That New Zealand state of mind

CityPress - - Sport - Dan Retief dan.retief@city­press.co.za Fol­low me on Twit­ter @retief­dan

bet­ter sit­u­a­tion and only put at risk, through kick­ing, if there is a chance of get­ting it back.

Young­sters in New Zealand, when first in­tro­duced to the game, are en­cour­aged to run and pass, to im­merse them­selves in the fun el­e­ments of the game.

It helps that the two is­lands in the South Pa­cific have a rugby cul­ture that per­vades ev­ery walk of life, plus a win­ning at­ti­tude passed down through the decades – but kids start out be­liev­ing in the run­ning game.

Young­sters play a lot of touch rugby and Sev­ens and are en­cour­aged to learn the full gamut of ball skills.

In South Africa, chil­dren are fixed into po­si­tions from a young age – broad ones are props, tall ones locks and fast ones backs – and the aim is to breed play­ers who are strong rather than ag­ile.

In fact, a sense of ad­ven­ture is of­ten frowned upon – par­tic­u­larly at the big boys’ schools where an eye is kept on the (detri­men­tal) na­tional rank­ing and win­ning comes at any cost.

The con­se­quence of the New Zealand style is the ex­hil­a­rat­ing ap­proach dis­played by their Su­per Rugby sides.

It’s no sur­prise then that the All Blacks are the ul­ti­mate per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of the belief that rugby is about scor­ing tries.

This was never more ev­i­dent than at El­lis Park two years ago, when the All Blacks needed to score four tries to earn the bonus point to clinch the Rugby Cham­pi­onship – and did.

In­stead of play­ing safe to try to just get the win, they played with the con­vic­tion that their ap­proach, if done ac­cu­rately, would re­sult in tries.

That is per­haps the key facet that sets New Zealand’s sides apart – that faith that if a try has to be scored, if seven or five points rather than three are needed, they know how to con­struct a touch­down.

The other big dif­fer­ence is that they have dan­ger­ous and de­cep­tive play­ers all over the park – rather than a sin­gle, and pre­dictable, go-to man, as is the case with most South African sides.

Take the High­landers, who up­set the odds by win­ning the 2015 Su­per Rugby ti­tle.

Whereas the Storm­ers, South Africa’s best side, tended to rely on Damian de Al­lende and the turnover ball to launch at­tacks, the men from Dunedin fielded a side in which all seven backs needed to be watched.

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