Dual play-makers stem from League
READER’S OPINION: Dan Jardine responds to a fellow viewer’s question regarding the All Blacks approach to interchangeable 10/12, which was posed on Late Tackle’s Bulling Around with a Scarlet episode.
Having lived in NZ for a little while and playing a bit with both Union and league players, I think I may have an answer.
Firstly, I feel the interchangeable 10/12 approach is more consistent with the Aussies than it is with the All Blacks. Going back over the last 10-odd years let’s consider the 10/12 combos: Foley Beale, Foley/Giteau, Foley/Toomua, Foley/Lealiifano, Cooper/Toomua, Cooper/Barnes, Barnes/Giteau, Larkham/Giteau. All reasonably able to interchange between 10 and 12.
Very few non-interchangeable exceptions were combined like Foley/Kerevi or Foley/Hodge. Those combos coincidentally existed when Aussie rugby was at its lowest.
Now let’s compare the All Blacks over 10 years. Barrett/Williams, Barrett/Crotty, Carter/Nonu, Carter/McAlister, Carter/Mauger, Spencer/Carter, Mehrtens/Carter, Mehrtens/Mauger.
Granted, the All Blacks enjoy a lot more consistency in selection but one can clearly see the 10/12 preference lies heavily with the Aussies than with the All Blacks whose 10/12 are more specialized than interchangeable. Where this philosophy lies, I believe, is in the League influence in Australia.
We all know League dominates the rugby world in Australia and is a reasonably relevant code in NZ. In League, there are two specialist positions where a playmaker is required, the Five-Eighth (12) and the Halfback (10) – you’ve probably heard commentators use these names – these are League positions.
At a tackle, they position themselves on the left and the right of the tackle so as to offer attacking options on both sides – two playmakers. One of the playmakers, usually the Five-Eighth is the more flashy, agile playmaker whereas the halfback is more of a distributor and decision maker on attack.
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Most Aussies will grow up playing league, so from a rugby culture and philosophy point of view – particularly on attack – strategies are designed around this two playmaker approach and this has bled through to Union.
Kiwi kids generally grow up playing Union but play a league format socially as well. So, from time to time one can see a League-style approach creeping into their game but not as clearly as in Australia.
Consider Eddie Jones’ approach when he took over England. Ford/Farrell, Cipriani/Farrell. I’ll bet, skill aside, that Eddie Jones was in Jake White’s ear the second Jean de Villiers went down in 2007 World Cup to place Frans Steyn at 12.
SA Rugby, not having much of a league presence has evolved to only field one playmaker, the “general” and seemingly introduce the second playmaker option after a few fazes from 15. But generally, our 10 is the playmaker.
Australia strongly applies the 10/12 playmaker approach and NZ seems to be a hybrid of the two. Perhaps an accurate reflection of the three individual philosophies and culture.
Now, could the Springboks benefit from the 10/12 approach? YES! It worked well with James/Steyn in 2007 but Rassie would then need to bring in a League consultant to help with the two playmaker approach in attack, in order to get as much out of that strategy as possible, just as Eddie Jones did in 2007 with them.
My Springbok 10/12 combo would be Handre Pollard and Steyn. Although both right-footed kickers, Willie le Roux could come in with a left boot if needed. Or Rob du Preez and Pollard combo with Elton Jantjies on the bench.
By Dan Jardine
Note: Late Tackle is currently on a production break but will return before the Rugby Championship