Planet Rugby

Loose Pass

04th March 2013 05:30

Share:

Marcell Coetzee Sharks v Stormers 2013

Dour game: Sharks v Stormers

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with substitutions, philosophies, disciplinaries, and zero-G rugby...

Award for the substitution least likely to make an impact on a match this week goes to Allister Coetzee of the Stormers, who brought on Gerhard van den Heever about seventeen seconds after the 80 minutes were up in his team's 12-6 non-event defeat at the Sharks on Saturday.

What the hell for? Waste time? Erm... well, you are six points down, in your own half, with seventeen seconds to go... probably not.

Impact? Change of pace? Erm... being as the Stormers had almost completely failed to pass the ball beyond the second receiver all night, hardly. Also being as Van den Heever is hardly King Kong, he was not going to be tasked with thundering in off his wing to breakdown the black wall, nor was he ever going to have enough of a feel for the game to dance his way through a half-gap.

So no, there can be no other reason for the change other than Coetzee having some inherent desire to make sure all 22 players got a run, although given that the game was an absolute car crash in terms of running rugby, Van den Heever probably worked up more of a sweat coming onto the field than playing.

It wasn't just the Stormers, mind. Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske brought on his reserve hooker Ryno Barnes with a measly 120 seconds remaining and his team 42 points adrift.

It's difficult to know what might be more of a slap in the face to a player, not getting on at all or being entrusted with about 60 seconds of a lost cause. At least if you don't get on at all you will probably be told: "well I didn't feel you would have made the difference I wanted" or something like that, but to be given any kind of task on a rugby field you'd probably, on average, need a good five minutes, perhaps even ten.

Any coach making a change later than that is just paying token heed to a player's presence, merely doffing cap and saying 'thanks for coming'. Such carrots are not what these players sweat and toil for, nor are they any kind of game experience boost to the paying viewer/punter.

A rule prohibiting token substitutions is too open to misinterpretation to be feasible, but we are calling on the conscience of many a coach here when we say: if you are going to bring a player on, give him a realistic chance, in terms of time, to make his presence felt. If you don't feel he is up to it or that the game is not going to his strengths, tell him so and leave him for another day. Ultimately, he might appreciate the honesty a bit more.


Back to that Stormers-Sharks blight on the Super Rugby landscape: fascinating opposites in philosophies by two men who supposedly once thought the sun shined out of the others' proverbials: Bob Skinstad and Nick Mallett.

Skinstad, never one to let thoughtful observation obstruct the charge down his vocal chords of the first thing that comes into his head, described the miserable, error-laden kickfest as a 'classic derby'.

Mallett meanwhile, coping in the studio with the shower of stutterings from Ashwin Willemse and the cold, tactical slicing of Naas Botha, came up with something along these lines (any errors are down to the fact that we did not record the studio post-match, but the gist is definitely this):

"If we are sitting here and reviewing highlights, and all of those highlights are of crossfield kicks or high balls, then something is wrong. It cannot be that we have two supposedly top teams who can barely string more than three phases together, or have the skills to get two passes out beyond the rucks without making mistakes. If that's the case, we have a serious problem. It's very disappointing."

So, a classic, full of passion, or an over-conservative, skill-less example of what is missing in South Africa right now?

We'll let you decide, but remember this: Lwazi Mvovo and Gio Aplon, two of the country's finest runners with ball in hand, received the ball deep from kicks (or passes from catchers of kicks) about 10-15 times each. We cannot remember Aplon running the ball back once, and Mvovo only twice. The rest of the time they barely looked up before smashing the ball downfield. Isn't that a bit of a waste of runners?


Over to the disciplinaries, where again the tangled web of practices and directives is punishing the innocent and flattering the guilty.

Cian Healy's suspension reduction - he got a week less on the technicality that the suspension should run from the date of the offence rather than the date of the hearing - means he can now take the field against France next weekend, something which you rather feel was clearly not the intention of the judicial officers who handed out the ban in the first place.

So for the love of all things oval, why this ludicrous systems of banning someone for weeks rather than matches? Even soccer has worked out you are banned for a certain number of matches, be that over ten weeks or four, and there is nothing the player can do about it.

Obviously rugby's calendar is fragmented and tournaments overlap.... so simply cover all the matches. A centralised disciplinary system could have banned Healy for two Six Nations matches and two Leinster matches, meaning Healy would have had no grey areas to launch his appeal from.

A centralised disciplinary system... *sigh*. If only.

It couldn't be any worse than the French one. Healy's case was heard five days after his little indiscretion against England, but it will take nearly three weeks for the French judiciary to convene and discuss the possible penalty against the tap-dancing Dimitri Yachvili (have a look at 1:50:45 here.).

Three weeks to get a hearing together? Going on Healy's appeal technicality.... he could serve his ban before the hearing was even convened! He clearly won't - that was an ugly incident - but the French have got their act together in so many ways in the Top 14, this is a glaring hole.


Finally, continuing on the theme started by the Sharks and Stormers of 'way up in the air', three Russian cosmonauts this week played what has to be the first ever game of zero-gravity rugby of all time in the International Space Station, to celebrate their country hosting the draw, and the finals on June 28-30, of this year's Rugby World Cup Sevens.

The three, all keen rugby players, sent this message home:

Also, other observations were noted:

Cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky landed a 240m drop goal with a back-heel
Whoever loses the scrum engagement finds it extremely difficult to push back
Novitsky, clean through and with only one opponent to beat, did so by chipping the ball under his opponent, also laughing heartily as his opponent's attempt to charge the chip down sent him crashing into the control panel...

Loose Pass compiled by Richard Anderson

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , April 18
Harlequins vs LeicesterHarlequins vs Leicester Preview
Saturday , April 19
Exeter vs Sale15:00
Bath vs Worcester15:00
Wasps vs Gloucester15:15
Sunday , April 20
Northampton vs London Irish14:00
Newcastle vs Saracens15:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
RaboDirect PRO12
Friday , April 18
Leinster vs Benetton TrevisoLeinster vs Benetton Treviso Preview
Glasgow vs UlsterGlasgow vs Ulster Preview
Saturday , April 19
Zebre vs Edinburgh14:30
Connacht vs Munster18:15
Sunday , April 20
Cardiff Blues vs Scarlets14:00
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Ospreys16:45
More RaboDirect PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , April 18
Castres vs MontpellierCastres vs Montpellier Preview
Saturday , April 19
Oyonnax vs Toulouse14:55
Perpignan vs Toulon17:00
Grenoble vs Bayonne18:30
Biarritz vs Brive18:30
Racing Metro Paris vs Clermont AuvergneRacing Metro Paris vs Clermont Auvergne Preview
Stade Francais vs Bordeaux-Begles20:35
More Top 14 fixtures
Super Rugby
Friday , April 18
Hurricanes vs BluesHurricanes vs Blues Preview
Melbourne Rebels vs Western Force19:40
Saturday , April 19
Chiefs vs Crusaders19:35
Waratahs vs Bulls19:00
Sharks vs Cheetahs15:00
Stormers vs Lions17:05
More Super Rugby fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , April 13
Saracens 28 - 24 NorthamptonSaracens vs Northampton Report
London Irish 40 - 12 NewcastleLondon Irish vs Newcastle Report
Saturday , April 12
Worcester 33 - 38 ExeterWorcester vs Exeter Report
Leicester 27 - 15 WaspsLeicester vs Wasps Report
Gloucester 17 - 18 BathGloucester vs Bath Report
More Aviva Premiership results
RaboDirect PRO12
Benetton Treviso 45 - 27 Newport Gwent D'gonsBenetton Treviso vs Newport Gwent D
Scarlets 27 - 20 ZebreScarlets vs Zebre Report
Munster 5 - 22 GlasgowMunster vs Glasgow Report
More RaboDirect PRO12 results
Top 14
Bordeaux-Begles 20 - 22 ToulonBordeaux-Begles vs Toulon Report
Toulouse 16 - 9 BriveToulouse vs Brive Report
Grenoble 30 - 36 Montpellier
Perpignan 22 - 12 Oyonnax
Bayonne 24 - 19 Stade Francais
Racing Metro Paris 37 - 7 Biarritz
More Top 14 results
Super Rugby
Chiefs 22 - 16 Melbourne RebelsChiefs vs Melbourne Rebels Report
Western Force 28 - 16 WaratahsWestern Force vs Waratahs Report
Lions 12 - 25 SharksLions vs Sharks Report
Cheetahs 31 - 52 CrusadersCheetahs vs Crusaders Report
More Super Rugby results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , April 11
Sale Sharks 12 - 27 HarlequinsSale Sharks vs Harlequins Report
More Aviva Premiership results
RaboDirect PRO12
Ulster 58 - 12 ConnachtUlster vs Connacht Report
Edinburgh 22 - 29 Cardiff BluesEdinburgh vs Cardiff Blues Report
Ospreys 25 - 19 LeinsterOspreys vs Leinster Report
More RaboDirect PRO12 results
Top 14
Clermont Auvergne 23 - 11 CastresClermont Auvergne vs Castres Report
More Top 14 results
Super Rugby
Highlanders 27 - 20 BullsHighlanders vs Bulls Report
Reds 20 - 23 BrumbiesReds vs Brumbies Report
More Super Rugby results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens1976
2Northampton1966
3Leicester Tigers1963
4Bath1959
5Harlequins1954