chance you have of getting in to the Wallabies and staying there until Deans finally realizes he can’t coach you to save his skin. Even better if you are starting off a really low base which means a little improvement looks all the more impressive …..
    It’s a pity and a puzzle why Simmons is not really progressing this year.
    Scott you are regularly embarassing the amateurishness of the Wallaby coaching ranks. You haven’t had any threatening phone calls from JON yet have you ? :)

  • Joe Mac

    Your best work in 2012 Scott. Thanks.

    I am very surprised by him in this video. After watching Barbarians video earlier in the week he had started to grow on me as a test player. Not sure anymore…

  • Barbarian

    Good analysis Scott.

    A part of me hopes this is an inexperience thing, and he will get much better once he plays a few more tests. But I’m not so sure.

    I am a big fan of Hugh Pyle but clearly he is on the outer with Deans and the selectors. I think he has a better running game than Simmons, and a higher workrate than Timani.

    I wonder if Deans selection of Timani is based on potential to develop (which he clearly has) or a legitimate belief that he is one of the best two locks in Australia. I am of the opinion he is the former but not the latter, although he isn’t far away.

    • Scott Allen

      There are very few players who come out of provincial rugby and get it straight away at Test level. That’s why players normally get a taste of it off the bench before becoming a starting player.

      That’s my only issue with his selection – in the starting team rather than being brought on later in the match. Would have had no issue with him on the bench.

      Importantly we’ll need Simmons, Timani, Pyle and one other for the end of year tour (assuming no more injuries) so I hope Deans starts using the bench to give Timani more time and Pyle a taste as well.

      Who’s the fourth candidate?

      • Lee Enfield

        Wallace-Harrison has a chance to make a claim for the fourth or higher spot. If he can fill the void left by Horwill, he would have to be a definite contender.

      • Barbarian

        Clearly Deans has a soft spot for Caderyn Neville who looks to have a bit of mongrel about him. Carter and Fardy also have a chance to stake their claim in the next few rounds. Luke Jones and Kane Douglas are there as well. So there are plenty of good players around, but who will make the next step and show themselves to be a test player? As it is I think each of those players has been a bit hot and cold so far in 2012.

        Wallace-Harrison I would consider to be well down the list.

        • Scott Allen

          They seem like the candidates, don’t they. Can’t imagine Samo would get another look in given he seems out of favour with the Reds.

          What happened with Sam Wykes – is he out for the season or any chance of coming back for the Force? I think he’s a good prospect too.

        • Barbarian

          Pretty sure Wykes is gone for the season.

          Here’s an idea from left field- what about Dave Dennis? Sure he’s only 192cm, but has the bulk to play well in tight. Has the running game and the workrate, and has shown he has what it takes in gold. Worth a try?

      • a.fox-russell

        Agree, but as you pointed out in the excellent above analysis, if Sharpe gets injured, the cupboard starts to look extremely bare. So I have no problem with a new face starting in the 3rd test v Wales. Especially when Simmons also is a bit green and no world beater yet. Just would not necessarily have run with Timani (agree Pyle deserves a crack).

        The nice upside to come out of this of course, is that we beat Wales with a brand new inexperienced lock who was a passenger for large parts of the game.

        Reaching I know, just trying to stay positive.

  • murph

    This is what does my head in. There are guys who are more deserving than Timani (and Horne, McCabe and, arguably, Kepu) but they don’t get picked. They sit on the sideline, quite often a completely untapped talent, while one of Deans’s latest ‘projects’ gets 10,15 or 20 games to prove themselves. Add McCalman, Maafu, Mumm, Brown, Dunning – the list goes on.

    It’s not that these guys are talentless; it’s that, on form, they’re not the best men for the job.

    Lastly, and I can’t resist making the point, it’s painfully obvious that it’s Waratahs players who get the rub of the green in this. Whenever there’s a borderline decision to be made about two players you can get pretty good odds that it’ll be a Tah who’s given the benefit of the doubt.

    • Johnny-boy

      Boy you’ve got that right murph. It’s a joke

    • RockyElboa

      Who are you referring to? Simmons? He played two test to Timani’s one, so rub of the green goes to qld there.

      • murph

        I’m not referring to Simmons. Timani is nowhere near Simmons yet it was Simmons who got dropped to make way for Deans Project #32 – Timani

  • Very insightful Scott.
    Your time/motion/effectiveness review has exposed his inferior fitness and challenged his work ethic and effectiveness.

    So, does the coach ask him to have more involvement or be more effective when he does get involved?
    The obvious answer is to do both, but he doesn’t appear to have the petrol to do both.

    I’d ask him for increased effectiveness and tell him to tighten his game up by just playing down the centre of the field, that is, between the 15m lines.
    If he doesn’t find workload there, it’ll find him.

    • Scott Allen

      Like your thinking. That’s exactly what I’d ask him for.

      Can’t include all clips in these short videos but there are plenty that show him running from side to side, not getting involved as the ball has already been moved on by the time he gets there. That tires him out and means he gets caught wide too often. I think the reason he goes off his feet so much is probably fatigue related.

      Stick to the middle channel and he’d get closer to the ball more often without being as tired so could be more effective when he does go in.

  • gaxman

    Great article! Love this site.

    I think Robbie is trying to bring more balance to our second row. Let me explain. Horwill is out for the season. Sharpie will retire after the rugby championship. When were number one in the world we had a nicely balanced second row. Giffin was the big brute, bruising runner and a big boy but not that quick around the park. Eales was the everywhere man. Not an effective ball carrier but wonderful mobility and always seemed to be in the right place at the right time.

    I believe, Robbie wants this balance again. Like with Vickerman and Horwill. Timani is being blooded to be in the Giffin / Vickerman mould. More Giffin though. Because Sharpie is a big boy with good ball carries but mobility is not his strong point.

    In my opinion Hugh Pyle is the man to partner Timani once Sharpie retires not Simmons. Simmons should be in the Eales mould but falls way short. Pyle on the other hand has good ball skills, great mobility and reads the game well. He is always making good covering tackles for the rebels.

    I don’t understand why Pyle hasn’t had his chance yet. Deans has persisted with Simmons even though many of us have questioned his ability. Missing vital tackles and giving away stupid penalties. Pyle may be raw but so what. Look at the springboks second rowers. Never played tests before but man were they good. Give Pyle a shot.

  • TSR

    Scott & Barbarian,
    Thanks both of you for the great analysis work – enjoyed both perspectives. I am wondering if either/both of you would be inclined to do a similiar analysis of Simmons. He seems to have problems with his lateral movement in defence sometimes, and can be lazy in clearing the ruck, but I think he does a lot more grunt work than he is given credit for. Would like to see if I am just a one eyed supporter or if he is indeed getting a bum rap.

  • Lee Enfield

    After watching the Reds game tonight, admittedly through beer goggles, I think Simmons is a long term option. He is a standout in the lineout, and as he matures, the rest of his game will improve.
    He is only 23, and in my opinion he won’t start reaching is potential for another year or two. The Wallabies lose nothing in my opinion by continuing to develop him.

    • Mighty Moth

      I agree,
      There a lot of Simmo baggers here but his involvement seems pretty high to me. He left his Rebels opponents for dead and has pretty deft ball skills. Timani needs a season of hard fitness training if he wants to make it,

  • Waratahjesus

    He is a work in progress, he looks more lost than lazy at times to me but I think if he continues to develop he will get here in a year or two.

    Scott – horrible question to ask, but any chance you can do a few more involvement rates of other aus forwards based on your terms so we can see we’re that 55% breakdown rate actually sits?

    • murph

      Yep. Another “work in progress”. FFS

    • murph

      Just how many years should Timani be given, exactly?

      • RockyElboa

        Two or three the same as Simmons I imagine. While i would love for Simmons, Timani or Pyle to put gold on and be world class I just don’t think this is reality. To get any of these players to international standard is likely to take time. Simmons has had the most opportunity and has shown little improvement. I think it is time to give someone else a go.
        I would like to see Pyle get a go but see enough potential in Timani to keep him around

        • murph

          Oh what nonsense. Did you see that clip?! Timani is qualified to cut Simmons’s toenails let alone wear his jumper. There is just no comparison.

          I can see why people would possibly want to juggle Simmons onto the bench but to replace him with a lumbering oaf like Timani is just ridiculous. As I said before, Pyle and a few others should have got a gig ahead of Timani.

        • murph

          If he played for the force or rebels there is zero chance he would’ve got this gig. Same can be said for Horne

    • Scott Allen

      WJ – I still had the breakdown footage on my computer so to get an idea I looked at what Sharpe was doing during the same period Timani was on the field.

      On the 140 breakdowns, Sharpe was standing wide on 19 occasions or 14% (Timani 32%) and of the 18 rucks and mauls Sharpe got involved in he was effective at 15 or 83% (Timani 55%). Timani got involved in 20 rucks and mauls.

      This was only over the 140 breakdowns whilst both were on the field together. As for doing the same analysis on others, maybe one day but not anytime soon.

  • I was calling “Queensland bias!” until I watched the video. Awesome work as usual Scotty

  • Ath

    Can’t coach mongrel or 100% into a player. Timani is soaking a spot that any of Pyle, Neville, Douglas, Jones or Fardy would exceed. I am still staggered by how good Jones was when I saw him play Tahs and that was an eternity ago.

    Until tonight I’d have said the same of Simmons but he showed some good rugby tonight, hope it continues.

    I can see why Timani appeals, but at 8 and after he has a fire in his gut.

  • Joe Blow

    That sure shines a light on his performance from a different angle.
    Our second row is a tough nut right now. If we lose Sharpie in the next couple of tests we will be in real strife.
    I thought Simmons played particularly well last night. He knows the pressure is on.
    Wonder if Dingo has a peak at Gr&G analysis every now and then?

    • murph

      Only if he has a wireless connectivity in his lower colon

  • Robson

    What a very revealing expose of the attitude of this man Timani. The commentary was undecided whether it was attitude or fitness, but the right attitude leads to being physically prepared and physically prepared Timani was not.

    I listened to Colin Meads speak at a rugby function a few years ago and these lines he spoke are indelibly engraved on my mind.

    “Not everyone has the same skills, but when you play for your country skills aren’t as important as being the first to put your body at the bottom of EVERY ruck that forms”.

    He was talking about forwards of course.

    However, I don’t blame Timani for his low to zero work ethic. But he didn’t sign off his own selection and I can’t believe how tolerant some posters are towards the dazed and incoherent selection policies that keep worthwhile players totally out of the squad and Timani rewarded with a starting role.

    This is total rubbish. I think the game in Australia deserves much, much better.

  • murph

    To be fair to Timani it appears that he was instructed to stand wide in defence. Surely.

    If he was then his coach (or, less likely, captain) need to be called to account for such a harebrained decision.

    • Robson

      If Deans told Timani to stand wide for defensive reasons, Deans clearly has no understanding of the role of tight forwards at all. We all knew that, but having to continue to endure it is pretty near insufferable.

  • you can do the same video to sims

    Can someone do a video on rob simmons , this is a tricky , you can easily put up a video of simmons standing far from the breakdown , also , i’ve re-watch game two , and simmons goes back one or two metres in a few of his tackles , i’ve also paused the game where he is standing outwide nowhere near the breakdown , also in game two , you will find simmons arriving at the breakdown which he doesnt clear anyone out , non effective plenty of times,can someone put up a video of rob simmons to show how easily this video of sitaleki can be done , on that note , look at the positives mate , lol . …. on your video you show timani going backwards in one tackle , …mate , watch simmon in game two , how many times does simmons goes backwards in the contact?, how many times does he get to the breakdown and does not clear anyone out ? easily done mate……easily done , sitaleki’s positive impacts far out weighs simmons .

    hopefully we’ll have someone do the same video like this on simmons . barbarian ?

    • Waratahjesus

      As I said above, the video shines a light on what Timani did, but it doesn’t actually compare his contribution to others, so it doesn’t illustrate any answers to selection at all.

      We need to do a comparison of all locks before we decide to write anyone off or in.

      • Bobby

        There must have been another Simmons playing in 4th grade for Randwick in a second game because surely you aren’t talking about the Wallabies 2nd game? If so u seem to have done some ‘thorough’ analysis of Simmons for maybe the one time he isn’t effective at a ruck or line out. Here is a ‘fact’ for you, when Simmons was on the field the Wallabies never lost a line out and stole numerous others. How many did we lose and gain with him off the field??? Timani is not fit pure and simple along with most of the Tahs forwards this year. Get his fitness to test level before we even consider his so called ‘skill’ as a big unit.

      • murph

        Look! Over there! A unicorn!

    • murph

      I see Timani’s agent is working overtime

  • johnny-boy

    If Timani is the benchmark we’re in real trouble

  • Lindommer

    What you’ve put up here, Scott, is what I’ve been carefully observing at the Tahs this year, and last. A few of my mates rate Douglas, as I do, and we watch him assiduously, and in the process I’ve noticed how much more Kane does that Timani. Sitaleki’s a big, strong bugger who really should be shifting rucks, a la Brad Thorn. But he doesn’t, and, as your excellent excerpts here show, he’s a bit lazy. Or unfit.

    If what murph suggests earlier is correct (Timani was instructed to stray wide of the ruck) his involvement in breakdowns when it was needed wasn’t up to scratch.

  • Jacqui

    SIMMO! <3 ;)

Wallabies
@ScottA_

Scott is one of our regular contributors from the old days of G&GR. He has experience coaching Premier Grade with two clubs in Brisbane.

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