On Monday 22nd February, I’ll be co-hosting a webinar with Brian Fitzpatrick of BF Sports Analysis previewing the upcoming Super Rugby Aotearoa season. If you’re interested in attending this event, you can sign up to receive more details here.
We’ll be collaborating to dive into the detail of some of the tactical and technical trends that are likely to be prominent in the 2021 edition of the competition, taking a look at each of the 5 teams in the process.
One of the questions we’ll be addressing is what to expect from the Chiefs, who went winless during Super Rugby Aotearoa 2020 and have appointed Clayton McMillan as their interim head coach for the year in Warren Gatland’s absence.
McMillan has been the head coach of the Maori All Blacks since 2017, and led the Bay of Plenty Steamers in the Mitre 10 Cup between 2015 and 2020.
In this article, we’ll briefly discuss what his 2020 Steamers side (who made it to the Premiership semi-finals) looked like on the field — but be sure to sign up for our webinar on the 22nd to discover how this tactical approach might play out on the field in Hamilton in 2021.
Continue reading “Super Rugby Aotearoa preview: analysing Clayton McMillan’s style of play”
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The sun rises in spite of everything. After weeks of deprivation and uncertainty, hope has appeared on the horizon – or, at least, to those European rugby fans willing to set their alarms early on coming weekend mornings.
Whether you’re a Super Rugby regular who has risen ritualistically for years to watch the likes of Larkham, Carter and du Preez or a casual fan of the sport, the advent of Super Rugby Aotearoa is a heady prospect. The ten-week double-round-robin competition featuring the five New Zealand franchises – the Blues, Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders and Hurricanes – kicks off next Saturday at 6:05am (UK time), with a number of interesting rule variations.
Continue reading “What to expect from Super Rugby Aotearoa”
In the 68th minute of this morning’s game in Hamilton, Bulls prop Conraad van Vuuren received a yellow card for a swinging arm directed at the head of a falling Damian McKenzie. The Chiefs were awarded another penalty 2 minutes later and elected for a scrum, forcing John Mitchell’s hand: starting tighthead Trevor Nyakane had to return to the field, and the away team’s head coach chose to sacrifice a midfielder – Burger Odendaal – rather than another member of the forward pack. This had important tactical consequences for the Bulls – they were now a man short in the backline when defending in set-piece situations – and the Chiefs exploited the decision expertly before the end of van Vuuren’s sin-binning to put themselves 6 points clear with 5 minutes to play.
Continue reading “Attack analysis: Chiefs vs. Bulls, 16 Mar”
The Super Rugby season kicks off for the New Zealand Conference tomorrow, as the Blues travel to Dunedin to take on the Highlanders. What are some of the questions that each franchise – and the All Blacks selectors – will be considering heading into their 2018 campaigns?
Continue reading “Super Rugby 2018: New Zealand Conference preview”
How we talk about team culture
“If you say rugby unifies New Zealand, if you say better people make better players and if we are going to pay young men six times the average wage when they are 21, we have to accept criticism if we dip below the moral line.”
Neil Sorensen – General Manager, New Zealand Rugby
Discussion of the concept of team culture in rugby is dominated by the All Blacks’ coaching and playing environment. This environment is lauded for the level of on-pitch performance it produces, but is often derided by detractors for its apparent hypocrisy: Steve Hansen declaring that “good people make good All Blacks” is juxtaposed with numerous negative stories involving symbols of this culture such as Aaron Smith and Dan Carter. This reading stems from the way in which sporting behaviour is traditionally couched in moral terms: we talk about a player showing integrity, bravery and heart and extrapolate from this an individual moral judgement, when in reality all we can really deduce is a professional’s aptitude and willingness to work hard to achieve a desired goal.
Parsing Hansen’s comments on his team environment, we can see that he too is guilty of this elision – it is the latter which he essentially interprets as the key to his “good people”, “no dickheads” policy: “For us we are trying to find people of good character…because if they have got good character they will have good character on the track under pressure. Invariably the people who are dickheads off the track are the ones who wilt when they are on it.”
Hansen’s dealings with the media are instructive in the way that they prioritise the team environment above all else: we can see this in his treatment of the Owen Franks case last summer, and his circling of the wagons in the wake of Steven Luatua’s signing with Bristol. Gregor Townsend’s handling of the controversy surrounding Conor Murray’s standing leg is in the same vein: a statement designed to address the events not in their wider context (player safety in the case of Murray and Franks, and a professional player’s freedom of choice in the case of Luatua), but in the context of their effect on the team environment.
Continue reading “Super Rugby 2017 preview: Chiefs”
The Chiefs broke away from the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth towards the end of the first half of last weekend’s Round 3 match, having made hard work of the opening half an hour. Their defence of the Kings’ driving maul, some uncharacteristic handling errors and the concession of soft penalties allowed the home side to keep in touch until Damian McKenzie touched down on 32 minutes. They added four second half tries to their three in the first, and Charlie Ngatai’s midfield break on first phase ball to open the scoring in the second period exemplified what the New Zealand franchise have tried to do in attack so far this Super Rugby season.
Continue reading “Try analysis: Chiefs vs. Southern Kings, 12 Mar”