There was a change brought about by Peter de Villiers in the way South Africans look to approach the game, and it might just come off for them in the Super 14.
The South African teams’ newfound ‘fondness’ for an expansive game could be the key change to the Super 14 this year, according to the Waratahs’ forward coach Michael Foley.
Foley, who has joined the Waratahs full-time from the Wallabies, is convinced the South African Super 14 sides will discard their propensity for a forward-orientated game and embrace the new experimental law variations.
Speaking to the media at a Waratahs training session on Monday, Foley said he has based his prediction on the style of game that was played by the Springboks last year.
“People will adapt better to the laws … particularly the South African teams.” Foley told AAP.
“Their [South Africa’s] Test team tried to play more expansively than what you would traditionally see. That will reflect down into their [Super 14] sides.”
While the ELVs are an initiative of the International Rugby Board and have been on trial at various levels of the game, they have met with opposition from many of the Northern Hemisphere nations that hold the IRB power base.
Former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones, now at English club Saracens, was the latest to criticise the laws this week.
“The [IRB] have made the laws so difficult to referee, the game is immeasurably worse than 12 months ago,” Jones said. “The referees have not got worse. Neither have the players. So what’s the one missing? The ELVs.”
Asked about the remarks, Foley said : “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and Eddie is good for an opinion.”
Foley said many people didn’t realise that while the ELVs were aimed at promoting a faster, more entertaining, running game, they still allowed teams to play a traditional tighter game if they wished.
“Teams will try and play that way [faster]. The ELVs open up opportunities the old laws didn’t,” he said.
“But the ELVs don’t compel you to play that way. The smarter sides last year at Test level used the laws in both ways. [There was] the more traditional way. When the opportunity was there to have a line-out that they felt would advantage them, they took it. Then you saw the ELVs played in a true sense of [playing] more expansively.
“What we are seeing is a lot more possession come from unstructured sources, and that means running is very, very important. Particularly the South African teams, I believe, will have jumped on to that in the off-season. There are windows that have been opened that probably weren’t there before. The laws encourage you to try those things. But you can still play a traditional style of game, and that was seen in a number of Tests last year.”
Foley cited the Bledisloe Cup Test in Auckland last season, saying: “New Zealand kicked a lot of the ball with a large number of line-outs in that game, which was much larger than most other Tests in the year.
“People equate ELVs with [a belief that] you can’t play a tight game or traditional style of game, but you can.”