Month: May 2016
This was originally a guest post on Ultimate Rugby.
Connacht’s success in the 2015/16 Pro12 has come on the back of a gameplan which puts faith in their attacking system and excellent handling skills. This has been clear in the way they have scored their tries throughout the year, but perhaps overlooked is its importance in the way they attempt to manage a lead in close games.
The New Zealand franchises dominate the overall standings as the Super Rugby season approaches its June break, holding three of the four Australasian wildcard spots. There have been some outstanding intra-conference clashes in the competition so far, with the South Island Derby between the Highlanders and Crusaders in Round 12 a particular highlight for its intensity and quality on both sides of the ball. As we will see by examining some basic statistics, it is not only their success but their distinctive styles of play which make these two teams among the most interesting to watch in the competition.
A star at Grey College, a Currie Cup and Super Rugby regular for the Free State Cheetahs as a teenager and a capped Springbok shortly after his 20th birthday, this was not the trajectory that many expected Johan Goosen to follow. The prodigiously talented fly-half – still only 23 years old – saw his promising career in his homeland waylaid by a series of long-term injuries, and the emergence of starlet Handré Pollard in their wake; in August 2014, he joined up with Racing 92 in the Top 14 in search of new challenges and – as he has openly admitted – financial stability. His first two seasons in Paris have seen a run in with first-team coach Laurent Labit, and opportunities in his favoured 10 shirt limited by the presence of established stars Jonny Sexton and Dan Carter. He made only 8 starts in the Top 14 in the 2014/15 season, and during the majority of this campaign has rotated between starts at fullback and a role on the bench. However, during the knockout stages of the Champions Cup he has been utilised in an unfamiliar role at outside centre and has played well individually in some impressive team performances over the last couple of months. His contest with the impressive Duncan Taylor will be one of many captivating match-ups in Lyon tomorrow afternoon, and it will be intriguing to see how Saracens attempt to attack a player who – out of his natural position in the centres – may represent the relative weak link in Racing’s excellent defence.
Below, I will take a look at some of the qualities Goosen displayed when he came on to the scene in the southern hemisphere in the 2012 and 2013 seasons, and examine his semi-final performance in detail to look at what he offers the Parisians in this position and potential weaknesses Saracens may exploit.