Have been in recent times looking at modern professional rugby with a ‘different colour glasses’ or perhaps shall I say from different angles (no drugs please…just plain lateral thinking). WHERE ARE WE GOING? WHAT DOES WORLD RUGBY WANT FROM ITS FOLLOWER STAKEHOLDERS? HOW IS EACH TOP COUNTRY ADAPTING TO THE VAGARIES OF WORLD RANKINGS?
I’d like to start with a mention about South African rugby which for a long time had the rugby playing philosophy of ‘dogmatic pragmatism’ in engaging the opposition forwards the sooner, the better and… then the hard running backs would find holes everywhere to run into, without any fear or even hesitation. At times sophisticated but mostly very simple and very clinical too. However, even though they have won two RWC’s (1995 and 2007) in the last few years have become more ‘beatable.’
The funny part is at the end, though…in the form of a metaphoric summary of players rights and responsibilities! – Decision time, read it now or later…
The South African formula has been most successful and certainly kept them on top of the rugby tree together with the All Blacks, for about 120 years, up until say in the 1970’s. Then the dark period of apartheid did erode that power because of the lack of international competition and advancement in technologies and sciences in athletes preparation. I played four very hard tests vs. Springboks with the South America XV in 1980; [this new composite team was created to circumvent the apartheid restrictions]. The South America XV squad was comprised of 25 Argentine players, 1 Uruguayan, 1 Paraguayan,! Chilean and 1 Brasilian and of course the test XV all Pumas. In 1992 when the IRB welcomed the Springboks back into the fold of international competition they quickly found that the Wallabies had grown in stature in the previous 10-15 years. NZ still hovering between 1st and 2nd spots.
However, since after the 1995 South African RWC, wealthy and politically powerful countries, I could say with a bit of literary license bought success through their resources and geographic influences.
Therefore, the new era of High-Performance Units and Laboratories to the playing field started, this professional era has witnessed the top 16 countries fighting it out and escalating within their possibilities and resources searching for “Mecca”…RWC Gold, silver or other.
Most of the gaps between countries are closing in pretty swiftly, and well-fought encounters are feeding hope to the smaller nations. E.g. The unprecedented victory of Japan over South Africa at the 2015 RWC for one and now also hosts for the 2019 RWC. It seems; I’d like to suggest that SA lost the game and not the other way around? – Nevertheless, on the other hand at the very top the All Blacks were leading, daylight second and then the peloton (should we give the AB’s the yellow maillot ad-eternal ?) Not yet!
I agree that the AB’s are human, occasionally (very occasionally) frail, they ache and suffer pain as anybody else! – I also think that if Uruguay had Fiji, Samoa and Tonga as neighbours? Uruguay or Argentina today would have been perfectly positioned in the top two teams in world rankings!!
I like the systematic and efficiency above all approach. A single-minded, totally committed style is a must if you aspire to beat the AB’s, but the basics must be spot-on from the beginning for that “dream” to become “reality”. To generate and secure the necessary physical, psychological and emotional “domination” over the All Blacks, and any other team for that matter.
Nonetheless, we must start up-front, first thing first! Did you mention: “2,5 seconds recycle”? Now we’re talking. Test rugby is a “do or die” contest between two countries, where in my immodest opinion “entertainment” has no value or place. It is a test of skill and character, brains and guts, is a gladiatorial contest about generating and creating “time and space” and vice versa for our team. Then the team together will invest those two “impostors” to the best of our ability and hopefully score more points than the opposition.
Realistically speaking and within my rudimentary world of “The Art of Scrummaging”, a seriously dangerous team, serious about winning a test match no matter what, must start up front before even the referee blows the whistle for a re-start.
And here you go, chewing millimetres, upon centimetres and why not metres over the gain line. Now domino effect takes place, and our backline enjoys edging forward bit by bit (incremental gains), at the same time the opposition backline hesitatingly moves backwards (the brain does not like this because it is opposed to the No 1 principle in rugby: Go Forward). Not liking it means frustration, fatigue and indiscipline to follow!
The rest, even school kids, can script your tactics and strategies for the remainder of the match.
I’d like to conclude this little “expose”/metaphor/analogy, just for laughs… by assigning our team a new functionality with rights and responsibilities: Our forward pack is equivalent to an ATM. The ball is the CA$$H. The halves are the “Investment Advisory Team” (occasionally they may get it wrong) … and last, but not least, The outside backs are the punters on the Stock Exchange or at the Horse Races, having a great time while spending somebody else’s money!
Enrique Edgardo Rodrguez Basi – TOPO
[All rights reserved. 2016.10.13]