• Sat. Oct 29th, 2022

National director of rugby Rassie Erasmus is largely pleased with the quality he saw on display during the recently completed preparation series.

Mar 31, 2021

National director of rugby Rassie Erasmus is largely pleased with the quality he saw on display during the recently completed South African preparation series.
The four-week long product effectively served as a pre-season for the Sharks, Bulls, Lions and Stormers, who are set to take part in the inaugural Rainbow Cup that gets underway towards the end of next month. 
That competition will see South Africa’s premier franchises taking on the existing PRO14 sides as the move to European competition takes effect. 
While there was no log or trophy up for grabs, the preparation series saw 16 matches take place that also included the Pumas, Griquas, Free State and Eastern Province. 
Speaking to the SA Rugby website, Erasmus said he was pleased with what he had seen from the series and that he viewed this as the ideal start to 2021. 
Speeding up play was a key objective of the series, which featured a countdown clock for kicks and a focus on quicker set pieces from match officials.
Another objective was to use the series of warm-up games to ensure less ‘ball out of play’, which in turn had a positive effect on the general conditioning and fitness of players.
Referees were also asked to speed up play at lineout time, when completing scrums and lining up kicks at goal. On average, it took just under 29 seconds for scrums to be formed, 21 seconds to get the ball into lineouts and restarts were taken less in than 25 seconds.
The total ball in play was almost 20% higher than in the Currie Cup, with an average of 30 minutes and 24 seconds per game, while a total of 134 tries were scored during the matches at an average of just over eight five-pointers per match.
“I really want to commend the teams, match officials and our broadcast partner for the positive spirit in which they accepted and implemented our recommendations,” said Erasmus.
“The goal was to hopefully enhance the game people watched on their TV screens, seeing more tries scored and making it a more attractive experience.
“Ball in play was also significantly higher than in the 2020 season and in some instances even better than what we’ve seen down in New Zealand and Australia.
“World-wide there are calls to improve the product, such as limiting the number of substitutes a team can use, but we’ve seen that by speeding up play and allowing less time for players to ‘rest’ during breaks in play, the desired effect is the same.”
Erasmus said the 10-day turn-around between matches to give teams more time to prepare with Covid-19 testing protocols taken into consideration, and to combat possible disruptions, also played a role.
“The teams and the players embraced our intention to speed up the game, and here the various caches as well as SuperSport played a big role in making this happen,” said Erasmus.
“The result was less ‘ball out of play’ and more action, a willingness from teams to have a go at more attacking options and displaying their skills, which led to more tries being scored and hopefully a much more attractive TV product.”
Erasmus said these games resulted in several other benefits for the squads.
“Coaches used these games to rotate their full squads, thereby testing squad depth and trying out some tactical variations,” he said.
“With the pandemic disrupting our normal season last year, these matches also gave opportunities to many young players who haven’t played at this level, so I am sure the teams will enjoy the long-term benefits, with a number of youngsters really putting up their hands and underlining the depth we have here in South Africa.”