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Efficiency gains get leaders over the line

Date

John Eales

OPINION

Blues centre Ma'a Nonu's tackling of Digby Ioane on Friday night is evidence that the Auckland side plays with passion.

Blues centre Ma'a Nonu's tackling of Digby Ioane on Friday night is evidence that the Auckland side plays with passion. Photo: Getty Images

When teams glow they combine high energy and efficiency, and both are equally important. It was just that combination which sparked the Reds championship last year and which has likewise shot the Brumbies to the top of the Australian rugby union conference this year. The Crusaders have ever been masters of both.

And it is both, not just one or the other, which are required. Great performances are too often passed off as the result of passion, and conversely, losses, as the lack of it.

Nothing offends a player more than when people infer they lack passion. I was involved in a lot of poor team performances but they were usually because we weren't good enough, not because we lacked passion. Passion is crucial, undoubtedly, but I don't believe it to be the differentiator as often as it is credited.

Take the Auckland Blues for example, losers for the seventh time on the weekend to Queensland's Reds. They have a formidable roster packed with stars such as Piri Weepu, Ma'a Nonu, Ali Williams, Rene Ranger et al, but their inefficiency thwarts their momentum. Their performances suggest they clock on with the whitecollar workers and clock off with the tradies and shirk a full day's work, but in reality they lack proficiency, not passion. You can read the pain from the strain in their eyes as you could feel the power in some of Nonu's hits on Digby Ioane in the first half. Efficiency is their remedy.

The Brumbies are the exemplar at the moment as they revel in the relevance of form and fly in the face of reputation. Their energy is incandescent and it is enhanced by their efficiency. Key to their efficiency is their decision making, which is always better facilitated by good instruction. There is no doubt coach Jake White is boss at their franchise but he has some good lieutenants in Laurie Fisher, Stephen Larkham and George Gregan.

After his sojourns to France and Japan, having Gregan back in Australian rugby is brilliant. This week he joined the ARU board as the players' rep, but his involvement with the Brumbies halves is just as exciting as he was one of the most intelligent playmakers to have played the game.

Involving Australia's brightest contemporary rugby minds in the development of fresh talent is crucial for our success. And that doesn't just include past great players because the transition from player to coach is not necessarily natural; some of the greatest players have made average coaches and some of the greatest coaches were only ever average players.

I cannot comment on Fisher's playing career but he is considered among the most astute instructors of the breakdown and of contact and it is precision in those disciplines which is serving the Brumbies well.

In their victory over the Lions, their precision at the breakdown sealed their destiny. It wasn't about numbers as much as it was about accuracy. So often they would secure the contact with one, two or three players, allowing the others to prepare for the next stage of play.

The result was that what seemed opportunistic tries were actually well constructed.

In their victory over the Blues, the Reds began to again demonstrate the precision that delivered them the title last year. It helps when you can reintroduce some of the candidates who had perfected their roles previously. In a bittersweet irony, however, it seemed Will Genia, among the Reds' best on the night, had already made his decision to defect to the Force. The regular transit between Queensland and WA since 2006 could justify the Reds and the Force employing a shared service relocation consultant.

As with former Force coach Richard Graham's move east last week, while it may be advantageous for the individual, it's a kick in the guts for fans – one they shouldn't have to endure mid-season.

Soon after the news about Genia went mainstream on Sunday, I was grabbed by a disillusioned supporter who sang the chorus of many. “This timing not only disengages us fans but it derails all the hard work of their own teams over the last 12 months. I don't blame Genia or Graham, I don't know who to blame, I just don't like it.”

It certainly took the gloss off his weekend.

10 comments so far

  • With this mornings turn around , the strong win over the blues and If the Reds can show the same passion and execution this weekend v the Crusaders that they did in the 2011 final , then they may just have this season right back on track.

    Commenter
    Bob The Builder
    Date and time
    April 30, 2012, 11:34AM
    • I'm sorry but all this talk about success at the Brumbies should calm down.Much of it is to do with the comparative failure of Australian teams. The Brumbies have actually won 5 games, lost 4 and are currently 6th on the Super ladder.They are made to look better because at least one team from each country has to finish in the top 3.
      I know....!

      Commenter
      abercarn
      Date and time
      April 30, 2012, 11:51AM
      • Yes they are only 6th, but they were robbed against the Bulls and nearly beat the Chiefs, so they are going pretty well.

        Commenter
        Witters
        Date and time
        May 01, 2012, 9:38AM
      • And every game they have lost this season has been my 7 points or less....

        Commenter
        John121
        Date and time
        May 02, 2012, 6:25PM
    • Phew John, thanks for this. A good article and one I could finally understand. KISN. Keep it Simple Nobody.

      Commenter
      johnny-boy
      Date and time
      April 30, 2012, 2:15PM
      • John has a point about the Brumbies. They are taking players who have passed under the franchise radar ( and particularly the Waratahs radar ) and coaching them to a higher standard. We, on the northern side of Sydney Harbour, see it readily in the play of Pat McCabe and Scott Fardy, both of whom we knew were players of great potential, surprisingly overlooked by the Sydney franchise. It also took a young player such as Michael Hooper to go down to the Brumbies and be coached to a higher potential before the Sydney Franchise would even recognise his talent. The same is happening with players such as Cameron Crawford and Zac Holmes ( both players of great potential who will be polished in the Brumbies environment). All of these come from the other side of the Sydney Bridge which seems to provide a both a metal and mental barrier for the Waratahs management who persistently ignore this talent, and it shows. And while I'm on this theme, why is Hugh Perrett, one of the shining lights of the Sydney Grade competition, not playing Super 15 (currently he is almost too good for this level and is at the height of his powers both in terms of leadership and performance).

        Commenter
        The Lone Spectator
        Location
        Freshwater
        Date and time
        April 30, 2012, 9:56PM
        • James O'Connor
          David Pocock
          Digby Ioane
          Drew Mitchell

          Commenter
          piru
          Location
          Perth via Rakaia
          Date and time
          May 01, 2012, 1:03PM
        • Agree, I would much prefer Hugh Perrett on the Tahs bench than either of the Timanis. They have both been disappointing this year. Perrett is an experienced and proven performer and leader and won the club comp last year. He played for the Tahs late last year so why let him go after finally giving him a go? I think it's more the case that the Tahs are spoilt for choice and can't select everyone from the big pool in Sydney club rugby and don't always select the right player. Having said that, they do deserve a lot credit for selecting and bringing in Foley & Kingston this year. They have improved greatly in the last 2 years especially at looking to the Shute Shield to recruit rather than outside it.

          Commenter
          Phil
          Location
          Sydney
          Date and time
          May 01, 2012, 6:48PM
        • Agreed. The best thing that could ever happen to NSW (and Australian) rugby would be to (in the very future) have a second super 15 team based in Sydney.

          One with ZERO connections with NSWRU. Totally corporate / private. One that lives and dies by its success.

          Then we'll see the talent of NSW being properly tapped!

          Commenter
          John121
          Date and time
          May 02, 2012, 6:27PM
      • Fotu Auelua for Wallabies nr 8 please !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        Commenter
        Rouaan
        Location
        Cape Town
        Date and time
        May 02, 2012, 8:12PM

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