New laws akin to Test rugby

Luke Watson believes the new laws demand a more accurate approach to the breakdown.

Many coaches bemoaned the hybrid ELVs that prescribed a free-for-all at the breakdown in the recent Super 14. With the hybrid ELVs now a thing of the past, along with short-arm sanctions for ruck offences, some teams are battling to adjust.

Watson believes both WP and the Sharks battled at the tackle point last Saturday and stressed it was not the fault of the players nor the referee, Jaco Peyper. The WP captain said it would take time to eradicate bad breakdown habits.

‘The wet conditions in our first game made it difficult, and I think everyone battled with the new rules,’ Watson told ‘I think everyone will improve as the tournament wears on.

‘Because of the long-arm penalty replacing the short arm free-kick it’s now paramount to maintain control in that area, because a mistake proves more costly. It’s more high risk, high reward, kind of like Test rugby. There’s far less margin for error.

‘I was a big fan [of the hybrid ELVs used in the Super 14] as I enjoyed the pace and how it encouraged more creative play. There are other aspects that I enjoy about the new laws, but you have to be more clinical and accurate,’ he added.

WP travel to Loftus Versfeld this Saturday where the Province back row face a formidable challenge in the shape of the Blue Bulls’ loosies. Watson, however, believes the Bulls’ breakdown threat is not limited to Nos 6, 7 and 8.

‘The Bulls have a very good player on the floor in Dewald Potgieter, he never gives up. Derick Kuun and Wynand Olivier are also capable of stealing ball, so you can’t really focus on their loose forwards, you have to worry about players one through 15.’

WP got off to a great start last week and Sharks coach John Plumtree said they should make the semi-finals. The Cape Town outfit haven’t made the play-offs since 2006, and Watson said only a consistent showing will end this horror run.

‘It’s important to build an innings, and as [coach] Allister Coetzee rightly said, the Currie Cup is a marathon not a sprint. It’s important to build momentum now because you don’t want a campaign that’s stop and start, in a marathon you want to carry that momentum through.’

WP are currently missing 13 players through injury and Springbok call-ups, but Coetzee said they can’t use this as an excuse for underachieving. As the WP coach explains, more than 15 players are needed to win tournaments as long as the Currie Cup or Super 14.

‘To win a competition, you need experience in depth. We battled at lock in the Super 14, but now when Adriaan Fondse returns, I’ll have a pleasant headache given Anton van Zyl and Chris Jack are already doing well.

‘Everyone always talks about the structures the Bulls have in place, but the performances of our age group teams in the Craven Week shows that we have the junior talent and structures that augur well for a great future at WP.’

By Jon Cardinelli