The CA Brumbies will continue to develop their growing defensive culture ahead of the 2007 Super 14 season.
Assistant coach Nick Scrivener says last season marked a positive change in the way the CA Brumbies approached their defence – a trend the side will look to build on in 2007.
“Last season we worked on identifying and building a defensive culture,” he said. “This year there will be some changes but essentially we’ll be adding some polish to what we’ve already put in place. It’s a matter of continuing to address the behavioural aspect and putting some technique into the existing structures.”
The CA Brumbies finished 2006 with the fourth best defensive record (269 points) and conceded the second least number of tries (22 tries) in the Super 14. The two-time Super Rugby champions also completed the season with a total tackle percentage of 87.4 per cent – up from 85.7 per cent the previous year and less than two tackles a match shy of the top defensive side, the Crusaders.
However, Scrivener says that successful defence is more than just preventing the opposition from scoring tries.
“Discipline and effort are key to a good defensive line,” he said. “In 2005 we gave away three points a game in penalties. This year we gave away nine points a game – and they’re just the ones they kicked. We’ve worked hard on our fitness which will help us during repeat efforts and should assist with our discipline and technical performance during the season.”
Scrivener identified maximising dominant tackles (driving the ball carrier backwards or stealing the ball) and neutral tackles (preventing the ball carrier from making the advantage line) as an essential ingredient towards a successful defensive season.
“We’ve tried to get a lot more aggressive,” he said. “Before we had a style of defence that I would describe as ‘containment’. Now we’re trying to get on the front foot and exert more pressure on the opposition at the tackle with a greater focus on getting the ball.”
The importance of dominant tackles was evident during November’s Test series in Europe. Against Wales, the Wallabies completed a phenomenal total tackle percentage of 97 per cent – 17 per cent of which were dominant tackles – in their 29-all draw. Against the same opposition, the All Blacks completed 89 per cent of tackles, 32 per cent of which were dominant, and won the match 45-10.
“And that’s why the All Blacks are so good at the moment,” Scrivener said. “Their discipline, their repeat efforts, technically they’re excellent and the fact that their tacklers are in the right spot more often than anyone else.”