The Tuesday Top 5 - Green and Gold Rugby
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The Tuesday Top 5

The Tuesday Top 5

Hello again and welcome to the Tuesday Top 5. By now you know the drill, team grades, good, bad etc plus some items that caught our interest. This week its players doing things that might be a little outside of their job description, the Kings and Aussie coaches.

Report Card

Brumbies D-: The Brumbies are really being shown up for their lack of attack. While their defence is fairly solid, it doesn’t mean anything if they can’t get points on the board. While they seemed to be in the game, they never really looked like they were going to take hold of it. The intercept pass thrown by Toua was the difference, yet another match blown by an error in attack. They need to bring in something new. All that is keeping them in the run are the bonus points they keep getting for close losses.

Rebels C-: They didn’t really look to be in the match until the final quarter when they finally scored a couple of tries. But lapses in their defence cost them with the Reds finding some pretty big holes. They looked threatening at times, but struggled to find the gaps.

Reds B-: The Reds got the win and played pretty well in patches. Their discipline still needs some improvement with some penalties that, lucky for them, didn’t prove costly in the end. They are showing some great running in attack, thankfully the Rebels hadn’t worked out the “give it to Kerevi” ploy that other teams have managed to stifle. Looking slightly dangerous at the right end of the season.

Force B: While it was a scrappy match, with a lot of errors, the Force still managed a win, away from home, against the Jaguares who have been doing well this season. So definite points for that. They were able to break the Jaguares defence on a few occasions, while their own defence proved solid. Certain players need to control their aggression a bit more, there was a lot of niggle and a few very late hits. While I love seeing emotion in a game, a tougher ref would have not been so lenient.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The Good The Force getting a win over the very competitive Jaguares in Argentina. A tough ask at the best of times, but with a number of injuries and the off-field mess, this win was all the more impressive.

The Bad The Brumbies lack of ability to score tries. Over 200 minutes of match time without a try. The last time that happened was when Laurie Fisher was coach and the current coach, Bernie was playing at 10. To make matters worse, the Brumbies have the 3rd least points scored in the competition at this point. Should we be worried that their attack coach also happens to be the Wallabies attack coach? Hmmm … this sounds familiar. Team with 3rd lowest points scored – Wallabies attack coach in charge. Team with 5th most points scored against them (they moved from 3rd to 5th while they had the bye) – Wallabies defence coach involved. Ah … crap.

Photo by Keith McInnes

Photo by Keith McInnes

The Ugly The Super Rugby Ladder and the way it all works. Yes, I know this isn’t new information but it is pretty ugly. Super Rugby isn’t the first comp and won’t be the last to have an unfair system where better teams may miss out. But this year it seems to be amplified by 1000%. I can fully understand why Blues fans are feeling a little hard done by, when they are on 31 points and the only way they can possibly make the finals is to somehow get above the highlanders, who are 5 points above them at the moment. Or even the Sharks can feel aggrieved, as they too will likely miss the finals, yet they currently have 33 points. Meanwhile and Australian team is certain to make the finals, and at the moment the highest placed is the Brumbies on 19 points. Yes, overall points don’t matter when it comes to conference winners, but it doesn’t make it any less ugly.

Positions? They don’t matter do they …

The numbers players wear on their back define their role in the match. The number 2 throws the ball in the line out. The number 9 feeds the scrum. The number 7 attacks the breakdown to attempt the pilfer. The number 15 jumps in the lineout …

Huh?

Yes, you read that right. Watch the video and you’ll see what I mean.

Not only was winger Julian Savaea in the lineout, but the fullback, Jordie Barrett was lifted and perfectly took the ball. (Is there anything he can’t do?)

So that got me thinking, are the numbers on the backs more of a guide now than a definite position? Yes, there are some obvious things that only that player can do, only 1, 2 and 3 can be in the front row of the scrum. But technically anyone can feed the scrum, anyone can throw a ball at the lineout.

So let’s  look at some examples.

Ardie Savaea has a 7 on his back. He’s a forward. Yet so often we see him making line breaks and running with the ball. The same can be said for Hooper. But Savaea also does the 7 thing ridiculously well, he is a terror over the ball. Likewise, Akira Ioane Looks and runs like a large back but plays like a forward at the breakdown.

Dane Coles has the 2 on his back, but again he runs like a back. Even more impressive for a front rower really.

Tolu Latu also wears the number 2, yet is fearsome at the breakdown, pilfering and creating turnovers. Likewise, Henry Speight, number 14, has shown that he is a threat over the ball.

It’s not uncommon to see the 6 and 7 on the wings in attack, something we saw the Wallabies employ a lot. We have 10’s defending at fullback, forwards putting through chip and grubber kicks, backs making pilfers and even the occasional winger or centre on the side of a scrum (although granted, that’s usually through necessity when a forward has been sent to the naughty chair)

Is this a sign that the positions are more blurred than ever? It seems that these days the players need a much more complete skill set in order to be competitive. In the past if a back didn’t attack the breakdown it probably wasn’t a big deal, but now every player is expected to be able to run, tackle, go in at the breakdown … and now jump in the lineout.

Thanks for that Jordie.

Those pesky Kings!

The fairy tale season of the Kings continued on the weekend, getting their first ever win over a fellow South African team. The team of “replacements and discards” that were assembled at the start of the season when the franchise was resurrected is starting to cause teams headaches as we witnessed firsthand against the Tahs and now Sharks. Coming off two away wins, they have kept the momentum going at home and beat the higher placed Sharks.

The Kings recent run of form is starting conversations on multiple fronts. As one of the teams touted as being cut, the recent performances and style of play have some SA fans asking if they are the right team to be cut. Although the conversations are in part tongue in cheek, the Kings, now the third best SA team based on performances is forcing people to think about what’s going on with the bigger established franchises and the key differences that have yielded the results. The questions around coaching and game plans are also starting to become a hot topic.

The other ironic point the Kings are also highlighting is the dysfunctional conference system in SR. Even though they are the bottom of their conference, based on points they are a genuine fourth if you combined both of the African conferences.

Closer to home the Kings are in the spotlight with the impending clash against the Brumbies. It is both astounding and embarrassing when you consider that from a comparative standing start the Kings are one win ahead of all the Aussie teams, not only have a 50% success rate against the against Aussie teams so far this season but have also scored more tries than any Aussie team and have conceded less point than the Rebels, Reds and Tahs.

If nothing else they are playing an entertaining brand of rugby and are certainly worth watching to see if they can claim a few more scalps before they face (possible) extinction.

Time to talk about…..um?

So, it’s on. The collective brains of Rugby here in Australia are going to get together and have a think tank to mind map ideas to drill down and understand the issues, challenges, pinch points of our current performance journey ………..blah blah jargon, lots of talky talky, quick reminisce about old times even though it’s completely irrelevant and we all live happily ever after.

So, if there are ideas, why haven’t they been tried or yielding any results? So not that I am an expert but here is a couple of points from the business world:

Regression to the mean: This is the process of downward adjustment whereby the most talented group members end up matching the performance of their less talented counterparts. This effect is well known in sports – if you practice with someone less competent than you, your competence level declines and you sink to the mediocrity of your opponent.

But, hey, we can brain storm around that right?:

Ultimately, brainstorming continues to be used because it feels intuitively right to do so. As such, it is one more placebo in the talent management cabinet, believed to work in spite of the clear absence of evidence. So go ahead, schedule that brainstorming meeting. Just don’t expect it to accomplish much, other than making your team feel good.

But let’s get to the point here; is Super Rugby elite level or not?

It’s a relevant question, as when you think elite you think the best – so why do our coaches seem to need help? Would you not expect that elite teams would need coaching and leadership from people at that same level?

Rugby.com.au provides us with an answer to this question: Australia’s Super Rugby coaches are relatively inexperienced as head coaches, all in their first Super Rugby head coaching roles and all have faced challenges on various levels, on and off the field.

The only current coach with prior Head Coaching experience at a high level is Tony McGahan. Every other coach has been promoted from within.  The exceptions in recent times have been Cheika and Jake White who had previous experience and were recruited externally of the Aussie system.

So it begs the question, has Aussie rugby created this like so many other issues? Are we recruiting the wrong way or the wrong people? Or are we just repeating the same mistake over and over?

When it comes to the tough questions GAGR is always the forefront and asking the tough questions so have a read here about Coaching the Coaches or here about the ARU High Performance Unit and decide for yourself.

For me I think Aussie rugby is starting to look and act like this;

And we wonder why the Kiwis are enjoying playing with us!

  • Bobas

    So Larkham should become the defence coach, Nathan Grey to scrum and Mario Ledesma to attack coach?

    • Yes- at this point they should try anything.

    • Simon

      Do we even need a defence coach? Defence is easy to fix!

  • Missing Link

    meh, Hooper’s been playing in the backline for years :D

  • Part of the problem seems to be that the ARU doesn’t really walk the walk about the tier under Super Rugby being a feeder. If you look to New Zealand, you need to coach at Mitre 10 level (or be a national coach elsewhere) to get a Super Rugby job, then you need to have that role to get the All Blacks job. Gatland, for example, can’t apply for the All Blacks job, despite coaching Wales for all these years – you may not think he’d get it, which is fair enough, but he’d have to go back and coach at Super Rugby level for a number of years before he could even apply.

    In South Africa a chunk of their coaches work at Currie Cup level before working up to Super Rugby level coaching, or work abroad. In England, Wales and Ireland many of their home-grown head coaches work in lower division clubs before being head coach in the premiership. There are exceptions to that rule and some of them are very successful (Richard Cockerill formerly of Leicester springs instantly to mind) but a lot of those who were appointed without that process end up going down and then coming up and being better coaches for the experience. It’s not as formalised, and they’re cheating and bringing in foreign coaches with experience, but they do find it works better that way.

    Then we have the ARU. They seem to appoint largely from within, without real regard for coaching experience and then be surprised that previously great players who want to be coaches don’t always work out that way. Of course some of them do, but coaching and playing are different skills and some of the greatest coaches in any sport weren’t truly great players.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      Absolutely the idea that a good player will automatically be a good coach is seriously flawed. Our best coaches were average players at best

      • Who?

        Absolutely spot on. To me, a great player is often one who had everything come naturally. Then had it refined. For mine, a club player who’s got absolutely no talent and has had to wrack their brains to understand how the game works and how to get the best out of themselves is going to be a much better coach than someone who had it all fall in his lap.

      • Graeme

        Graham Henry is a great example. He was a school teacher. He no doubt played a bit of junior rugby himself, but was no great player. Instead he spent 20 years sharpening his teeth teaching schools and lower grades before getting his higher honors.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    I think a meeting if the minds is a great idea but I see in today’s news that it’s just a meeting. I’ve lost faith in the ARU getting their shit together

  • Bernie Chan

    “The Bad”…oh crap indeed! One Oz team will qualify for the…but no fan thinks any deserve to be there on merit…unless one finishes “with wet sails”…

  • Henry Barber

    If the ARU wants to know how to plan ahead, just look at what the AFL and NRL are doing; and do something different.
    Australian sporting culture seems to be full of tribalism and boganism. AFL and NRL seem to exploit this, and do so very successfully.
    Look at the advertising for the State of Origin. I hate it. It’s all bogan-ism, tribalism and BS gone crazy. And the fans love it.

    One of the things I see having the biggest effect on Aussie rugby has the axing of a Super Rugby team as its catalyst. It has caused players, clubs, states to be divisive.
    If you’re busy guarding your turf, thinking of yourself, it’ll all turn into a bit steaming turd at a national level.
    That’s where you are; right now.
    Barely 2 years ago, the Wallabies ran the All Blacks very close in a RWC final; the women won a 7’s gold medal a bit over a year ago.

    There is a completely unfounded belief that kiwis are “better” at rugby than Aussies. Better skills, better fitness, better grass-roots, better pathways, better psychology, better coaches, better culture. Ok, that last one IS correct.

    The ARU also has something neither the NRL nor the AFL can offer. Olympics and international competition (yes, I know rugby league has a world cup).

    Why is there no Aussie challenge to the All Blacks haka ? Why has the ARU never sat down with a group of indigenous Australians and worked this out ? Yes, it’ll have a cringe factor initially. But, it’ll be a point of difference AND change the culture of the sport. While you’re at it, how about engaging with more indigenous communities, anyway? That has to be a win-win.

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Brumbies first, then for the love of the game. "It infuriates me to be wrong when I know I'm right." —Moliere

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