In South Africa there has been a growing number of fans that feel the rugby being played by the majority of SA teams is outdated and lacks creativity or spontaneity. These fans have labelled this type of rugby ‘Domkrag’ rugby. Translated from Afrikaans ‘Domkrag’ means ‘Stupidpower’.
But there are many SA fans that don’t see a problem with the way SA teams are playing. These fans are irritated by this name. These fans say that South Africa plays no differently to the way New Zealand play, it’s just that New Zealand are doing it better.
The name Domkrag rugby is mainly aimed at what teams are doing on attack which is determined by players decision making. The rest of what makes up South Africa’s game or style is better than most other teams. For a long time South Africa’s lineout has been the envy of other nations. South Africa’s defensive system has been of a very high standard ever since the Jake White days and has continued through Pieter de Villiers tenure and into Heyneke Meyer’s tenure.
To try and explain to the average man on the street what is upsetting Springbok fans about the attack it may be best to firstly explain what ideally people would want to see.
When you get a passage of play where team A run with the ball attacking team B where big tackles are being made by team B but team A keep it alive by passing and have players running good lines and finding space and eating up the metres. The play continues without stopping with very few rucks although using a ruck or a maul within this passage of play could make it even better but only once and never over used. There aren’t any scrums and the ball ideally should never be kicked. There could be a turnover or two with play switching for attack for team A to attack for team B and then back again. After watching this passage of play for maybe 5 minutes it results in a try. Let’s call this ideal rugby.
Now this type of rugby doesn’t occur all that often but when it does it’s breathtaking and the effect it has on a game can be monumental. This type of rugby puts bums on seats and earns money for the Union. Whenever the rules are tweaked it is to try and encourage this type of rugby.
So when rugby people talk of intent, what they mean is the team is trying to play the way I described it above. When they talk of endeavour, they mean the team is actually physically out there trying to make this rugby happen.
So let’s start with kick-offs:
If you kick deep, your chasers can put pressure on the guy catching the ball and cause him to drop the ball or slice his kick or make a mistake deep in his own territory. This way you have gained territory and have a good chance of gaining possession in their territory. The intent is to make big gains without actually playing ‘ideal rugby’. Similar to the long ball game in Football/Soccer. This is how South African teams usually kick-off. This type of kick-off shows no intent. This is part of Domkrag rugby.
If you kick shallow your chasers can get under the ball and compete with the opposition’s jumpers to gain possession. Similar to sevens rugby. The intention is to gain possession and immediately go on the attack and play ‘ideal rugby’. This type of kick-off shows intent and by kicking shallow the team has endeavour.
Many teams kick deep , so does that mean they are playing Domkrag rugby too. Maybe they are but I feel most teams tend to try several options with their kicks . I feel South African teams steer well clear of the shallow kick and fail to see the benefit of the shallow kick because their intent is not to play ‘ideal rugby’.Both kick-offs have there advantages and disadvantages but I’m only trying to highlight what is Domkrag rugby not discuss which is better.
Especially on a 22m drop-out the South Africans will always go long. The Kiwi’s and Aussie’s and more and more other teams too will go short once in a while to try win back possession.
Let’s talk about the full-back receiving a kick at the back.
If you watch a SA derby match in Superrugby or in Currie cup rugby, there is always a period in the game where there is a kicking duel. With the ball being kicked back and forth untill one kicker messes up. This is Domkrag rugby.
If you watch Australia, New Zealand , England or Ireland plus other teams when they receive a kick at the back their first instinct is to counter with ball in hand. They select players that are good at attacking a high ball and who are good counter attackers. Israel Folau, Ben Smith, Mike Brown and Rob Kearney.
The rest of the team work hard off the ball to get behind the ball. That way they can offer themselves as an option to pass to and they will be coming from an onside position for a ruck or a kick.
The reason to counter attack from a kick to the back is that there is space allowed to you if you react quickly or if the defence is not closing you down quick enough. The defenders have to spread across field and by picking the slower defenders such as tight forwards you can force holes to open in the defence. This is modern rugby.
If you decide to run it up to the waiting defenders then hoist an up and under, this is done for a number of reasons. 1. You see the defensive wall and panic. 2. You don’t feel enough of your teammates have gotten behind the ball. 3. You have no counter attacking skills, so you kick and hope. 4. You have been instructed to only kick by your captain or coach. This is Domkrag rugby.
more in Part 2