Let’s talk about premeditated kicks
South Africa more than any other nation depends on their scrum-half as a tactician almost more than the fly-half. Looking back in rugby history the scrum-half traditionally passed from forwards to fly-half and the fly half directed play. Then scrum-halves then began doing the unexpected. They might once in a while go for a sniping run, catching the defence out as the defence was expecting him to pass. Then mainly on clearance kicks when everyone would have eyes on the fly-half to clear his lines all of a sudden out of the blue the scrum-half would make the clearance kick, taking the pressure off the fly-half. As time went on scrum-halves became more and more involved in the decision making.
In South Africa there has been a long line of scrum-half decision makers, Garth Wright, Joost van der Westhuizen , Johan Roux, Werner Swanepoel, Fourie du Preez and Ruan Pienaar. These players all make/made tactical kicks. When you identify that a player constantly does something then you can work out a way to counter it.
It is easy to see when a scrum-half is going to take a kick. As the commentators describe it they say he is shaping to make a kick. The problem is the scrum-half may identify where he wants to kick, he then has to crouch down and pick up the ball and normally moving back away from the ruck he makes his kick. This kick doesn’t happen quickly and if the defence know where it is going they can move to where they expect it to be or at least already be moving toward that point.
In the modern game scrum-half play has tended to have moved back to a more traditional type of scrum-half that for the majority of the time passes to the real decision maker the fly-half. So that when he kicks or snipes it is unexpected. Passing to the fly-half moves play away from the congested breakdowns and toward space giving the game width making the defence work harder as they now have to move across. Aaron Smith is a good example of this type of scrum-half.
Therein may lie another problem with Domkrag rugby the fly-half’s decision making.
Team A have a lineout on the half way line, they catch and drive and two players peel off and cross the gain-line, the scrum-half gives the backline quick ball and they are running hard onto it. The tackling is good from team B but Team A are still going forward. The play goes through a further 3 phases and has now moved up to team B’s 22m line. The fly-half has spotted a gap in the left corner and thinks to himself if I dink a ball over into that corner, my wing may be able to get it and touch down but even if he doesn’t then we have pinned them back and gained territory. So with all the forward momentum team A has created team B’s defence is in retreat while all team A’s players are poised to run onto the ball when the fly-half dinks the ball over and it goes into touch on the five metre line of team B. This is Domkrag rugby.
This is where many of you will disagree with me. You’ll say that team A has got team B in a vulnerable position and if they can win the resulting lineout they can score off of that.
Why go through all that when instead of the dink kick the fly-half could have passed to his backline who had better odds of scoring than they do now. Ask yourself what is the aim of rugby to score tries or to keep the opposition pinned back. Option A should be the intent to play ideal rugby. Until that is not working why would you try another option. That’s modern rugby.
More in Part 4