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Looking at the numbers

Written by Chris Smith (ChrisS)

Posted in :Original Content, RWC 2015, Springboks on 22 Oct 2015 at 10:27
Tagged with : , , ,

A lot has been said about Schalk Burger’s 26 carries in the game against Wales and how he was deserving of his Man-of-the-Match Award because of his tireless energy. He made 26 carries for 55m as well as chipping in with 16 tackles. This is a phenomenal effort and shows just how much “The Incredible Schalk” means to the Boks.

The flip-side of the coin is that Burger only got across the gainline 11 times! This is a less than 50% return from his carries and raises a lot of questions. Is Schalk an ineffective ball carrier? Are the Boks “selling him” and giving him man and ball situations?

I think the answer lies in the tactics that the Boks employ. Looking at the Stormers this season, Schalk was often used to draw in defenders before passing the ball to the backline. He has great hands and his sheer physical presence is enough to make the opposition commit at least two players to him which opens up space elsewhere. The Boks on the other hand are committed to a more “stampkar” type of rugby where wave after wave of forwards takes it up off the scrumhalf. It is easy to defend against as the Boks’ opponents just line up two or three hefty specimens one space off the ruck and pulverize anything that comes down that channel…and it almost always comes down that channel!

The All Blacks, Irish and Australians have a slight variation on this tactic (more in keeping with the Stormers’ strategy) of passing the ball to an angled runner just before contact which effectively puts the ball carrier into the space that his passing team mate has just created by taking the tackle. The other variation is that they make play occur off the flyhalf. All three of those teams use the diamond formation when taking the ball up. This gives them three options:

An inside pass
A flat pass (crash ball option), or
A pass to the player running behind them who then links with the rest of the backline.

The benefit of playing the ball off the flyhalf is that it is less predictable and there are always two dummy runners to draw the attention of the defenders.

Schalk has been amazing this World Cup in terms of his commitment to the Bok cause but how much more effective could he have been if we varied our tactics slightly and created space for him to punch holes through instead of expecting him to run into a brick wall phase after phase?


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