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Ken Borland

Handling & defence chief concerns for Nollis

Posted on March 27, 2017 by Ken


Handling errors and poor defence were the chief concerns of Bulls coach Nollis Marais following their dismal display in Albany which saw them being belted 38-14 by the Blues at the weekend.

Despite having their fair share of possession and shading the territory battle, the Bulls were outscored by six tries to two and fell apart badly in the second half after going into the break level at 7-7.

“We were very competitive in the first half but we didn’t take our chances in the second half. We made too many errors with our handling and we couldn’t convert from the lineout. We gave them too many opportunities and obviously the defence is definitely a concern.

“We conceded too many points in the second half and we will have to look at that, re-visit our defence,” Marais said.

The Bulls allowed 13 linebreaks and missed 24 tackles against the Blues, and have now conceded 17 tries in four matches.

The Blues had won just one of their four matches prior to their meeting with the Bulls, who now face far tougher opposition in the form of the unbeaten Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday.

“There will definitely be one or two changes to the team, but we’re not going to change structurally, we have to make sure everything is in place for next Saturday,” the coach said.

The scrums were perhaps the only area where the Bulls did themselves justice.

“It was a great performance in the scrums, Trevor Nyakane did really well at tighthead, and we were dominant there, so that was a very good positive,” Marais said.

“But we didn’t take our chances in the second half, we wasted too many opportunities. A couple of times we were in their 22 but we didn’t convert that into points either.”


2 to “Handling & defence chief concerns for Nollis”

  1. Hi Ken, I watched quite a bit of the first half. The following leaves me bewildered about the Bulls rugby:
    1. Why still persist in kicking high ball away without even contesting regaining possession?
    2. Why kick the ball away when you are spending so much time defending and leaking tackles anyhow?
    3. Why kick the ball away when your level of fitness does not allow for sustained defence resulting in your defence gradually being shredded in the second half – the opposition’s tactic?
    4. Why pass slow second phase ball backwards to someone who is static resulting in gifting the opposition forward momentum as they move forwards into the tackle and you lose ground? This was even done into the in-goal area!!
    5. If you don’t spend masses of time practicing running into space and keeping the ball out of the tackle you will inevitably commit handling errors?
    6. Does the modern game not demand the retention of possession and the intention to outscore the opposition rather than the 2007 dependence upon a defence only?
    7. How hard do the Bulls work at keeping the opposition guessing by attacking different channels – providing a surprise element?
    8. Why do the Bulls not attack the ball at the breakdown using players to fetch the ball rather than simply seeking to defend again?
    9. In watching the modern game one gets the sense that the Bulls have not yet entered the modern era when possession, sophisticated retention of possession and attacking at high speed has become the name of the game.
    10. They appear to remain stuck in a ponderous plodding game (lack of doing things at speed) trying to find themselves in the opposition 22 metre area in first phase situations usually by kicking the ball into touch and trying to compete against their lineout throw.
    11. There is no lack of talent – it seems that there is a lack of tactical appreciation for the modern game and as a result there is a lack on intensity and accuracy of skill demanded in matches because it would seem that it is not practiced.

    • Ken says:

      Hi Gordon, thanks very much for your comments & apologies for the late response but it’s been a hectic week.
      A kick is surely only as good as the chase, otherwise you’re just giving possession away!Kicking still has a major role in modern rugby, but it has to be accurate and tactical, aligned with a strong chasing line.
      As for No.4, the incident which conceded the try was one of the most farcical bits of rugby I’ve ever seen! The scrumhalf went to play pillar and the flank was then scrumhalf!
      I’m sure the host of handling errors the Bulls were making (before today’s game v Chiefs) is largely do to them trying to adapt to a ball-in-hand style they are not used to. As you say, this has to be sorted out in training, drummed into them.
      It’s funny that this year a few teams have won with less possession than the opposition, it seems territory is more important these days.
      No.7 was still very evident today, despite a much-improved display on attack – there’s a lack of incisiveness partly because the attack is all the same, therefore much easier to defend. Contrast that with the Chiefs’ final try, they changed angles several times and it was lovely to watch.
      Numbers at the breakdown is intricately linked to defence and there are times when the Bulls have been exposed by committing too many players to the breakdown, thereby weakening the defensive line. But their so-called openside flank had only made one turnover all season before the Chiefs game!
      The Bulls certainly need to raise the tempo of their game – as they did in the first half against the Chiefs – but they also need to sustain it for more than 50 minutes!
      I find them especially ponderous on turnover ball, it’s like they don’t know what to do with it. Other teams train for that, they hone their decision-making skills on turnover ball.
      And I agree, they certainly have the talent, there are some great rugby players in that team!
      All the best,

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