This game was also interesting because the Bulls defence was much better, but then on attack sometimes they just did not always click. One thing they did that work well was that they “changed direction” often after a ruck – so they play one way but then at the next ruck they switch and play back the other way, especially after a set piece. I am sure this was pre-planned for how the Chiefs defenders fold from ruck to ruck. Often the first receiver with this switches was the excellent Burger Odendaal who many times find space on the short side.
But on a few other occasions when the Bulls was playing more traditional off 10, from ruck to ruck, the backs did not seem to be able to make anything happen.
When I had a closer look I notice that sometimes the problem seem to be Handre who often stand too deep, or should I say he distribute too deep. Take a look at the picture below.
Handre is about to pass the ball but he do it so early that the aggressive Chiefs defenders can now just change direction and attack the remaining Bulls runners. It is like a hospital pass for his whole backline.
If Handre was taking the ball flatter, or if he was coming up faster and playing later, then there is more mystery and the inside Chief defenders must stay where they are to see what is going to develop. We take away their time. It is no use to run your moves early and deep, and the opposition can just wait and watch and then attack the final receiver.
Below is a example of nice flatness and running onto the ball by Lood of all people. Take a look.
Lood is taking the ball in motion and he is quite flat and close to the Chiefs defensive line. They must cover him – he is a option to carry, but he can also pass inside and outside. Chiefs can not drift or shift outside – you can see the difference.
But guys now I want to tell you something that I find very, very interesting…
I have a strong feeling that the reason Handre does not usually play flatter or later is because he can not do it.
I watched him very closely, and guys he is not comfortable trying to pick runners when he is playing late and close to the opposition defence. He seem to get flustered and get a tunnel vision and then often his execution suffer. His passes drop short or they go high, as we see in two quick examples below from the Chief game.
Now I know you are thinking that this is a big claim to make. I am in the essence saying that Handre can not fulfil the role of a modern flyhalf. But guys, what if I tell you that I notice this tendency in Handre two years ago and that I collected some video clips of it back then already because I find it so interesting.
Handre will take the ball flat, but when he have to pick a runner he mess up the pass or he will rather just not pass at all and go into contact. Below is three quick examples from old games.
So I will stick my neck out and say that Handre is not a guy who is able to play flat. It is not fear – we know he is hell of a tough guy. I feel it is a mental and perception thing that some guys is able to do and some not.
When he is presented with multiple options, with crowded space, under pressure, he is often unable to make a quick choice and execute his decision effectively. It is as if there is too much going on. And as I say, his “fail safe” often is just rather to take contact and not pass at all.
I know what I am saying and I do not take it lightly. I am saying that he possibly lack an important skill that is needed to be a international flyhalf. A 10 must be able to vary his depth and play deep and flat and bring his strike options into play right at the faces of the opposition.
Maybe coaches can work with him, maybe it is something that will come with time, and of course maybe I am totally wrong!
But when I ask myself why Handre don’t play flatter, and when I look at the evidence I have seen over the years, this game finally cement it for me that it is not something I feel he can do effectively. It is something that sometimes burden the Bulls backs, and I am sure we do not want it to burden the Bok backs.
Take care guys, and we will chat again soon.