Former Bulls Director of Rugby and seasoned South African coach Alan Zondagh believes the sport is in need of a drastic overall change.
My rugby journey started as Director of Coaching for the Western Province Rugby Union in 1980 and finished as Director of Rugby at the Bulls in January 2020. I had the privilege to coach in the Super Rugby competition and the Premiership (UK) and Heineken Cup (Europe).
I am deeply concerned about the game at present and hope that through meaningful discussion we can get the excitement back again.
My view on the current game of rugby
- It’s become slow, pedantic, predictable and boring.
- It’s feeble to watch.
- Too many stoppages.
- Coaches, players and referees are messing it up and it’s time for all of us to fix it.
- Different playing styles have disappeared. There is only copy and paste rugby. All doing the same thing over and over. The one team just does it a bit better than the other.
- It’s become robotic rugby – big emphasis on size, power and aggression.
- It’s all about the stats. The statistics we currently see are created by the type of rugby that is being played at the moment. If someone had to play a different style or type of game the stats will be different. Why don’t we challenge the current stats?
- Computers cannot coach.
- It’s all about crossing the advantage line. Teams are satisfied with this even if there was no positive outcome on attack. Just making the meters seems to be sufficient.
- A lot of senseless kicking. The attitude is that as long as I don’t have the ball or I’m not in my half of the field, I will have a better chance to win the match.
- Defence and collisions are more important than scoring tries
- Teams are more interested to play for penalties (force the opposition to give away penalties). Just think of the scrum and the maul. Penalties galore.
- Setting up phases and recycling the ball has become the order of the day. It is not seen as a failure of attack.
- One or two pass game is played over 80% of the time.
- I have heard top coaches saying the field has become too small and it’s become too narrow to attack. Don’t blame the size of the field. Take a good look at your own game plan and attack strategy.
- Players are not trying to play rugby on their feet. They go to ground too easily because it’s a safer option to keep possession.
- Coaches are busy with programming and not coaching. Programming produces robots.
- Players are programmed to play the way they trained during the week (all about structure and maps). They do not play what they see in front of them, and they don’t train to see what is in front of them.
- Players are not interested in playing space. No vision.
- Poor decision making and low level of skill
- Poor reaction and decisions from supporting players. No options for the ball carrier.
- Positioning of players on attack is poor. No depth in attack.
- Teams are playing un-economical rugby. Putting in so much effort for minimum result. Just going through the motions. They are happy as long as they keep possession.
- Too many people allowed on the field during matches. Medical staff, water boys etc…This is very disruptive and should not be allowed.
- Too many substitutes. Before we know it there will be 15 players sitting on the bench in the future. This is not good for the game.
How can we change this?
- Coaches and players must change their “attitude to playing”.
- Game consists of all different facets. They must all be used but at the right time and not all the time.
- The laws can still be tweaked.
- Penalise the players that are infringing. Stop warning them. If you have transgressed the law, you must be penalised.
I will put forward some of my recommendations in the next few weeks on how the game can be improved.
I don’t have all the answers but maybe it will get people thinking and talking!