In our previous article on the Kiwi teams’ scrum domination tactics, we finished on a brilliant pass from Ryan Crotty to send Ennor through a non-existent gap. In this article, we will continue on that theme and analyse some of the epic Super Rugby skills the New Zealand sides pulled out in Round 1.
The first skill is all about winning possession by any means necessary.
Super Rugby Skills | pre-ruck turnovers
A well-executed jackal is an impressive skill, and many players have made their name by being elite masters of the ruck. But what if you could get your hands on the ball without a ruck even forming? This is where pre-ruck turnovers are changing the game.
Here we can see Bryn Hall almost pulls off a pre-ruck turnover.
If you watch closely, you can see his hand fly up. This is because he was trying to rip the ball away, stealing possession for the Crusaders before the ruck even formed. He is unsuccessful on this occasion, but the intent is there.
Now I don’t mean to talk about an Australian in an article about New Zealand teams, but this next rip deserves a mention. Hooper provides us with an example of a rip executed perfectly.
By getting in low he can go straight for the ball. Once he gets a grip on it he can pop it free without the ruck even forming. Watch out for more of these wrestling moves in the contact for the remainder of the season.
Our next skill focuses on attacking an area of the park that is rarely thought of as a weak point.
Super Rugby Skills | exploiting the halfback gap
In modern defensive systems, the area right behind the ruck is often left unguarded. This is because halfbacks often join the defensive line as is the case with Ireland, or play in the backfield as Parra does for France. Players are also becoming more adept at realising when the halfback is buried at the bottom of a ruck.
Check out this in-ruck pick from Lomax for the Highlanders.
He notices the Chiefs halfback just made the tackle, and there is no one behind the ruck. Great awareness from the prop.
Here’s another one from the Blues. Bryn Hall is in position. But he isn’t expecting the Blues to come right through the middle.
Todd is alert to the danger, but the Blues make easy metres.
This tactic was taken to the next level recently when England purposefully pinned the French halfback at the bottom of a ruck to create space elsewhere on the field. You can read about that below.
The final skill we need to talk about is just how good players are getting at reading defensive mistakes.
Super Rugby Skills | evolved heads-up rugby
Watch here as Papali’i shoots out of the line and hesitates. This over-eagerness has now created a gap where there was none before. Taufua makes a brilliant read and throws a skip-pass.
Ennor now accelerates into the gap.
Now let’s look at the exact same scenario, but with a great defensive read this time.
Lienert-Brown has to decide which of the players circled in yellow to tackle. it’s a 50/50 call, but the All Blacks centre makes it without hesitation. The play is halted in its tracks.
The key is to make these defensive decisions at speed and in the right situation, which can only come with experience. But it’s great to see good decision making and skills on both sides of the equation.
The final example here is all about taking advantage of the space outside the 3rd man in a pod. The Springboks did this against the All Blacks to devastating effect.
Watch the Blues set up 2 pods of 2 (yellow). The Crusaders defenders (red) are only prepared to defend a pod of 3. This is because pods of 3 have been the normal structure in Super Rugby up until now.
The Blues exploit the space outside the 3rd Crusaders defender just as the Springboks did to the All Blacks.
Other Kiwi teams used these new 4-man structures in Round 1 as well. It will be interesting to see whether the All Blacks end up incorporating this style for the World Cup.
Are there any other interesting super rugby skills you noticed in Round 1? Let us know down below.
Author: The 1014 Rugby and Henry Stokes