Video Analysis: Wallabies Exit Strategies vs South Africa

Video Analysis: Wallabies Exit Strategies vs South Africa

Video Analysis: Wallabies Exit Strategies vs South Africa

After their loss to South Africa on Saturday I couldn’t help but feel there is a real issue with the game plan the Australians are heading onto the pitch with. Understandably post game there was a lot of focus on the last 10-15 minutes, but I think the issues go all the way back to the start of the game.

Bar a couple of moments, the first 20 minutes of the game are spent in or around the Australian half with the Wallabies defending. Any team that tackles for such a prolonged period of time will be tired later on, regardless of what level you are playing. But when you take into consideration that they are defending against a team as physically draining as South Africa you can understand why that sustained period of pressure is going to take its toll both mentally and physically on the squad.

I believe this is one of the reasons why they fell off so badly towards the end.

Sure there was some industrious play by the Wallabies, moving the ball through multiple phases or wide to the 13 channel but that tended to break down due to basic handling errors resulting in giving possession back to South Africa at key moments. Probably more telling for me though was Australia’s inability to clear their lines when the pressure was mounting. Some people call it “exit strategies”, I call it “hoofing the ball down the other end”. Whatever, the point is in the first 20 minutes alone only one defensive clearing kick manages to hit touch and that’s for a net gain of 10 meters.

That is an issue and in the video below I’ve pulled together some footage to illustrate what I’m seeing with the Wallabies exit strategies.

Exiting your own half is a major part of any game plan, and the first opportunity the Wallabies had to do this was from the kick off. Receiving the ball in his own 22 after it is carried back Foley puts boot to ball.  It goes straight to Habana, he passes infield and Vermuleun returns the ball smashing into players and putting Australia straight on the back foot in their own half. Ok, Foley can’t kick directly to touch but the kick chase is so poor they give “Oh Shit!” a good 20 meter run up.

Why not get Phipps to launch a box kick? With a good kick chase Australia would be instantly putting the Bokke players under pressure rather than conceding possession and then letting them run it back at them.

This happens repeatedly throughout the first quarter of the game with Foley, Toomua and Folau all kicking the ball straight down the pitch to the South African back three who gladly run it back putting Australia in defensive mode yet again. Even worse, on multiple occasions the forwards get in and turn over ball only to see their hard work drilled straight down the field for little or no gain in territory or see a penalty kick to the corner miss touch.

Ok, so let’s focus on one of the moments Australia were on top in this period.

The play either side of the Ashley-Cooper Try. Great work by Kuridrani to break the tackle line, and Ashley-Cooper does well to finish it but straight from the kick off Australia kick the ball back to South Africa surrendering possession again. They have been under pressure for 16-17 minutes, have now managed to score a lovely break away try which alleviates the pressure and are receiving the ball. Only to then put themselves straight back on the defensive in their own third of the pitch.

In contrast the one time Australia decide to kick to re-gather, they do so. Phipps hoists a box kick, Le Roux gets caught and the arriving Australians run right over the top of him, they recycle and earn a penalty. Yes, Foley missed the kick but they pressured the Springbok back three and came out on top.

For me these issues indicate a lack of guidance in communicating what is expected of the team when leaving their own third of the pitch. How teams approach their defensive strategies and what to do with possession in defensive positions (which leads back to Exit Strategies) is a collective process and I imagine there will be some serious work done on tactical kicking before the Argentinean test match.

Wallabies Exit Strategy Analysis from thedeadballarea on Vimeo.

  • Vinnie Gorham

    Careful with Youtube and uploading any South African games, DSTV will delete the video for copyright even if it falls under the fair dealings law for reviewing/ discussing the game. They are pricks!

    • yeah, I sat on the video for a bit unsure whether to use it or not because of that exact issue but did it just to get the article up and out…I’ve upped it to Vimeo, but didn’t have time to swap it out.

      • Vinnie Gorham

        Are you based in Syndey? Love to do some collab with you

        • I wish. I live in Paris, France I’m afraid.

          Feel free to fire me a PM on twitter though mate.

        • Vinnie Gorham

          Will do

  • Mart

    Great work. Loving videos.
    I remember noticing whilst watching the game, when Toomua took that last kick to touch, the covering chase incase he didn’t find it was non existent. That’s what bothered me most.

  • Seb V

    The problem is the execution of the box kick. Phipps put up a beauty, but I doubt he is able to do so on a consistent basis. White’s kicking is off, same with Genia. I believe in the strategy, especially with Falou on the field, but I don’t have faith in our kick takers to pull it off, and out kick chasers have been lazy at times.

    • bad ass

      Quade can kick.

    • PiratesRugby

      One of the reasons that the boxkick worked was that Fardy puts himself in to protect the kicker. It is something that every team does, except the Wallabies. It is one of the 1% things which makes the difference between wining and losing at this level. Halfbacks get criticised for their kicking but it is really the lack of protection which exposes them.

  • I Should be Coach

    I know. Off topic. But sitting down and watching AB vs Arg. 8 straight penalties against AB. Jourbet – not one warning or threat of yellow card. Not sure if any other team in the world can get away with this.

    • bad ass

      Trying to get into a kicking duel against superior kickers seems stupid. They ran it back anyway.

    • Alan Grouse

      Officials being afraid to card the all blacks is old news, as are their tactics to deliberately concede a penalty through whatever means when a try looks highly likely.

      Perhaps the answer – for all teams who choose such negative tactics (which gives me the shits btw) is a penalty counter whereby if a team commits two penalties in a row (deeming them to be blatantly trying to stop the opposition’s momentum) the third penalty automaticall yields a yellow card. If ever implemented teams would know their is a clear limit of how many times they can be offside/high tackle/ruck incorrectly etc. and most importantly it takes the pressure and anxiety off the refs to dig into their pocket.

  • idiot savant

    years ago we would have kicked the ball out from inside our 22. Sure it gives the ball back to the opposition but the line out would be about half way and you could buy a bit of time, suck a few big ones in, and reset your defence. Less fatigue as a result.

    Then this changed to kicking long infield and either setting your self for some aerial ping pong which we saw against the Lions recently or hope that your opposition would kick it out and give you the line out feed. The trouble with with aerial ping pong is that the forwards get used to loitering in the middle of it till the backs finish the contest either by taking the pill into the tackle or kicking it out. This doesn’t prepare them for kick chase.

    I don’t think we have ever kicked well since the latter strategy became de rigeur. In fact kicking in Aust rugby is nowhere near as good as it was 20 years ago. The Boks are probably the best proponents and because their line out is formidable we are jammed on either option.

    As for the box kick, well about one in 20 of Genias ever put us in a better position. We don’t do that well either.

  • RedAnt

    Really enjoy your analyses.

    But I think not kicking the ball out in this game was a deliberate strategy, with the belief that the Boks would kick it back, so we’d either get the ball back or get the line out throw. The problem is, the Boks didn’t do what was expected – all power to them – and we didn’t have the smarts to realise it and adapt.

    As others have mentioned, though, our kicking game in general has been very poor for a while, and we do seem to struggle ‘hoofing the ball down the other end’.

    • Hi Mate!

      It’s a really good point about being able to adapt. This was a definite Wallaby strategy, just a poor one which is why i made the point at the end of the article about leadership. The issue for me is how it was executed. Foley is right footed, and favours that touch line, SA know that and they also know the kick chase is not a strong point, you can see in how they set up to return they’ve figured the Wallabies out.

      This is why i think the box kick would have been useful because it would have made the SA back three flatten up a little.

      But there is also the issue of greedy kicking – Folau & Toomua for instance, just no need ot go for such long kicks, cut it short by 10 or 5 metres and make your touch.

      To be honest the video could have been 15-20 minutes long focusing on this alone, and no one wants to watch 20 minutes of kicking (even the English) so i tried to keep it short and highlight the effect I felt the kicking was having rather than trying to break down the process of each kick.

  • Jimmy

    Love your analysis. I spend a bit of time around the Force during their pre-season and it was astonishing how much wok they actively put into their exit strategies. Foley had a clear plan (with a backup) and the players got their heads round it and everyone was on the same page. It’s such a small part of the game but I believe it had a huge impact on how well they did this season. Even when you consider that they don’t have the biggest boots

    • Yeah, it’s a major focus for most professional teams and something that if one element is wrong you’re conceeding points.

      It’s hard to get out of your own 22 in this day and age – the carry back law is for me an issue with the tennis it’s caused.

      • Bill

        I’d say it’s one of the major parts of the game. It’s like special teams in nfl, if you don’t respect it, it will bite you in the arse.

  • Who?

    A truly fantastic article. It’s this sort of play that makes me question Foley. I know the kick-chase isn’t the kicker’s primary responsibility, and a number of those kicks could be better with a better chase. But too often his kicks are caught on the full. At least Toomua’s kicks occasionally found the grass…
    And the box kick? It showed the sort of tool it can be. Used sparingly.
    I don’t have an issue with the carry-back law. I think it’s a positive. But it requires the kickers to be more creative than anything Foley has shown. It requires a more cultured boot – Willie Le Roux doesn’t have the same trouble picking out defenders that Wallaby kickers have. Neither do Kiwi kickers, generally. We’re too predictable in how we kick, and our execution seems to run on our kickers looking at the cover defence, then putting it down their throats, rather than identifying the space and looking there (which leads to kicking there – you always execute where your eyes are focused).

  • Bobas

    Also a few examples there of some rubbish Phipp’s passes, also putting us under pressure.

  • RubberLegs

    Phipps and Foley are just minding positions until Genia and Cooper are ready to play again. The NSWRU /ARU had better sign Quade up soon or 14 000 will be the standard crowd size in 2015. Box kicks are as good as the chase. Aaron Smith, Savea and Jane know how to pressure opponents. Years of Aussie Rules and Izzy cannot find touch; put him in the centres and put a rugby player at full-back.

  • Dexter

    Agree with a lot that has been said here already… Exits are planned, so the wallabies clearly planned to keep the ball in play. The fact that the South Africans picked Pollard indicated that they would run the ball more IMO so this was a known factor.

    Agree that the depth of the kicks was definitely a problem, and the kick chase was poor at times so we lacked pressure at the initial contest after the reception, which is really important as we are moving forward.

    One thing that I do have a problem with is the assumption that defending is more tiring than attacking… The team that has the least amount of possession often (and probably more often) wins the game IMO… The ABs kick the ball more than most if not the most. When defending you commit a tackle, an assist who also competes on the ball and possibly extra players to the ruck (less common than not). Realignment is most often in a lateral direction if you’re not scrambling… In attack you have to worry about creating options, dominating the contact area, committing players to the wrestle of the cleanout. Realignment is often backwards…

    The Wobs also minimised the ‘physically draining’ nature of the South Africans with an obvious low tackle focus, allowing our assist to be hard on the ball after the tackle to slow stuff down as much as possible…

    I’m just not sold on this whole idea of the Wallabies being drained by too much defending…

    • harro

      I agree the difference in the last 20 was the benches, not the Wallabies being too drained

    • interesting points mate, but i know which i’d rather be doing for 20 minutes and it isn’t tackle. :)

      What i’d say though, and this is just my opinion, defending is a lot more than just making the tackle.

      Physically in Defence you’re using your arms and upper body to effect the tackle, even daisy cutters/lumberjacking or simply holding the man up off the floor, jackling as well. The Triceps produce the most lactic acid in the body and you use your arms constantly far more than in attack where you’re resting and essentially running.

      You’re both making the tackle and getting up then shuttling off the line and getting back into position and getting off the line, you seldom have the momentum at contact even if you get off the line and it’s a mentally draining process as essentially you should be on edge the whole time.

      • Dexter

        I’ve just gone back and coded the first half for myself… After just one possession each the Wobs had made 20 tackles to the SBs 2… Within the first 3 minutes…

        For the remainder of the first 20 mins the Wobs made 13 tackles to the SBs 27… The SBs never forced us to make more than 3 tackles after their first possession in that first 20 mins.

        Over the next 18 mins the Wobs make 21 tackles to the SBs 30… Only in the last possession of the game do the SBs force the Wobs into a tackle frenzy again…

        So we arguably have 6 minutes of tackling frenzy separated by a whole half of footy…

        The Wallabies kicking was TERRIBLE at times but they certainly should not have been any more tired than the SBs. They were up 10-5!

        Unfortunately a calamity of errors and a poor showing from the bench cost us in the last 10 mins… Particularly Horwill who should have been in a position to prevent two tries but didn’t cover the inside channel in defence when they stepped inside.

        He will start this week unfortunately and I hope he plays a hell of a lot better. I don’t see any other choice though at this point in time. Too hard to bring someone else in this late.

        • as I said it’s not about the actual tackles it’s about pressure and how fatiguing that is.

          Regardless Australia made over 100 more tackles than SA, and 141 of them were by the starting pack, in that first 20 Mins I count it Aus 36 attempted tackles to SA 33.

          But, and here is the important part, 35 of the Australian tackles/attempts were in their own half, compared to just 14.

          That is pressure, defending in your own half is tiring – you are working at a heightened level of urgency as missed tackles have a bigger impact.

          Anyway, that’s how i see it…have a good ‘un.

  • Bairdy

    Great analysis Graeme. A very edifying piece on the Wallabies’ kicking.
    I noticed a lot of scapegoating of individuals (like Beale) post-game, but as you note, what really let us down was the poor collective effort of our kickers in relieving presure after sustained periods of defending against the Boks.

  • Duvstar

    Scarily true. I think our lack of an exit strategy is even more pronounced against the All Blacks. Think about the number of times we’ve got the ball close to their line, before had it turned over and found ourselves, predominantly through a kick, back around the halfway/in our own half. Makes a huge difference and relieves a lot of pressure.

  • Graeme

    Where do you live?

    Graeme from Nice


an Englishman living in France, Graeme runs the Rugby Analysis website He coaches in his spare time, is an IRB qualified coach and you can catch him on twitter lazily re-tweeting other peoples comments.

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