Predictability and unpredictability at play in Super Rugby
By STEVE McMORRAN
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) Predictability and unpredictability were features of key matches in the fourth round of Super Rugby.
The Cape Town-based Stormers were entirely predictable in the way they went about the business of beating the Jaguares 17-7 to remain the only unbeaten team in the tournament after four matches.
Coach John Dobson is a firm believer in systems and processes and the Stormers showed that while the way they play the game is entirely predictable, predictability is no handicap if you execute to a high standard.
The Canberra-based Brumbies were unpredictable in their 26-14 win over the Hamilton-based Chiefs, who lost their unbeaten record. The Chiefs had been braced to repel the rolling mauls which have been the keynote of the Brumbies game this season. But they were wrong-footed when the Brumbies switched tactics and moved the ball wide to score two tries in the first 15 minutes.
By the time the Chiefs caught on, the Brumbies led 26-0 and the match was gone.
The Chiefs, in turn, were too predictable. While they managed two second-half tries, their use of one-off runners and multi-phase attacks made for easy pickings for an intense and well-ordered Brumbies defense.
Stormers coach Dobson likely would not take offense at the label of predictability. A newcomer to Super Rugby, Dobson built a record of success at age-group and provincial level by doing what he is doing now: building strong systems and structures and inculcating in his teams a respect for rugby's basics.
The Stormers have been accused of being a bit pedestrian on attack this season but in every other area - in their defense, in their set piece, in the contest for possession at the breakdown, in their decision-making - they have been ruthless, polished and accomplished.
They made some handling errors in rainy conditions on Saturday but a usually hard-to-please Dobson was satisfied.
"It may not be so easy to see when watching the game or watching replays and we did have to grind it out but the processes were much better," he said. "The breakdown was superb, the set pieces were solid and the ball retention was very good against a team that wanted to hack the ball into our 22 the whole time to make us have to start from back there.
"In terms of what we wanted to get better in this game, we got a lot better. To win 17-7 against a really good team in the rain, a team that wanted to hold us so they could make an impact with their strong bench late in the game, was a good performance."
Brumbies coach Dan McKellar would like to shed the label of predictability often applied to his team. He felt the Brumbies went some way on Saturday towards shedding that reputation and answering wider criticism of the state of rugby in Australia.
"Over the last two years I've spoken to the group about bucking the trends and creating some positivity so that people are talking about good things in rugby union and not the negative things," he said. "There are so many people in our game that get enjoyment about bagging the game, so to get some positivity, I hope we do that."
The Brumbies hadn't won in New Zealand since 2014, and hadn't won in Hamilton in 13 years.
"We won't get too far ahead of ourselves but there's been some comments the players have taken note of around Australian sides in New Zealand (and) I think we've probably quietened a few people."
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Updated February 23, 2020