ABs vs SA - Time to leave Fifita behind?

In a gripping game that SA will feel unlucky about only drawing, a number of ABs showed the selectors why they shouldn’t be at the world cup. Some players appear past it, and some are just not good enough.

What is happening with our starting front row?

First, the starting front row performance was pretty woeful – with the possible exception of Taylor. Although it is their first AB game of the year, the invisibility of Owen Franks – except for his defensive lapses (including some comical misses) is a key issue. One hopes that it is form and both he and Moody have enough to turn it on in Japan.

The stats show that Taylor had 6 metres, 1 bad throw, 9 tackles, and no misses. Moody gained 3 metres from 2 runs, including 1 terrible cold drop turnover. He did earn 1 turnover, and made 4 of his 5 tackles. Owen Franks had no stats on offence (according to Sanzar) – no carries, metres, or passes. However, on my rewatch, which I’ll discus below, I did notice one carry at 42:27, where he gained about one metre. He made 5 tackles and had his customary 2 misses.

I’m wondering why Ofa, Nepo, or Ta’avao can’t get a chance here – each can carry, clean, and tackle plus I wonder if there is so much difference in their scrummaging. Is this Cron focusing too much on the scrum?


Second, it’s probably time to recognise that SBW is not the key to breaking down the rush – in fact he can be targeted due to the way he carries. He had one magical pass (that to be fair most 12s should give), but that was it. Apart from that, our (starting) midfield was pretty up and down.

It seemed that ALB was a little more dynamic when he came on, although the stats don’t really bear that out too much – probably because they don’t capture the metres gained from a couple of his passes. Anyway, by the numbers, SBW was penalised once, and turned over the ball twice, while making 7 tackles with no misses) and running for 16 metres off 10 carries. ALB had two runs with one defender beaten, 1 tackle with no misses, and had 3 passes, one of which found space.

The continuing problem at Six

Finally, six remains a key problem. It’s puzzling that they only gave Paps 4 minutes, but I think it’s because they wanted to see Frizell’s contribution, and there was a bit of talk in the game thread about him being a bit anonymous, so after @Duluth suggested that he be the focus on today’s post, I looked at him and Fifita – always good for plenty of discussion – in my re-watch. First, the stats according to Sanzar:

Frizell won 3 lineouts, ran for 16 metres, made 5 tackles with 1 miss, and wasn’t penalised, conceding no turnovers. His fellow starters were busy, Todd had 14 tackles with no misses, and ran for 17 metres (more than any forward not named Dane Coles [31]). At eight, Read made 8 tackles with no misses. Looking at those stats,

Frizell certainly looks like the weak link, but as my re-watch will show, he’s actually doing a fair bit of suitcase work. Furthermore, I really like the way he chases play, even to make a clean. That point separates him from Fifita, who after coming on to replace Retallick also won 3 lineouts, but made zero tackles in nearly 19 minutes (I think I had one or two but he wasn’t the main tackler), with one offload while running for 4-6 metres off 5 carries.

It’s not exactly what we’d like from a supposedly amazing athlete, but I think he just isn’t physical or active enough at this level – he’d end up on the wing or be the guy standing behind the ruck, rather that the guy who chases the play and make a strong contribution.

As you’ll see below, altogether I get about 40 odd ruck attendances for Frizell, at many of which he makes effective cleans. On the other hand, I have Fifita with about 9 during his 19 minutes, so it seems similar right? It’s not.

Fifita is a ruck leaner – very seldom a ruck cleaner.

I’m no AB selector (clearly), but if one six is to be dropped from Frizell, Fifita, and Hemopo, it should be Fifita.


00:07 - joins ruck
00:20 - pillar
00:25 - joins ruck after charge down
00:57 - first man to the ruck, attacks ball ineffectively

SA get penalty and kick

02:19 - good shot on Vermeulen after kick off
02:51 - joins ruck from wrong side on defence (lucky to not be penalized)
03:36 - good clean on Vermeulen who is attacking the ball

Lots of kicking

06:00 - ruck lean
06:03 - ruck clean
08:19 - attacks ball on the ground

SBW penalised, they kick for goal

10:06 - attempts charge down
11:10 - line out win
11:23 - clean out on the other side of the field - we win penalty
13:37 - line out win
18:01 - non dominant tackle
18:59 - tackle
19:26 - missed tackle on Kwagga
20:18 - wins line out

We turn it over and they go on attack

25:20 - attacks ruck as first man there - is cleaned out, but I like the way he followed the play across to get involved

We get penalised and they miss

29:20 - joins ruck and secures ball (Todd turned it over)
30:22 - carries for 2 meters
30:30 - gets up and helps clean
32:18 - non dominant tackle and allows player to offload
32:27 - excellent clean to secure the ball
34:23 - stopping tackle in midfield
35:20 - first man to the ruck after Ioane drop - cleans SA player ineffectively

Plays goes on and we score

40:05 - joins ruck from wrong side but gets away with it, we clear and that’s the half
40:31 - ruck lean
40:55 - good clean
41:15 - another clean
41:40 - follows play and cleans again
42:02 - effective clean
42:08 - gets up and cleans again
42:31 - ruck lean/clean
43:13 - tackle
43:55 - arrives at ruck to pass

Disappears to the wing for a minute or two

46:53 - joins ruck
47:11 - ruck lean
47:21 - ruck lean
49:20 - attacks ball at their ruck
49:30 - strongish tackle on Etzebeth as he passes
49:47 - second tackler and attacks ball
51:58 - good clean
52:13 - catch pass in the tackle
55:28 - strong carry for 2-3 meters, gets us going forward (we win a penalty)
56:26 - lifts Read
56:48 - sort of tackle (guy is going down anyway)
57:22 - gets inside ball and makes 6-7 easy meters

BBBR goes down Fifita comes on

61:14 - tackle
61:41 - ruck clean
62:10 - carries for 1-2 meters
62:32 - tackle
63:37 - run in space (10-12 meters) then passes to Bridge
64:13 - ruck clean
64:27 - catch/pass then big clean
64:44 - ruck lean/protect HB for box kick, cleans arriving player
68:36 - arrives at ruck to pass
69:02 - arrives to clean but is ineffective and can’t prevent turnover penalty
71:48 - cleans just in time
71:55 - ruck lean/HB protection
72:09 - overruns but comes back to clean
72:24 - cleans the ball carrier passes
72:31 - ruck lean

We get penalty

75:24 - joins ruck, gets ball and gives it to HB
75:37 - comes over to next ruck and makes a needed clean, is clearly fucked and out of gas - Fifita stations himself on the wing
76:04 - cleans
76:28 - ruck lean/clean
76:45 - Goes off


61:32 - ruck lean
61:56 - ruck lean
62:05 - carries well for 3-4 meters
62:35 - ineffective not quite tackle on Kwagga
62:39 - ruck lean
63:46 - catch, carry, 1 meter
64:06 - ruck lean
64:25 - ruck lean
64:46 - another ruck lean coming as we get the penalty
67:39 - line out take
68:25 - catch/pass in the tackle
68:46 - carries for 1-2 meters
71:53 - ineffective join/clean
72:15 - carries hard and makes 4-5 as we attack their line
72:31 - ruck lean
74:26 - catches kick off and gets taken out, we get a penalty
75:16 - excellent lift on Read
76:10 - ruck lean that turns to a real clean
78:11 - attacks line out (that was MB’s straight), joins maul
78:54 - is offside and lucky not to get called
as Bridge comes charging in leaving the left flank completely exposed (Bridge does the same thing in the next passage and they take advantage) as Fifita comes across but not in time

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