• Welcome to the Green and Gold Rugby forums. As you can see we've upgraded the forums to new software. Your old logon details should work, just click the 'Login' button in the top right.

Physical imposition rugby – the Sydney University system

Status
Not open for further replies.

Rob42

Nev Cottrell (35)
Thank you, Rob, for endeavouring to instruct me in the complexities of the English language. Actually I would be quite happy to claim "innovatory" as a coinage of mine, but according to the Oxford, Cambridge and Merriam-Webster Dictionaries I am too late.

In matters of pedantry I learnt long ago to double check before correcting someone else for fear of ending up looking a goose.

Ah, well, yes, one can find a meaning for just about any collection of letters, Bruce - words like "healthful", "verbage", "irregardless" and "pro-active" hang out in those places, wasting valuable space. But does "innovatory" give us anything that "innovative' doesn't? I'm all for new words - I'd even call them neologisms to make myself sound cool - but really, they should have to provide something extra to the language. I'm pretty sure a no-nonsense fella like Tom Carter would stick with "innovative", and save that extra syllable for smashing through the defensive line of yet another "playing group".

I mean Bruce, you're representing Sydney Uni here. That "let's embrace every word" attitude is much better suited to the Macquarie Dictionary. :)
 

Bruce Ross

Ken Catchpole (46)
Isn't this essentially the same game plan as the All Blacks? Minimal commitment to the rucks, good kick-chase and counter-attack?

I thought the same thing.

While everybody was complaining about the All Blacks 'cheating' and the ref's not calling it, I think what was really happening is what Bruce has detailed here. The All Blacks play a very physical and imposing defense which tries to drive the ball-carrier back or drop them on the spot. If a defense can consistently do that, it creates more chances at turning the ball over and makes it difficult for the attacking team to get quick ball. Mentally, I think it's a real spur for the forwards and loosies because if a ball carrier is driven backwards, the momentum is already going forward for them to try and drive over the ball and compete for possesion. ...

I'm sure plenty of people will disagree but I think if you re-read Bruce's post, it's easy to see the All Blacks playing exactly that style.

Interesting but as I was watching my recording the final I though jeez, these guys play like the Bulls.

I see a lot of similarities and if you gave me Bruce's write up with no team name in it and asked me "who plays like this" I would have said the Bulls and the All Blacks.

Which is exactly why I have been pulling my hair out over the Bok coaches who refused to replicate that model at test level. It works and suit our players.

I agree that there are definite similarities between the Sydney Uni style and that of the All Blacks and Bulls. But I also see some significant differences in approach.

1. I think there is a more extreme focus on strength training at Sydney Uni than what I have read about the All Blacks or been told about the Bulls.

2. I think Uni has a greater propensity to counter attack through the most heavily populated areas of the field. My impression of the All Blacks is that they are predisposed to go wide.

3. I think that the way the Uni centres play almost as wide additional forwards has quite distinctive elements. In my view this style originated when Ewen McKenzie and Todd Louden were coaching the Waratahs. When they saw that Tom Carter had the physical capacity to chase kicks and involve himself in breakdowns throughout the whole game they encouraged it. Chris Hickey obviously wanted something very different in centrefield but seems to now appreciate Carter's contribution to the team.

Mitch Inman's game has obviously been influenced by how Carter plays. Having these two aggressive big units out wide makes possible the use of physical imposition across the width of the field.
 

The_Brown_Hornet

Nick Farr-Jones (63)
Interesting but as I was watching my recording the final I though jeez, these guys play like the Bulls.

I see a lot of similarities and if you gave me Bruce's write up with no team name in it and asked me "who plays like this" I would have said the Bulls and the All Blacks.

Which is exactly why I have been pulling my hair out over the Bok coaches who refused to replicate that model at test level. It works and suite our players.

I think you're right Blue. Bulls rugby is all about a watertight defence, being physically harder in the collision and continual harrassment of the opposition. They do it very well, as did the Boks last year. Like Uni, they also show some enterprise in the backs too. It takes organisation and a total commitment from everyone in the team to play that way if it's to be successful.
 

#1 Tah

Chilla Wilson (44)
You either have a great eye for these things or and deep in the uni camp. great post, looking forward to many more to come!
 

Hawko

Geoff Shaw (53)
There are some limitations to playing this style of rugby. As Blue said, the Bulls seem to play the style as a team pattern, some years better than others. I think the Tahs have tried to play it but when it is not well executed it looks bloody awful - hence some of the vitriol about the Tah play over the years. The Saders are another team who seem to use it very well, albeit some of their back play is exhilarating rather than grinding. The success of this style depends on the ability of the players (I guess this is true of most systems) but I am surprised that opposition coaches have not tried to counter it more often with strategies to pull more players into the collision zone. Rolling mauls started in general play, multiple off-loads to following forwards in or just before the tackle, quick pick and drives close to the ruck etc. If you can draw some of the defensive line in, so as to prevent 15 defenders lining up across the field, you could open up the space but you then need a backline who can use it (Ella, Walker, Ella, Ella, plus two speedsters on the wing are the ideal). It does seem that the Uni centre combinations are big rather than quick and therefore vulnerable to speed and agility, and also to chip kicks in behind (but having Burgess in cover helps heaps).

That being said, the appalling capitulation by the Wallabies in virtually every game against the Blackness after the 50 minute mark has convinced me that conditioning along the Uni lines could not be worse than where we currently are and likely very much better. What I don't know is if that conditioning will kill off creative speed. Tuquiri seems to be better (faster, more elusive) when carrying less bulk, ditto Beale. So should we look to keep the backs for raw speed with lesser emphasis on strength work?

Thankfully I am not a coach, so for me the speculation is not career-threatening. But I want two things: one day I want the Wallabies to utterly slaughter the Blacks, enough to make up for the last ten losses, and secondly for the Tahs to win a Super trophy, hopefully away against the Saders.

Great post Bruce, thanks!
 

Hugh Jarse

Rocky Elsom (76)
Staff member
Hawko, I am also not a S15 or TNSS coach, but am awesomely wise after the event, particularly if there is a couple of bottles of good Coonawarra shiraz involved.

(Is there such a thing as a bad Coonawarra Shiraz?)

I suspect that the most effective counter to this would be as you have described. Keep it in hand in the collision area (tackle contest). Maul it forward, force the opposition to commit numbers to the contest for the ball rather than lurk out in the defensive line. Problem is you need to educate the fatties to think. Not so easy. Needs not only the Captain to be thinking but every piggie needs to be able to summarise the situation in front of them and play accordingly. ( R Deans ).
 

Blue

Andrew Slack (58)
I agree that there are definite similarities between the Sydney Uni style and that of the All Blacks and Bulls. But I also see some significant differences in approach.

1. I think there is a more extreme focus on strength training at Sydney Uni than what I have read about the All Blacks or been told about the Bulls.

2. I think Uni has a greater propensity to counter attack through the most heavily populated areas of the field. My impression of the All Blacks is that they are predisposed to go wide.

3. I think that the way the Uni centres play almost as wide additional forwards has quite distinctive elements. In my view this style originated when Ewen McKenzie and Todd Louden were coaching the Waratahs. When they saw that Tom Carter had the physical capacity to chase kicks and involve himself in breakdowns throughout the whole game they encouraged it. Chris Hickey obviously wanted something very different in centrefield but seems to now appreciate Carter's contribution to the team.

Bruce:

1. Interesting that about the Bulls. For the first time this year they emphasised cardio vascular fitness more than power (up those parts real men don't run, they move cattle around :). It paid off because they actually managed to squeeze out a few wins other teams would not have, and that they may well have lost in the past. I happen to know someone who is involved in their weight sessions who told me this at the beginning of the year. In his very first interview of the season, Matfield spoke about this being the fittest Bulls squad he had every been involved in. I think its more a case of teams who get the balance right and I think the teams who have the most clever and up to speed physical scientist involved have an advantage (if we assume on average they have similar athletes at their disposal). Get the power / endurance balance right.

2. Won't you say that they play with the strategy of keeping close in order to eventually create more space? So in fact a delay before going wide?

This is a very interesting discussion indeed. Two more observations:

1. Thinking about it now. How far off is this style of Uni from the Tahs? Not too far if you ask me. The Tahs have a big focus on the breakdown, their defense, and two pretty physical centres. Maybe the Tahs just aren't consistent enough?

2. Three comps won in the last year with three teams playing a fairly similar style, with the differences as noted by Bruce. At risk of cuasing a shit storm, I would suggest that the lack of a physical enough 8 and 12 have cost the Wallabies. Your 8 needs to be flexible enough to be there as a great link man and hit the ruck like the best of them. Your 12 plays a role that really isn't too far removed from that job description. Two key players because of where they find themselves in relation to the breakdown and subsequent linking play on offense and defense. Maybe Brown/A green (but very capable) MCalman plus Gits are not really the players you want in those positions to play what for the moment appears to be the optimal style of play?
 

Bruce Ross

Ken Catchpole (46)
You either have a great eye for these things or and deep in the uni camp. great post, looking forward to many more to come!

I must admit, Numero Uno, that I do have a fairly close connection to the University players, but it is interesting how much you can see when you watch a match live and then watch it on replay.

There are some limitations to playing this style of rugby. As Blue said, the Bulls seem to play the style as a team pattern, some years better than others. I think the Tahs have tried to play it but when it is not well executed it looks bloody awful - hence some of the vitriol about the Tah play over the years. The Saders are another team who seem to use it very well, albeit some of their back play is exhilarating rather than grinding. The success of this style depends on the ability of the players (I guess this is true of most systems) but I am surprised that opposition coaches have not tried to counter it more often with strategies to pull more players into the collision zone. Rolling mauls started in general play, multiple off-loads to following forwards in or just before the tackle, quick pick and drives close to the ruck etc. If you can draw some of the defensive line in, so as to prevent 15 defenders lining up across the field, you could open up the space but you then need a backline who can use it (Ella, Walker, Ella, Ella, plus two speedsters on the wing are the ideal). It does seem that the Uni centre combinations are big rather than quick and therefore vulnerable to speed and agility, and also to chip kicks in behind (but having Burgess in cover helps heaps).

That being said, the appalling capitulation by the Wallabies in virtually every game against the Blackness after the 50 minute mark has convinced me that conditioning along the Uni lines could not be worse than where we currently are and likely very much better. What I don't know is if that conditioning will kill off creative speed. Tuquiri seems to be better (faster, more elusive) when carrying less bulk, ditto Beale. So should we look to keep the backs for raw speed with lesser emphasis on strength work?

Thankfully I am not a coach, so for me the speculation is not career-threatening. But I want two things: one day I want the Wallabies to utterly slaughter the Blacks, enough to make up for the last ten losses, and secondly for the Tahs to win a Super trophy, hopefully away against the Saders.

Great post Bruce, thanks!

Hawko, ... I suspect that the most effective counter to this would be as you have described. Keep it in hand in the collision area (tackle contest). Maul it forward, force the opposition to commit numbers to the contest for the ball rather than lurk out in the defensive line. Problem is you need to educate the fatties to think. Not so easy. Needs not only the Captain to be thinking but every piggie needs to be able to summarise the situation in front of them and play accordingly. ( R Deans ).

Hawko, I doubt that the Waratahs could successfully play a physical imposition style, given the way they currently train. In fact I have heard that their present strength coach - not Peter McDonald - is quite scornful about the methods used at Sydney Uni, describing them as "not functional". Not to worry; the Uni S & Cs will keep blundering on.

I imagine that a team trained like Sydney Uni would welcome opposition "strategies to pull more players into the collision zone";"rolling mauls started in general play";and "quick pick and drives close to the ruck", as these engagements would test the ability of each side to sustain them through 80 minutes. "Multiple off-loads to following forwards in or just before the tackle" might pose more of a challenge but the Uni players are no slouches at this themselves.

Someone like Mark Ella would be a genius in any era but he might have to adapt his play in an era of gang tackles and backs who are perhaps 15kg heavier than when he was in his prime.

There is no strategy which guarantees success but teams which are conditioned to be still full of running in the last minutes of a game would seem to have a comparative advantage.
 

Hugh Jarse

Rocky Elsom (76)
Staff member
.......

There is no strategy which guarantees success but teams which are conditioned to be still full of running in the last minutes of a game would seem to have a comparative advantage.

The hammer right on the nail.

How many games have we seen won in the last 10 or so minutes by the mentally and physically fresher team?

Critisism of Dingo's use of the bench (or perceived lack thereof) to replace buggered players applies here.
 

The_Brown_Hornet

Nick Farr-Jones (63)
2. Three comps won in the last year with three teams playing a fairly similar style, with the differences as noted by Bruce. At risk of cuasing a shit storm, I would suggest that the lack of a physical enough 8 and 12 have cost the Wallabies. Your 8 needs to be flexible enough to be there as a great link man and hit the ruck like the best of them. Your 12 plays a role that really isn't too far removed from that job description. Two key players because of where they find themselves in relation to the breakdown and subsequent linking play on offense and defense. Maybe Brown/A green (but very capable) MCalman plus Gits are not really the players you want in those positions to play what for the moment appears to be the optimal style of play?

Blue I think you are at least half right, but I diverge a bit when it comes to 12. If you are going to play a big block busting 13, you need someone with deftness of hands and feet at 12 IMHO. Two big centres I believe is a bit one dimensional. The Bulls this year seemed to have the right combination in the midfield and Steyn at 10 who seemed happy to spread it wide. I was never a big rap for Olivier, but he did well this past season.

I think until Palu comes back that McCalman deserves his shot. He has stepped up really well and has gotten better with every game. He's a tough, direct sort of bloke and hits the opposition pretty hard. In other words, exactly what we need right now.
 

Torn Hammy

Johnnie Wallace (23)
Thanks for the post Bruce.

The only way to counter this play is for other teams to get even stronger and faster. Rugby will be like a sumo convention after a couple of barrels of sake. Beale against uni and Giteau against the AB both struggled and "physical imposition" could see the demise of this type of player which would be a shame.

I've heard that the AB backline all score max points for the beep test so they must do plenty of aerobic training.
 
W

WB3

Guest
Hawko, I doubt that the Waratahs could successfully play a physical imposition style, given the way they currently train. In fact I have heard that their present strength coach - not Peter McDonald - is quite scornful about the methods used at Sydney Uni, describing them as "not functional". Not to worry; the Uni S & Cs will keep blundering on.

The whole "functional strength" thing is going out of control. Functional strength should be applicable to gameplay and involve compound (preferably full-body) movements. How can a team using heavy deadlifts, squats, hang cleans and strongman training be described as anything other than functional? Whilst they may not imitate gameplay to the closest degree, they develop athletic aspects that are entirely functional - leg and hip drive, explosiveness and (in the case of strongman training particularly) increased capacity for high intensity work.
In this age of Crossfit and the like, everyone natters on about functional strength without thinking it through. How is being able to perform a 20kg overhead squat for 20 reps actually functional when the limiting factor is shoulder flexibility more often than leg strength and nobody would ever try and use leg drive from that position anyway (for example)? The functional strength extremists are forgetting that the aspects that limit athletic performance in training should be the one specifically being trained, rather than a secondary (if still important) aspect such as coordination or flexibility. If you want maximum gains in one area of performance then train that area exclusively as best as possible.
On a secondary note, I believe there may have been a study linking maximum strength training with coordination? True? The ability to recruit more muscle fibers could explain that.

In conclusion, if the Tahs are training wit obscenely complex movements too often I would be disappointed. They have their place, but nothing should replace the basics for strength development.
 

topo

Cyril Towers (30)
Unless I am mistaken, a lot of the Uni players are contracted to the 'tahs and do their strength and conditioning training there, not at Uni. They come to team training with Uni but the other stuff is done with the Super franchise. So presumably whatever they are doing at the 'tahs allows them to play Uni's style of rugby.
 

fatprop

Jason Little (69)
Staff member
I tend to agree with Naza, great program at Uni, but revolutionary? nah, being a near pro side against semi pros is more the issue; and being able to bring in a test standard 9/10 combination to wheel them around.
 
L

Linus

Guest
Just to drop into a sports science side story running through as background to the style of play.

Aerobic conditioning comes from more than just one type of training, speed (interval) work can more more effective at promoting peak aerobic capacity, and rugby by it's very nature is stop start, so you could get by with just speed and strength training. It would be about maximising the time you have to train rather than just volume of work. No training works in isolation and all three energy systems are stressed when you move, a different style (of training) will try to focus on one area.

Fatigue in the end comes down to will, more than what you have done in training at a (semi) professional level.
 

Blue

Andrew Slack (58)
Blue I think you are at least half right, but I diverge a bit when it comes to 12. If you are going to play a big block busting 13, you need someone with deftness of hands and feet at 12 IMHO. Two big centres I believe is a bit one dimensional. The Bulls this year seemed to have the right combination in the midfield and Steyn at 10 who seemed happy to spread it wide. I was never a big rap for Olivier, but he did well this past season.

You sound like my wife. I am only ever wrong or half right.

Actually the Bulls would be the worst example to support your argument. Their primary combo at 12 and 13 is Olivier and Jaco Pretorius. Both ar big, straight running, hard tackling players and play like a loose forward at the ruck (I know for instance that they run breakdown drills with the forwards and a lot of work goes into their body position at ruck time). Olivier has been ever improving with his passing and offload which helps. Pretorius has terrible hands but rearely misses a tackle.

When Olivier got injured the Bulls played JL Potgieter, a first five, at 12 and at times they really battled, especially on defense. He got tackled back often and just did not suit their naturtal style. Later when Jaco (13) got injured they plated JL at 13 (an even bigger disaster) and they also played the youngster who Higginbothan outsprinted (I purposefully forget his name and incidentally he canlt make the Bulls starting 15 in the Currie Cup - they have unearthed very promising new 13 but I digress).

So to get to my point. The Bulls plan needs munters at 12 and 13 with a 12 that can vary it a bit. Now in my opinion THE most important thing about centres in the game plan we are discussing is awareness of lines and space. They need to be able to know how to run off other people, and position themselves all the time. Olivier is very good at this.

This is also why Conrad is so good for the blacks. He is big ans strong, and not necessarily a mega skilled player but jeez, nobody in the world has awareness of lines like this bloke. He creates space where ther appears to be nothing on.
 

Blue

Andrew Slack (58)
Just to drop into a sports science side story running through as background to the style of play.

Aerobic conditioning comes from more than just one type of training, speed (interval) work can more more effective at promoting peak aerobic capacity, and rugby by it's very nature is stop start, so you could get by with just speed and strength training. It would be about maximising the time you have to train rather than just volume of work. No training works in isolation and all three energy systems are stressed when you move, a different style (of training) will try to focus on one area.

Fatigue in the end comes down to will, more than what you have done in training at a (semi) professional level.

Interesting notion. I regularly bumped into an ex Wallaby forward at gym in the off season and when I asked him if he was training for explosiveness he said no, he is on an aerobic training plan. He was stopping and starting a lot, typical interval training but not so much endurance. Made sense when you think about it. Ruck to ruck. Short chances to rest.
 

Bruce Ross

Ken Catchpole (46)
Thanks for the post Bruce.

The only way to counter this play is for other teams to get even stronger and faster. Rugby will be like a sumo convention after a couple of barrels of sake. Beale against uni and Giteau against the AB both struggled and "physical imposition" could see the demise of this type of player which would be a shame.

Torn, I don't think that the physical imposition style necessarily means the demise of smaller players. Berrick Barnes seems to thrive in this type of game but the Waratahs list his weight at 87kg. Last December he also won their strongman competition which included chin ups, farmer's walk, iron cross, body weight bench press, lifting a 40kg log overhead, and rowing machine, although it is interesting that these events were very much focussed on the upper body. This presumably reflects the Waratahs thinking on what is most important in physical conditioning.

As for the sumo analogy the Sydney Uni S & Cs pay little attention to body weight but place major emphasis on low skin folds.
 

Bruce Ross

Ken Catchpole (46)
Unless I am mistaken, a lot of the Uni players are contracted to the 'tahs and do their strength and conditioning training there, not at Uni. They come to team training with Uni but the other stuff is done with the Super franchise. So presumably whatever they are doing at the 'tahs allows them to play Uni's style of rugby.

If we go back to September 11, topo, less than a month ago, only four of the team that played against Penrith had any connection to the Waratahs.
 

The_Brown_Hornet

Nick Farr-Jones (63)
You sound like my wife. I am only ever wrong or half right.

Actually the Bulls would be the worst example to support your argument. Their primary combo at 12 and 13 is Olivier and Jaco Pretorius. Both ar big, straight running, hard tackling players and play like a loose forward at the ruck (I know for instance that they run breakdown drills with the forwards and a lot of work goes into their body position at ruck time). Olivier has been ever improving with his passing and offload which helps. Pretorius has terrible hands but rearely misses a tackle.

When Olivier got injured the Bulls played JL Potgieter, a first five, at 12 and at times they really battled, especially on defense. He got tackled back often and just did not suit their naturtal style. Later when Jaco (13) got injured they plated JL at 13 (an even bigger disaster) and they also played the youngster who Higginbothan outsprinted (I purposefully forget his name and incidentally he canlt make the Bulls starting 15 in the Currie Cup - they have unearthed very promising new 13 but I digress).

So to get to my point. The Bulls plan needs munters at 12 and 13 with a 12 that can vary it a bit. Now in my opinion THE most important thing about centres in the game plan we are discussing is awareness of lines and space. They need to be able to know how to run off other people, and position themselves all the time. Olivier is very good at this.

This is also why Conrad is so good for the blacks. He is big ans strong, and not necessarily a mega skilled player but jeez, nobody in the world has awareness of lines like this bloke. He creates space where ther appears to be nothing on.

To me Olivier is not really a block busting centre, but you know his game better than I.

As far as Conrad Smith goes, he is a distributor, not a line buster IMHO. Nonu does all the bash and barge and Smith provides the smarts and skill to bring the other guys into the game. He's also very good at the breakdown and his spot tackling is excellent. He's deceptively large though, I'll give you that. He's a lot bigger now than when he first came into the AB's.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top