South African rugby superbrain Heyneke Meyer believes the new breakdown rule interpretations will favour Super 14 powerhouses the Crusaders and Brumbies.
Duncan johnstone writes for Stuff.co.nz that Meyer, who guided the Bulls to South Africa’s first title in 2007 and is now back as their director of rugby, is a fan of the new slant on the rules that looks set to energise the game.
Continuity of phases is the aim of the latest interpretations to be introduced this season and that style of play has formed the basis of the Crusaders’ seven titles and the Brumbies collecting two cups and appearing in three other finals.
“Teams will definitely get more quick ball, and I see teams like the Brumbies and Crusaders, who are skilled at playing through the phases, thriving under the new law interpretations,” Meyer told South African website keo.co.za.
“The higher the speed of the recycle the more opportunities you have at finding space in the defensive line and therefore the more chances you have of scoring tries, which is what teams and the public want.”
An IRB research committee investigating last year’s Super 14 and Tri-Nations competitions found almost 50% of penalties awarded for ruck infringements went to the defending team. That helped promote the kick and chase game as team’s were desperate to operate in the opposition half, away from their own goalposts where they feared conceding three points.
Meyer believes openside flankers like Richie McCaw, Schalk Burger and Heinrich Brussow loom as key figures who will enjoy the ability to expand their attacking skills at the breakdown.
“Previously openside flankers were used largely in a defensive capacity – to slow ball or steal it – with particular emphasis on the latter given how difficult it has become to score from structured play.
“Now, because the law virtually eliminates the possibility of the tackler contesting the ball, I predict the openside flank will be used almost exclusively at third and fourth rucks and out wide, when there is more of an opportunity to contest the ball. The best and most intelligent opensiders will pick their rucks, and they’ll still have a significant influence on matches.
“But their role will have to change from a primarily defensive one to a more balanced one, with ball carrying and ruck cleaning becoming part of their job description. Players like Richie McCaw and Schalk Burger are ideal in this regard because they tick all the boxes.”