Friday, 11 July 2014 00:10
Irrespective of what has happened in the past, it finally boils down to the last game, the all-important finals.
Pathana go into the finals on the back of some consistently good performances and with an unblemished record. In the Knockout games so far they have shown no sign of nervousness, but have gone about their business as if it was just another day in the office. Their discipline has been good throughout the season, and given the allegations made in the past seasons about the same, there has not been a sign of any indiscretion.
Pathana does not possess mega stars and have played as a cohesive unit, feeding off the success of each of the players. They did stutter a bit at the start of the season, but thereafter it has been a cool and calm game plan devoid of any major controversies. Thus they will come into the finals full of confidence in their ability to control the game and play at a pace that suits their game plan.
They have shown good levels of fitness and have scored crucial points in the last quarter of the game. The hallmark of their success this season has been they have relied on key positional players to deliver the goods, but most importantly, they have not been over reliant on any single individual.
Having said that, there have been some stand out players for them this season, but they have relied more on a tactical aspect as opposed to sheer individual brilliance. As a unit, they hunt well and are defensively solid, although at times, some of their outrageous play has left holes in the defence. RC has had a reasonably steady performance this season and has shown glimpses of brilliance in terms of tactical play. There has been a school of thought that they have over used the rolling maul, which in itself was a hot topic of debate. If there is a ploy that is working well for a team they will continue to use it to their advantage, irrespective of what others may think about it. It is up to the opposition to snuff such moves and throw the RC game plan out of gear.
Their weak link appears to be the three quarters and their inability to get the opposition the first time. This will be an area that Pathana will look to exploit as well as having a plan to counter the rolling maul. As much as the rolling maul in full flight is difficult to stop, it is not impossible. What is required is loads of practice, a great sense of discipline and the #9 ensuring that all are focussed on the correct point and don’t fall off the fringes.
The All Blacks skipper is a master at countering the rolling maul and has time and again been walking the thin line on what is considered as legal and what is not. It’s interesting that international referees from various regions differ in their interpretation of what is permissible in countering the rolling maul. Thus without doubt, there will a degree of pressure on the referee on the day to effectively monitor the legality of the rolling maul of RC as well as the counter measures adopted.
Despite numerous hours of practice and training, what matters most is the execution of the game plan on the day despite the pressures of the match being a final. Rugby has taught many of us, that as in the corporate world, you need to think on your feet. As a team coach you need to strive to find those who can stand on their own feet, think for themselves, and make decisions in real time. It will be players with such a calibre that will form the nucleus of a winning team.
Some would argue that RC has nothing to lose but a point to prove, whilst Pathana has a point to prove that their performances thus far were not a flash in the pan.
It points to a cracker game and may the better team win the match, whilst rugby should be the overall winner.
(The writer can be reached via [email protected])