Getting Back to Basics
by Tracey Nelson
25 Feb 2007
It’s long been said that if you do the basics correctly, the rest will follow. This is a great commandment for the game of rugby, whether you be a player or a referee. Sadly, it would seem that the basics are being overlooked by both parties, to the great detriment of the game.
Take the Hurricanes. A team stacked full of exciting ball runners with amazing ball skills, who were expected to perform well under the ELVs. But instead of maintaining some structure and using the ELVs to their advantage, they’ve decided that the game should now be based upon Touch Rugby and played at a helter skelter speed purely because you have a greater number of quick tap opportunities than before. They seem to be under the false impression that by simply trying to do things faster their game will blossom. Watching them blunder their way to a win against the Reds on Friday night, I was left wondering whether any of them knew how to draw and pass – a basic of the game that would have seen them score at least two more tries than they did.
The Waratahs blew their chance to beat a hot and cold Chiefs side on Saturday night by managing to kick the ball out on the full on numerous occasions, while the Highlanders (obviously reading from the same Rugby for Halfwits manual) squandered their chances to beat an injury-ravaged Brumbies side with a plethora of handling and kicking errors combined with decision making implosions. The most worrying thing was despite the errors in game exectution on plain display in the first half of both games, there did not seem to be much in the way of adjustments made by any of the teams in the second half.
The only respite came from the Crusaders and Blues, who both managed to clock up 50+ points against their SA opponents. Both these sides did the basics well, and from that platform struck their hapless opponents with the power and speed of a locomotive. The other common trait these two teams share is their vastly superior fitness – it is seldom that the visiting team to Loftus has been seen running rings around the home team with seemingly bottomless reserves of energy sixty minutes into the game. How can it be that these two sides are so far ahead of the rest in the aerobic stakes? I suggest you just need to go back to their pre-season training – another basic for a 16 week competition.
Then we have the referees. I know I harp on about them constantly these days, but if there is one thing the game needs to sort out it is consistency of rulings – and this needs to be a global consistency as well as a S14 one. Despite the ELVs spelling out in even greater detail what is required of players a the breakdown, referees are still not ruling to the laws. In almost all the games this weekend there were players from both sides going off their feet after a tackle. There was no attempt by them to stay on their feet or to bind to a teammate, they simply drove in and went to ground. This should be an automatic free kick, yet there were probably only three occasions amongst the seven games where this happened. Only two weeks into the competition and already the tackle/ruck area is reverting back to what the ELVs were trying to rectify.
Speaking of consistency, I see that that Highlanders 1st 5 Daniel Bowden has been suspended for one game for his dangerous tackle on Brumbies prop Guy Sheperdson. The tackle was seen by the referee and penalised at the time. So therefore we should be able to assume that Bulls replacement No 8 Dewald Potgieter will be suspended for at least the same length of time if not longer for his spear tackle in the game against the Crusaders (also just penalised at the time) – likewise his teammate JP Nel, who has been cited for a swinging arm.
Of most interest though will be how Schalk Burger fares after being cited for bad sportsmanship following his dissent and rude gesticulating in the direction of Referee’s Assistant Willie Roos in the Stormers game against the Sharks. Burger was involved in a scuffle off the ball, and was yellow carded by New Zealand referee Kelvin Deaker following confirmation from Roos as to what he had seen Burger do. There are conflicting reports as to whether Roos gave the recommendation for a yellow card, but I watched the incident and it seemed pretty clear to me that Deaker merely looked to Roos to confirm his suspicions and then acted accordingly. If Burger is found guilty (and surely he must be, as there was little to disguise his hand actions) he faces a suspension from anywhere between 4 (minimum) and 52 (maximum) weeks under Law 10.4(k).