Super Rugby: SA's focus on territory, tactics pleases Rassie

2019-03-06 10:57
Handre Pollard (Gallo)
Handre Pollard (Gallo)

Cape Town - South Africa's Super Rugby sides have gone back to a more traditional approach in 2019, and Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus likes what he sees. 

In recent Super Rugby seasons South African sides, particularly the Stormers and the Bulls, have looked to play fearless, attacking rugby that at times has came across as little more than irresponsible and aimless. 

It reflected in the results of those two franchises, too, with neither union looking like making a play deep into the competition during that time. 

This year, however, there seems to have been a very deliberate shift back to a more territory-orientated approach, certainly from Erasmus's viewpoint.  

The Bulls are under new leadership and, for now, seem to have the best balance in the country when it comes to playing both tactical and attractive rugby while the Stormers have relied on gritty, tactically astute displays over the last two weekends to secure a couple of much-needed wins.

The Sharks continue their approach of keeping the ball close and backing their physicality, but even the naturally expansive Lions were forced to win ugly when they travelled to Argentina to take on the Jaguares in the opening round of Super Rugby fixtures three weekends ago. 

With 2019 a World Cup year, Erasmus is pleased that South African sides are still able to win high-pressure matches by any means necessary. 

"Last year you saw a lot of attacking, running rugby from our franchises and this year it feels that a lot of the guys are grabbing the Test match mould, if I can call it that, and they're trying to apply a lot of pressure through territory and a tactical game," he said.

"For a national coach, that can be a positive where it is not just a free-flowing, running game.

"I don't want to harp on kicking, but if you think of World Cups and Joel's (Stransky) drop goal to Stephen Larkham's drop goal to Jonny Wilkinson's drop goal … a World Cup final has never been one by eight tries. It's always been high pressure games with a penalty or drop goal deciding it.

"It's suddenly this game where it isn't all about x-factor and brilliant moments. It's almost like the teams are trying to squeeze each other out tactically. I enjoy that."

There is, of course, strong communication between Erasmus and the Super Rugby franchises, but he says the change in playing styles this year is not all down to instructions from the national set-up.

"Jacques (Nienaber, defence coach) has been going around to a lot of the franchises and I have been to all of them," Erasmus explained.

"With having a lot of players in the mix with us last year there are a lot of guys who played Test match rugby who are playing Super Rugby now.

"What we're trying to do at Springbok level does filter down to those players and those players know what we expect from them.

"We do share a lot of stuff with the franchise coaches, but they all have their own flavour and you don't want to take that away."


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