New Zealand coach Graham Henry has subtly criticised the Springboks by calling for law makers to ensure that the rules promote a ball in hand contest.
The Springboks have employed a low risk but brutally effective kick-chase approach in recent months and have beaten Henry’s New Zealand (twice) and Australia in doing so.
The All Blacks tried to run the Springboks off the ground at King’s Park in the second of their two-Test series but only succeeded in playing the ugliest 80 minutes they have in years.
After the match Henry and his assistants praised the Springboks’ tactics, but now seems to have reversed, saying that rugby as a product needs a makeover.
Henry felt the International Rugby Board needed to address the laws which prompt teams to kick often, as they get set to lock in a set of rules two years out from the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.
‘Yeah, it probably does [need a makeover],’ he told rugbyheaven.co.za. ‘Usually the Australian v All Blacks fixtures are pretty entertaining and I think that can be said for over a long period of time.
‘The product that you are looking at needs some attention, quite frankly. We like to play and I’m sure the Australians do too, a pretty ball in hand type of rugby and enjoy playing the game and that’s part of the product.
‘We think that’s important. So I guess the product’s not too great and that’s disappointing. I think we need to have some attention on that.’
Former Bulls coach Heyneke Meyer said there’s no such thing as conservative rugby or expansive rugby, only winning and losing rugby. He explained that during his successful tenure with the Bulls he maximised the strengths of his side, which the Springboks’ coaching staff are now doing as well.
Henry conceded winning was vital but that there could be a balance with entertainment.
‘I think you can do both. We have done both in the past and I don’t see any reason why you can’t do both in the future. I know there has been a bit of an emphasis on kicking and sides not catching particularly well. I guess sides are trying to exploit that,’ he said.
Henry continued by suggesting a solution.
‘Maybe if you had a mark every time the ball was kicked in the air no matter where it was on the pitch [rather than just in the 22s] you’d have a scrum back or a free kick from that mark, it may make the game a bit more entertaining,’ he explained
‘I think we need to think outside the square so that we can make the game more enjoyable to play and to watch.’