After a win last weekend, the Highlanders were back on
the wrong side of the ledger this weekend, against the Kings in
South Africa. ODT Online rugby contributor Jeff Cheshire looks
at the reasons for the loss.
After such a good defensive effort last week, it was
disappointing to see a relapse from the Highlanders this
week. They simply fell off too many tackles and gifted the
Kings too many chances to run their way into the Highlanders
22 and apply pressure.
The Kings were finding gaps in close that enabled them to
snipe, a result of the first guard dog drifting with no
cover. This happened too many times in the first half, while
as the game loosened up in the second they started falling
off too many in open play as well.
I will say it again, defence wins games.
Too many penalties
A result of the weak defence was that the Highlanders were
constantly scrambling and under pressure in their own half.
This is inevitably going to lead to penalties, as they
infringed to slow down the Kings’ ball and to shut down their
space. And it was this that allowed the Kings to kick
the corner and make use of South Africa’s most potent
The rolling maul
It is so simple yet so effective that rolling maul. Once it
gets going it is so hard to stop and if it is done well, it
is every bit as effective as a classy backline move in
scoring a try.
Perhaps it was not a surprise then that the Kings can credit
this for two of their tries, which ultimately came from
Highlanders penalties which gave the Kings the lineout in the
first place. At times the Highlanders did defend it well,
better than what has been done in recent times. But it was
still the reason for conceding 14 points, which really is 14
Given that it is such a devastating weapon, it begs the
question; why do more New Zealand teams do it? Certainly it
would be interesting to see if the South Africans were as
capable of defending it as they are in executing it. It
really is not that difficult to do. But of course, it relies
on winning your lineouts, which is something that has not
been happening either.
As bad as the defence was, it would have looked a whole lot
better if they had have kicked more accurately. By kicking
straight down the middle of the park to a waiting back three
they were essentially handing the ball to the Kings to
counterattack with. The kicks were not into space and
were not contestable, which meant they were essentially
kicking possession away and forcing themselves to defend
This prevented them from getting out of their own half on
numerous occasions and along with the shoddy defence,
contributed to the amount of pressure they were under.
Goal kicking was just as costly, as Colin Slade missed two
crucial conversions down the stretch which could have seen
the Highlanders playing for a win rather than a draw in the
Too many mistakes
When they finally did get possession in good attacking
position, they kept turning it over. Dropped balls and bad
passes once again dogged their game and made it impossible to
build any momentum.
In a game where you have limited opportunities, it is
important to capitalise when you have the chance, especially
when you are playing a team who leaked 72 points last week.
The Kings defence never came under question as there was
rarely anything asked of them, as the Highlanders
lacked the basic skills to make use of their attacking
Even if they were to just hold on to possession without going
anywhere, the referee was being relatively harsh on the
defending team so at the least a penalty could have come up
You can sometimes forgive a team when you can see they are
trying, but when they are making the same mistakes every
week, patience begins to wear thin. It will be a tough task
going to Loftus Versfeld to beat the Bulls next week and they
will have to put on a much improved performance to
even make for a close game.