SA’s backs are still try-shy


imagesHuman steam-roller Willem Alberts who, let’s face it, generally prefers just one way to the line, currently heads the South African try scorers in Super Rugby with a less than princely three.

By: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

The hefty Sharks blindside flank got to his third of the season, and his team’s lone touchdown on the day, in their first setback of the season at the hands of the Bulls at Loftus on Saturday.

And yes, it was another of his short-range, unsubtle, route-one busts over the whitewash.

It kind of sums up the collective struggle by South African teams to manufacture scoring opportunities for the best intended finishers in rugby: outside backs.

Alberts may lead the SA “charge” for tries thus far, but even he is a long way behind the overall leader at this point, the Waratahs’ blistering fullback Israel Folau, who sports eight.

Behind Folau, in joint second with four tries each, comes a pair of Brumbies, Robbie Coleman and Jesse Mogg, plus the Hurricanes’ slippery flyhalf Beauden Barrett.

Early indications are that last season’s pattern may repeat itself.

Again then, South Africans failed to feature near the top of the try-scoring chart: the Blues’ Tongan express wing Frank Halai headed the 2013 pack with 10, and the closest South Africans, in joint eighth, were Cheetahs back-three talisman Willie le Roux and Kings flanker Wimpie van der Walt (six apiece).

For team tries thus far in 2014, the SA challenge is also less than inspiring: we lie bottom of the pile with 51 achieved between the five franchises, eight shy of the second-placed New Zealanders (59) and as many as 14 short of the pace-setting Aussies (65).

No South African side cracks the top five, despite the Sharks still occupying top log position overall, with the Blues notching 17 dot-downs, the Hurricanes and Waratahs 16, and Force and Brumbies 14 each.

The Sharks and Cheetahs are best SA flag-bearers thus far with 13 each, and the Stormers really drag the whole, local conference cause down by only dotting seven times from their five games to lie 14th out of the 15 tournament teams as things stand (the Crusaders a little surprisingly bring up the rear on six tries).

Scoring tries freely is not, of course, the be-all and end-all of rugby success: look at the table positions of the Blues (eighth) and Hurricanes (12th) for proof of that; sometimes teams crossing the line with some ease are guilty of lax defending at the other end of the park and leak plenty of tries themselves.

But it is also difficult to escape a suspicion that several SA teams could do with a bit more ball-in-hand urgency and fluency as the country seeks its first Super Rugby title since the change to the conference system in 2011.

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Better known as Bunny, Took over after Pissant went over to the "Dark Side"


  1. Houwing iis probably, aside from Brendon, the most brainlless excuse for a commentator on local rugby…

    If one goes back in time you will see that in South Africa when we score lots of backline tries our forwards are not good…

    The times when backs outscored forwards was in 2000 – 2003… arguably the darkest stretch of history in our rugby… it took Straueli and Viljoen four consecutive disaster years to reach the conclusion that actually Australia was best at playing like Australia… and it was best to leave Brumbies rugby for the Brumbies…

    It’s just the way we play….

  2. Beats me why the writer of the article has to be insulted for stating the facts. Unlike you, David, I enjoyed reading what Mr Houwing had to say and as I was at the Crusaders v Stormers game, I can see exactly why those 2 teams are at the bottom of the pile. Both teams run good defence lines but have forgotten the art of attack. You cannot score tries if you consistently try and crash through the defence (Stormers) nor can your wings score tries if the backline crabs across the field (Crusaders).

    Hope their coaches got them to watch the Highlanders v Hurricanes game from last week. Those boys knew how to attack and score tries and I have yet to meet anybody who did not enjoy that game.

  3. Davids, then in your infinite wisdom, explain to me how the Springbok backs outscored the forwards by three tries to one last year?

  4. It would be more fair to see how many tries for and against was scored between conferences. The NZ and AUS teams don’t defend like the SA teams generally. There have been high scoring in conference games where defence was non existent. Those same teams then struggled to run as freely against SA teams.

  5. For the life of me I cannot see why people use stats to make us worry. Here’s another stat, allthough they have not starred in tryfests, the Sharks, Lions and Bulls are all in the top 6. These 3 teams have also not lost to any overseas team.

    See how easy it is to use stats to prove a point? So please get over these trivial matters. What matters most is winning matches. Simple game really

  6. Dunno what the guy is on about… how about he goes back and looks at the last 5 or so years at who has made the top 10 in total tries scored for the seasons… guys like Bjorn Basson, JPP, Habana… hell even Kirchner was up at the top whilst he was playing…


    Yep spot-on… less than two months of data and all of a sudden that’s a viable sample for a decade of rugby!

  7. And besides… every single year there have been loosies from many (non RSA) teams making the top 10… Thompson and Higgenbotham are the first that come to mind over the last few years…

    One look at the 2012 season alone dishes up an interesting counter to ‘still being try shy’!

    In the Top 10 Bjorn Basson was second only by 1 try (same as the year before),Viljoen and Kirchner equal third, Movovu/Ebersohn/Wynand Olivier next (along with Daniel)… methinks old Houwing needs to have some lessons first if he doesn’t want to sound like MArk Keohane!

  8. Hehe Bryce, everyone’s an expert. Just like my ‘expert’ analyses on the Bulls, Sharks and Lions. Forget the fact that they havent toured yet and the Sharks and Bulls have only played one game each against overseas teams, they havent lost to anyone from outside of SA this year.

  9. Tries scored by a backline player is no barometer for how a try was created.

    I would love the following two stats:

    1) tries created directly from set-piece

    2) tries originating after line-break

    The first one will tell us a bit about the teams coaching, while the second will point to players making the right decisions on attack.

  10. @biltongbek:

    No dimtard we lost the ONLY two that mattered you vaginal discharge…

    Vs NZ

    Played two lost two

    Try score was 32 backs 13 forwards so also not 3-1

    Maybe go slap your Grade 1 teacher for not teaching you to fraction proerly but I hear that special school closed down…

    Can I tell you something that willl f**k your mind

    In the two games the Kiwis beat us their forwards the 29-15 one their forwards scored ALL their tries

    Whilst in the return their five tries had THREE scored by forwards and two by backs…

    So two matches vs NZ last year

    NZ tries were six v 2 so REALLY 3-1 ratio in favour of forwards… jis they’re a bunch of big dumb oxes jjust relying on their forwards to beat the Boks aren’t they… iif they REALLY knew anything about rugby they’s stop scoring tries with big fat oxes and use backline players like… well like our world beaters did last year when they beat everyone… oh except New Zealdn who’s forwards outscored their back 3-1 …


    In the old Afrikaner way of saying

    Nou wat nou?

  11. @DavidS:

    You are so bloody dim-witted that you need a whoel spoon to feed you one mouthful.

    32 vs 13 is bloody close enough to 3 to one, didn’t know you were that pedantic.

    Reasoning with you is worse than explaining the basic facts to a two year old, the pure fact that you believe our forwards have to be kak so that our backs can score tries tells me precisely how dim-witted and indoctrinated your mindset is.

    You most likely believe the sidestep is a bloody dance rather than a method to get past a defender.

  12. Can whomever running this site cancel my log in here please, some of your posters here belongs on Keo, they have no bloody class and deserves no respect.

  13. I thought they tought the side step right after the two step? :soek:

    relax Biltongbek, this is a website/blog, just move on and come back when you are relaxed again. Dawie is just being Dawie, we got to him like this and he is true to himself. He is has strong views on most things of importance and isnt afraid of airing it. Take a drink and move on, 3/4 of us will never meet each other so dont let the comments get to you.

  14. @Aldo:

    Yes, this site also used to brag the manners and respect displayed against co-bloggers.

    I think it’s time for Dawie to ban himself – he
    is continiously losing us the few bloggers we
    still have.

  15. Ag guys, please tolerate Dawie, he is special to us all!

    he is invironmentally retarded, he comes from the east rand

  16. Dawie is the closest thing to a woman we have on here, so let him be.

    His irrational anger bursts are legendary but you try living in the hole that is JHB driving that traffic putting up with that shit all day everyday and you will also become a bit odd.

  17. The okes are boxing, good its means there’s passion for our rugby.
    Not enough SP Marias and too many crash ball merchants. Please Francios stop trying to flatten the okie…he has improved but you still see it when the opp looks a little smaller he lines him up and tries to standard 5 him. Eish

    Look at the Aussies so few players to chose from yet they make our backline players look like props.

    Pisses me off worse than the kak refs. We have the talent we just dont have the culture and belief.

  18. I’ve been a Ruggaworld blogger for a number of years – well since the start basically. Always loved it and although I’m not as active these days because of work I still read it everyday.

    It really grates me when you read stuff like this. We were known as a site where you could debate with people and although you didn’t have to agree on everything you respected the view of the other person.

    Insulting each other doesn’t make for a debate. It makes for a fight. I think all parties involved should apologise to each other and start acting like grownups.


  19. As for the article.

    There was a chinese bloke, Deng, I think, who said: “I don’t care if the cat is black or white – only that it catches mice.”

    Same thing here, I don’t care who scores the tries – as long as we score them and preferably more than the opposition…