The latest Intercept analysis looks at a breathtaking Boks try


The Intercept: Kurt-Lee Arendse’s try against England

We weren’t to know at the time, but England’s defeat at the hands of South Africa was Eddie Jones’s final match in charge. England lost 27-13 and really never looked like they were going to pose many problems. One of the key moments of the match was Kurt Lee Arendse’s 33rd minute try which gave South Africa an 11-3 lead, one they would continue to build on until a 72nd minute consolation try from Henry Slade.

We spoke to the Secret Analyst to understand how that game breaking try was scored.

Kurt-Lee Arendse’s try against England

“The middle third of the park (between both 10m lines) is always a tough place to be. As an analyst or coach, what you’re constantly striving for from the gantry is an entry into the opposition 22, however that may be. For a lot of teams, going to a contestable kick is a great option to try and get the ball back, and therefore entering the opposition 22. This unfortunately, is often accompanied by groans from the fans who want to see running rugby. But running rugby isn’t always possible against a modern-day defence.”

Rugby fans often bemoan the lack of attacking excitement in modern rugby. It’s not something I personally agree with. But, if you did want to blame something, it would be modern defences and not modern attacks. Modern defences have gotten so good that modern attacks can’t simply run through them. Instead, they have to resort to alternative strategies; like kicking the ball away and trying to recover it.

“For Kurt-Lee Arendse’s try against England, you see Marcus Smith opting to go for a contestable kick in the middle third of the field. The issue here isn’t the option, but the execution. As an analyst looking at South Africa receiving the kick, I’m firstly looking at Arendse’s escort who subtly forces Freddie Steward to change his running line slightly, which causes him to miss the tackle on Damian Willemse. England’s kick chase line is compromised as soon as Steward misses the tackle, leaving two front rows to do an impossible job. Arendse’s urgency to bounce out and get straight back to a support line is brilliant.”

A key component of modern kick chases and kick receipts is the escort. This is something which has come from American football. The idea is to adjust your running lines to give the player taking the high ball a pocket of space. That should increase their success rate under the high ball. But, in both of the above examples, it also removes a defender from the chase. For England this is critical because once Steward is removed there are only front row forwards left. All South Africa need to do is pick off the broken field.

“Le Roux’s reaction to track on the inside also makes a huge difference to the attack. Linebreak conversion is a key stat for most attack coaches, and you can usually link positive work-rate to linebreak conversion. Although England have three defenders against two South African attackers, Arendse has pure gas to burn. The last man in defence is constantly told to use the touchline as an extra defender, which unfortunately doesn’t help Marcus Smith here. As an analyst, I feel linebreak drills (in both defence and attack) should be utilised more in a training setting, so that good habits can be developed for when the clean breaks happen in a game.”

What can you take from Arendse’s try against England, if you want to improve your game as either a player or a coach?

There are two key areas; kick chase and line break conversions. When you kick, be aware of who is around to chase. If you are underpowered compared to your opponents or you only have forwards in the chase, then consider if kicking is the best option. If you have already kicked, then your team will need to work extra hard to get in position to stop the counterattack. If you are receiving the kick then be aware of how you can shepherd your opponents off the ball. There’s a fine line between shepherding and blocking so you will want to practice that. 

However, finishing off your line break is perhaps more crucial. You need to have experience of doing that and it’s critical to practice this during your training sessions. This is one of the biggest problems at the amateur levels. Teams get a lot of line breaks but convert very few of them. I looked at a level six team this season, if they converted two more line breaks per match they would have won six of their eight games rather than three. Learning how to score tries from line breaks is critical.

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