The Super Rugby tactics from Round 1 have given us a few hints at what the Kiwi teams are up to when playing for territory. Here we will look at the smarter kicking being used, as well as a new attacking pattern that is taking over the world. Let’s jump into how the Northern Hemisphere teams are influencing the kicking in Super Rugby.
Super Rugby Tactics | kicking with an end goal in mind
Ineffective kicks that go straight down the throat of talented opposition have plagued rugby for years, but now Super Rugby teams have begun to adopt some 6 Nations tactics. This kick from Black is a great example.
The ball bounces outside the 15m line. The bouncing ball gives the defenders time to get up and restructure. If the chase is good, the Crusaders can either kick the ball back to the Blues or kick it out. Either way, the Blues get possession back with hopefully some net gain in territory.
This is kicking with a goal in mind, and thinking a few plays ahead. It’s a strong style of kicking to adopt against a decent defensive side that isn’t conceding metres. Here’s another one from Leger.
Here the ball bounces up nicely, but if it had rolled end over end this kick would have been a monster. Finding grass is clearly on the Chiefs agenda as well.
This tactic isn’t just limited to territorial kicks. Take a look at this attacking bomb.
Weber lands this perfectly between the Highlanders defensive line and their backfield while aiming it right on the 15m line. This gives the Chiefs a chance to compete, while also drawing a winger into the fray to create potential space in the backfield.
England used a very similar tactic to beat Ireland, using a bouncing ball wherever possible. You can read about this below.
Now let’s move on to some sniper-like kicking that only the best can pull off.
Super Rugby Tactics | 5-metre precision kicks
These kicks are incredibly hard to execute, but Owen Farrell is known to pull them off for England with regularity. Now Super Rugby kickers are using this tactic to great effect. The goal is to put up a bomb, landing the ball in the 5-metre channel just inches from the sideline.
Here the Chiefs recover the ball, but the Highlanders planned for this all along. When the ball was kicked, they were already forming their defensive line. They can now trap the Chiefs deep in their own half.
These trap kicks are highly intelligent play, but they do have weaknesses. Let’s find out how the Crusaders manage to break out of one here.
Black pulls off an inch-perfect trap kick, pinning Ennor against the sideline with nowhere to go. The only way the Crusaders can go now is to the right, where the Blues are setting up their defensive line. However, they didn’t plan for this.
Moody runs hard and straight at the channel next to the ruck. The Blues have a halfback and a winger defending that gap, and Moody just leg drives his way an easy 10m downfield. This is the correct way to escape a trap kick. You can’t rely on going blind or wide, so the only way to go is straight – and with power.
England used trap kicks to great effect to come within one point of the All Blacks. Watch out for more of these at the World Cup.
The final piece of attack is a pattern that allowed the Kiwi teams to win consistent metres in Round 1.
Super Rugby Tactics | the open/ blind strategy for building overlaps
Let’s watch the Crusaders engineer an overlap.
They first throw the ball into midfield, slowly moving across the pitch. By habit, the Blues defenders fold around the ruck to cover in the direction the Crusaders are moving. The Crusaders then unexpectedly go blind, and now have an overlap.
In this Instance, the Blues have the pace of Ioane to save them. But this tactic does gain metres, and the more unexpected the switch the better. Here is a beautiful example from the Highlanders.
The Highlanders crash in midfield and most teams from here would be expected to continue moving to the left. However, Hammington goes straight back to the blindside. Lomax has been waiting since the lineout and makes the break.
These open/ blind plays have been used frequently by Northern Hemisphere sides, and it is interesting to see this being incorporated more in Super Rugby tactics.
Which side do you think put up the best performance in Round 1? We would love to hear your thoughts.
Author: The 1014 Rugby and Henry Stokes