Sunday, June 22, 2008

Lineout woes downunder

From a TSF thread:

I got a bit tired of [Sky Sports commentator Stuart] Barnes telling us how [Springbok locks] Matfield and Botha will be licking their lips at the sight of the NZ lineout, but unfortunately he is right. Ali Williams is a class international lock, but for all his grunt, Brad is ineffective as a lineout forward.

Height has always been Brad Thorn's problem at the lineout, but he went fine (4-for-4) against Ireland, and truthfully, the throw-ins to the lineout in both Pom tests were shit. How many times did the ABs lose balls on crooked throw-ins alone? How many were lost because the throws missed their targets? Too many to count.

Take a look at the above pic from yesterdays' test match. Thorn could have been Wilt Chamberlain, and he still would not been able to control that throw-in. Thorn clearly has his opposite Steve Borthwick beat, but the ball is astray, and that wasn't the only shit ball thrown his direction yesterday or the week before. In the photo Thorn can be seen head-and-shoulders above his challenger, so height nor timing isn't the problem. The Blacks need to keep it simple. Either Andrew Hore shouldn't attempt throws beyond his range of accuracy, or the lineout caller should call for something simpler. Thorn demonstrates here that being at a full stretch and obliged to jump backwards will not get the job done. That ball is difficult to control, and lifters have a near impossible task of trying to safely control the off-balance receiver.

Hore and Keven Mealamu need more throw-in practise. Many years ago I sent a frustrated (though polite) letter to Anton Oliver telling him to start shooting basketballs through hoops, or hang a car tire on a rope from a backyard tree branch and do target practise that way, like NFL quarterbacks for accuracy. It's not simply Thorn's height that is the problem with NZs lineout -- it's the crap throw-ins. Grant Batty used to spend hours perfecting his throw-ins back in the days when it was the wingers' responsibility. Hookers -- especially full-time professionals with six-figure salaries -- should start doing more of the same.

The TSF poster continues:

[Jerome]Kaino and Rodders [So'oialo] will have their work cut out for them at the back of the lineout in a month's time, trying to peg back Juan Smith and Pierre Spies. What are NZ going to do at No.2 in the lineout when the Boks come knocking?

Ex-AB coach Laurie Mains answered that a week ago:

The [Blacks] lineout is easily solved. It's a timing and co-ordination issue with the lineouts rather than any problem with individual players.

I would like to see the lineout forwards getting in front of their opposition rather than waiting for the ball.

Perhaps the All Blacks ought to exercise some simple ole fashioned remedies -- and their fans exercise some simple ole fashioned patience -- before they throw the baby out with the bathwater.


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