• Hold On to the Ball!

    For supporters of New Zealand teams, the Super Rugby Pacific competition has produced some entertaining matches (entertaining in terms, at least, of the closeness of the results, rather than, so much, the skill and quality of the play). But, all too often, we have seen – even from the Crusaders, on occasion – a weakness that is increasingly apparent in New Zealand rugby – the predilection of New Zealand backs in possession to kick the ball downfield, not to create an attacking position or to gain valuable territory, but (so it seems) simply to present the opposition with the ball and challenge them to do something with it.

    It is an affliction that seems to have struck all of our teams to varying degrees – the Blues, not very often, and the Chiefs, only on occasion. But it has characterised most of the Super Rugby games involving New Zealand teams, and it would be surprising if, given how much it seems to have become part of our game, it does not rear its ugly head when it comes to the All Blacks.

    The worrying aspect of this development is not just that it is so obviously counter-productive, but what it tells us about the state of mind of some of our leading players. The willingness to give up the opportunity to use the ball and instead hand it over to the opponents suggests that our midfield backs in particular have lost faith in their ability to run the ball back when it is kicked into their territory. They seem to want easy metres and to doubt their ability to beat a man or to break a tackle; they prefer instead to hand the responsibility of making an attacking play over to their opponents – something the opponents are, all too often, only too happy to do.

    We cannot expect to win matches against top-class opponents if we are willing so often and so easily to give up possession, and to ignore the age-old adage that you cannot score tries and win matches unless you have the ball. Coaches, please do something to counter this disastrous development!

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