HAWKEYE VIEW: BLITZKRIEG

Fri, 12 Dec 2014 08:51
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MATT HAWKINS TAKES A CLOSER LOOK AT THE BLITZBOKKE AND THE REASONS BEHIND THEIR DOMINANCE IN DUBAI LAST WEEKEND.

What a weekend! The rugby did not disappoint and the players put on a show at the party in desert at the Dubai Sevens event. 

Speed was definitely a huge factor over the weekend. But even more important were the intangibles which I will look at in-depth later in the piece.
 
What we are going to start with is a closer look at the Champions of Dubai, the South Africans. We are going to highlight a few very specific stats and give reason to them, but giving more thought to what conclusions we draw from these stats.
 
The South Africans played six games over two days and went unbeaten. The stats we are going to draw a conclusion from are
 
- Time in possession
- Number of passes
- Number of tries 
- General play turnovers
- Penalties/Free kicks against
 
These stats show a couple of pieces of what was the Championship story for the South Africans. 
 
 
First and foremost, the biggest piece of the chart that doesn’t have an individual stat is defence. The fact the South Africans played six games and a total of 90 minutes of Sevens rugby and were only scored on four times is a massive storyline and again speaks to tremendous team work, but also the intangibles.
 
Discipline was something that they struggled with, but were steadfast enough to overcome. The crucial piece to their Penalty/Free Kick is their ability to stay incredibly disciplined in their last game of the tournament, in the final when physically, mentally and emotionally the player has drawn on all of their supplies and depleted them to next to nothing.
 
The next intriguing stat is that of the passes. South Africa is an incredibly creative team and one that we have discussed has multiple threats that can create opportunities across the park and from any situation. 
 
A game that highlighted this for me was the game against Argentina. Bear in mind this is the first game on Day Two, when your preparation and recovery from Day One make or break your tournament.
 
South Africa scored six tries, passing the ball 18 times with three minutes and two seconds in possession of the ball. 
 
That averages out at three passes per try and a try every 30 seconds. That is clinical, accuracy and execution personified. You have to also take in to account that Argentina went on to finish fifth overall in Dubai and lie seventh overall in the Series.
 
The last stat that we need to take a look at is the turnover stat. that again talks to a team's ability to keep possession and build phases and apply pressure. 
 
Over six games of Sevens, they turned the ball over to the opposition 11 times, so just shy of one a half. That is exceptional when you think at how expansive the game is and the margin for error is increased with the pace and flair that these players play with. It speaks to the accuracy that the South Africans play with.
 
Now I have mentioned a few times in this piece, the intangibles. By definition an intangible is something that is hard to describe or unquantifiable. 
 
What does that mean?
 
It means that in any sport there are certain characteristics or traits that are just not measurable with science. No technology can show us the evidence in a stat. 
 
We have all seen it, the cliché changing room scene or the half-time speech or the motivational promotional video where words like heart, guts, determination, grit, fearless and many other adjectives are thrown out to describe the actions that need to come from with in for a victory to be possible. 
 
Even now as I sit here typing this I get goosebumps thinking about some of the motivation I bore witness to. It’s a stirring scene when you come upon it and is something so raw in nature yet so fierce in its ability to draw out an animal or warrior from the lowly man.
 
These can also be summed up in an attitude. South Africa’s greatest achievement over the past weekend was and will never be reflected in their stats, but in the attitude they displayed at multiple times during the weekend. One just has to watch the last minute of the semifinal game against New Zealand to understand just how determined that team was.
 
We have seen countless images that help us understand this elusive thing that really and truly at the end of the day will define individuals and more importantly teams.
 
South Africa were a team that had the focus, leadership and fortitude that galvanised them over the course of two days.
 
This weekend on home soil in front of their home crowd they are a force that will be looking to create devastation for their opponents each and every time they take to the field. 
 
On a Final note one player that shone all weekend long through his dogged commitment to do the hard yards was Kwagga Smith. Here are a few of his personal stats from the weekend. 
 
 
By Matt Hawkins
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