For years, in the 15-man game, South African rugby teams believed it’s actually better to play without the ball. The “skop, skiet en donner” approach is what the Springboks have become infamous for, but, sadly, it’s also a style that is as outdated as paisley shirts.
It’s clear that the Boks have to adopt a new game plan to get on the same level as the world champion All Blacks. And, maybe, the Sevens avenue is not a bad path to follow, because over the years a lot of players have benefited from the skill-orientated training, and the greater emphasis on speed and explosiveness.
But one thing where the Boks are still up there with the best in the world is at set-piece time. Their lineout, scrum and kickoffs have always been one of their strong points. And that is an area where the Blitzboks can learn from their 15-man colleagues.
Because possession is key to scoring tries and, ultimately, victory. The kickoff is a massive part of the game, because the team that scores is the one that restarts play.
At the moment, Fiji, with their players’ height and athleticism, are the best in gathering either their own or the opposition’s restarts.
The islanders were superb in this aspect of the game when they clinched the title in Dubai last week, and showed how dangerous they can be when they give their powerful runners space to beat defenders either on the outside with pace or on the side with brute strength.
Blitzbok coach Neil Powell was satisfied with this area of the South African game in the Emirates last week, but stressed his side will have to be even more clinical this weekend in the Cape Town leg of the Sevens World Series if they are to record a hat-trick of tournament wins on home soil.
“Kickoffs and rucks are the two most important areas of Sevens rugby, that’s where you can get turnovers,” Powell said.
“I’m very happy with how we’ve taken our own ball there, but definitely an important area that you can get easily turned over, and then you have an unstructured defensive line and it’s easy for them to score there.
“Fiji’s height is a factor, and that’s why we work so hard on the mobility of our pods so that we can get under the ball. It’s tough to cover everything in Sevens, even the best plans leave opportunities for teams to exploit.”
The Blitzboks’ discipline, though, let them down at crucial stages of the last week’s tournament. They blew a manageable lead against the USA in the Cup quarter-final last week after Seabelo Senatla’s yellow card. This weekend, they need to be a lot more accurate.
“When we evaluate ourselves we look at the effort not the result, and you can’t fault the effort the guys put in,” Powell said.
“There are one or two things in our defence that we need to tweak, but we were the team that conceded the least tries in the tournament. Overall, I was happy, just unfortunately the results didn’t go our way.”
One man that will be in the thick of the action is Blitzbok captain and stalwart Kyle Brown, who will be playing his 50th tournament in his hometown. Brown has been an exceptional leader for the country, and he is looking forward to playing in front of his friends, family and up to 55 000 fans.
“It’s nothing special. I feel like I’m privileged enough to have just played in this team for a long period of time and that’s special enough for me,” he said.
“(Playing in Cape Town), it’s a little bit more exciting this week. I’m really excited. We’ve got a bit of ritual with the new cap and that’ll happen tomorrow. There’s a little bit more excitement bubbling under the surface.”
Original source: The best-laid plans rest on the kickoff