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The intricacies of a scrumhalf

Written by Greg Kaos (gregkaos)

Posted in :Original Content, Reader Submissions, Springboks on 13 Mar 2015 at 13:30
Tagged with : , ,

This is an article that I’ve been meaning to put together for some time now but never could get it right. The current debate whether Kolbe should move to scrumhalf has finally given me a good enough reason to give it a shot.

So right off the bat I will say that I disagree quite strongly that he should consider changing position. Mainly because I don’t believe that Scrumhalf is a position that someone can simply take up on a whim.

There is significantly more to been a scrummie than the standard thought that he should only provide crisp clean service or be small and fast. While this is important it does not automatically equate to been a good scrumhalf. Shane Williams, for example, is famous for his exploits at wing but was a average scrumhalf at best the few times he played there.

Firstly do we even know whether Kolbe can perform all the various passing techniques, without thinking where his feet should be placed depending on the situation? Being able to sprint to a breakdown, stop, crouch, collect a ball lying between legs, arms, feet, and various body parts, proceed to pass\kick\run\etc all in one fluid motion comes with natural ability coupled with practice, practice and more practice. This one of the primary reasons short guys make good scrumhalves, as a low centre of gravity is key in this regard. Joost was a statistical anomaly in how good he was, despite his size.

Foot placement, for me at least, is possibly the single most important individual ability that a scrummie must master as it is directly responsible for the scrumhalfs effectiveness. It is what separates the greats like Fourie, Joost, George, etc from the rest. How far apart your feet are and the distance they are to the ball when you reach for it, affect your balance. Without proper balance you will need to adjust your body position prior to making your next move and killing any momentum. Precious seconds lost. Forever.

Where his feet are positioned, the angles, and stance width, will all determine what action the scrumhalf can most effectively perform next. Lets says you’re on attack and quick ball is required. Running up to the breakdown directly from behind will limit your options and kill some momentum. From that position you need to pivot over 90 degrees to get a pass out and also lets the opposition know you are about to stop abuptly to collect. Coming in at an angle gives you a lot more options and gives the defence less time to prepare. Provided your footwork is good, you can collect the ball in a relatively fluid motion and proceed to run into less prepared defence, or pass at an angle that does not disrupt the flow. Obviously you need to be equally proficient doing this left or right. It goes without saying that a scrummie that is only effective in one way, is predictable and doomed to find a Willem Alberts ready to collect his bounty of bones sooner rather than later. So while Kolbe might actually amazing at this, I will remain unconvinced until seeing evidence that he can do this better than the current scrumhalves.

Those little opportunist darts when the scrumhalf attempts to burst through the loosies is accomplishing a very important task even when it fails. It’s keeping that opposition trio in check and making sure they know if they take their eyes off him for a second he’ll be through. This helps in keeping those burly flanks from simply making a B line towards the all important Fly half. In turn it gives the whole backline those important seconds of breathing room. To even contemplate this madness, the scrumhalf must possess that Jack Russell type of complete and utter lack of self preservation mentality that makes them genuinely believe they are in fact bigger, stronger, and tougher than the 8th man. While Kolbe is clearly fearless and pound for pound one of the toughest on the field, I believe he is far more aware of his size and knows how to use it as a weapon, as seen by his evasive running style and excellent tackle technique.

Scrumhalves are also usually operating in congested areas of play. There’s your opposite number in your face at all times, a flanker hell bent on shutting you up even for just a moment and another trying to charge down any kick you make. Awesome scrumhalves thrive in this environment of chaos, absorb and relieve your team of pressure through a range of methods. This is not where I’d want one of my most elusive runners. An explosive runner like Reinach, yes! But not someone like Kolbe, who is so lethal in the open.

Lastly there is one aspect that trumps individual skill and ability and that is communication. There is the constant barking of orders at the forwards, and keeping the ref up to date on the proceedings of the match. How a referee can complete a game without the eagle eyed assistance of a scrumhalf is beyond me. Kolbe does not strike me as the type to have this personality trait. Furthermore the comms and trust between the halfback pair is vital for either of these guys to have a good day at the office. Without that trust and comms, the scrumhalf will be constantly looking over his shoulder for someone to pass to. Just the red flag invitation a flanker needs. This relationship between the halfback pair is something that comes with time. It’s my view that Kolbe’s time is better spent honing his skills at fullback. He would be my alternate fullback for the Boks if it were up to me.


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