Nick Mallett (Gallo Images)
- Nick Mallett and Swys de Bruin have expressed their concerns over the quality of product dished up by SA’s rugby franchises.
- Mallett says scrums, driving mauls and kicking up-and-unders “doesn’t make for good viewing”.
- De Bruin feels teams’ tactics are predictable, “almost like a storybook”.
Two renowned pundits have expressed their concerns over the quality of product dished up by South Africa’s franchises during the Super Rugby Unlocked and Currie Cup events.
After a double round of action, the Currie Cup semi-finals are scheduled for next Saturday, with the Bulls hosting the Lions at Loftus Versfeld and Western Province entertaining the Sharks at Newlands.
But former Springbok coach Nick Mallett and ex-Lions mentor Swys de Bruin were left a bit frustrated by what they witnessed since the country’s return to rugby following the Covid-19 lockdown.
The duo shared their views on SuperSport’s The Final Whistle programme after the completion of the Currie Cup’s round-robin action on Sunday.
“It’s difficult not to be a little bit negative on the performances of our teams quite frankly. If you compare it with the way New Zealand cracked in with their Aotearoa competition, with teams really embracing the quick ruck ball and ball in hand [style]… they were reasonably high-scoring games, but the defences were excellent and their attacks were great. And it was rugby that was worth watching,” Mallett said.
He continued: “When we started there was obviously issues with our fitness and conditioning. There were a lot of error-ridden games early on. And then it appeared that every single team that got into a tight situation just resorted to World Cup final tactics which basically means driving mauls, pushing scrums for penalties and kicking an up-and-under from 9 or 10 the entire game.”
Mallett said this type of game “sadly just doesn’t make for good viewing”.
“If you’re waiting for other people to make a mistake… it’s like watching us playing Wales in the semi-final of the 2019 World Cup which was not a good spectacle, it was great that South Africa won, but it wasn’t a good rugby spectacle for viewers. And we have to remember that we are in the entertainment business in rugby and we need to entertain people. And people get entertained by watching tries being scored through good passing, good lines of running, timing and good stepping.
“To see a (Cheslin) Kolbe score a try is worth sitting there for an hour and a half in an afternoon. But if I’ve got to watch up-and-unders and driving mauls all day… and collapsed scrums and penalties… I’m not excited by that product. So, I think we’ve got a few issues to talk through.”
De Bruin, who is also a former attack consultant to the Springboks, concurred with Mallett.
“I want to add to what Nick said, it’s almost like a storybook now… I can see there’s a scrum that will reset and reset again, then the advantage will come, then the next chapter is the penalty. From there the maul starts. Before the maul there’s a little meeting with the forwards that eats up more time. After that meeting the lineout starts, but before the lineout starts the refs walk up and down through the lineout first. Eventually when the lineout starts the real thing starts… what’s going to happen now, who’s going to join, who’s going to sack and lift legs… for me that’s become almost the story.”
De Bruin highlighted a worrisome trend where the amount of actual playing time during games was diminishing.
“In Super Rugby in 2017 and 2018 we had 35 minutes of continuing play on average. We aimed for 40, if we got 35 or 36 we were happy. I spoke to one of the analysts and in the Currie Cup they’re hitting 24, 25, 26 (minutes)… so out of 80 minutes, you see 25 minutes of rugby and that’s a problem.”
De Bruin though added that he understood why teams were employing these tactics and said SA Rugby’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, along with Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber, understood the system well.
“They are used to the up-and-under game, they won the World Cup with that, their pressure system is good, they know how to play it. They understand it.”
With South Africa’s franchises heading to the northern hemisphere to compete in the PRO16 Rainbow Cup event, De Bruin noted that a more conservative game style was needed at times.
“They (Erasmus and Nienaber) both coached at Munster (in Ireland). So they know that (style of play) so very well. But if you look at Jacques and what they stand for… they know the system up there. We must remember, we’re going to play up there in their conditions.
“But for the sponsors, for the spectators, for everyone, the sooner we put our foot down and say ‘all role players, let’s get this game interesting again’. We must put actions plans in to get our product right where we need it.”
– Compiled by Herman Mostert