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Brett McKay
Brett McKay | Columnist Index
One of the new breed of Australian online rugby writers, Brett McKay joins ESPNscrum.com having developed a popular presence on sports opinion site The Roar. He also tweets from @BMcSport.
The Whiteboard
Shaun Treeby and Willie le Roux are visionaries
Brett McKay
May 1, 2014
Brett McKay dissects key plays that will have a major bearing on the Super Rugby title © Scrum.com
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After battling to find a candidate for The Whiteboard last week, when only 15 tries were scored in Super Rugby round 10, we were once again blessed with options in round 11 with 28 tries scored across the six games. So blessed, in fact, that we've picked out two this week - for reasons that will become very obvious.

 
Wonderful vision + brilliant execution = very well worked try.
 

Quite often in modern rugby, you'll hear commentators going on about a certain player displaying "great vision"; indeed I said the same thing last week about Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith's "incredible, brilliant vision" that led to the wonderful, counter-attacking try against the Blues that we highlighted.

Of course the concept of "vision" in this context is much more than player looking where he's going, though admittedly that's something some players struggle with from time to time; hence the need for touch judges. Players showing "vision" are able quickly to take in the situation in their immediate vicinity and, more importantly, know the best play to make the most of the opportunity as it presents. But having the vision, and working out the right play, is only part of it; executing the required skills to pull off the play is the difference between a missed opportunity and points on the board.

The two examples we've picked out are perfect examples of superb vision followed by perfect skill execution, turning an opportunity into points.

Shaun Treeby, Sharks v Highlanders, Durban

Sharks 14-34 Highlanders (video available only in Australia)
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The first quarter of the game was just about done, and with penalty goals alone contributing to the score, when Highlanders second five-eighth Shaun Treeby looked up and sensed an opportunity.

In truth, it was an opportunity borne out of a previous excursion deep into Sharks territory only moments before. Treeby himself had gone down the short side from a ruck and grubber-kicked towards the Sharks' try line, where the ball was fielded by Sharks inside centre Francois Steyn. The Highlanders got a good chase through on the kick, though, and Steyn was forced to pass inside for the clearance, which is fine normally, but this time the player inside was flanker Willem Alberts. The flanker did his best to boot the ball as far down field as he could, but anyone who's played the game at any decent level knows there's a very good reason why forwards don't kick.

Alberts' kick didn't go out - of course - and the Highlanders ran back to the open side, putting the ball through the hands and ultimately getting back near the Sharks' 22-metres line before releasing scrum-half Aaron Smith to come back to the right. Smith did well in traffic, and very deliberately picked out Treeby, now back pretty well in front of the posts, around 30 metres out. Treeby took the slightly awkward pass, but he wasn't under any immediate pressure and had time to regather himself. It was here the "great vision" began.

Shaun Treeby recognised the space behind the Sharks' defence © Supersport / Fox Sports (Image Supplied)
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Treeby immediately looked to pass to the outside, but in shifting his gaze to where his outside men did have an overlap he saw room behind the Sharks' defensive line that wasn't being covered particularly well. Treeby put through another grubber kick, but this one was very deliberately-pointed, and weighted well enough so as to allow his outside men time to regather the ball.

Shaun Treeby's kick ahead was just about perfect © Supersport / Fox Sports (Image Supplied)
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The result was just about perfect. Right winger Richard Buckman was always going to beat Sharks lock Stephan Lewies, and, once he did, it was just a matter of regathering the ball and getting over the line. Sharks fullback Lwazi Mvovo did get across in late cover, but it was all too late.

Wonderful vision + brilliant execution = very well worked try.

Willie le Roux, Cheetahs v Stormers, Bloemfontein

Cheetahs 35-22 Stormers (video available only in Australia)
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The Cheetahs have had a disappointing season to date, but among many sorry tales has been their one beacon of brilliance: Willie le Roux. There's no need for me to go about how unbelievably good a player le Roux is; there's only so many times you can use the same superlatives. But he lived up to his "Spiders" tag all afternoon against the Stormers, constantly threatening their line, throwing pin-point passes, and never getting caught with the ball.

In the 14th minute, the Cheetahs were pressing hard against the Stormers' line again and le Roux, when the ball came out to him, could immediately see that he had a compressed defence in front of him, and a four-on-three overlap available. As with Treeby, le Roux had time on his hands; he did initially look to draw defenders with the pass, but he also realised the Stormers' defenders were scrambling to the outside. And so he looked outwards.

Willie le Roux weighted his kick perfectly © Supersport / Fox Sports (Image Supplied)
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Knowing that putting the ball through the hands would give the defenders time to shuffle, le Roux instead looked to the air; if le Roux could land a kick in the right spot, there was no way the defenders could cover it quick enough. So kick he did.

Willie le Roux recognised the kick would move the ball quickly enough to maximise the opportunity © Supersport / Fox Sports (Image Supplied)
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As the image above shows - and don't take that flight path too literally - le Roux weighted the kick perfectly, giving his fullback, Hennie Daniller, plenty of time to accept the catch comfortably and then beat scrambling Stormers winger Devon Williams back on the inside for the try.

There are so many ways you can score a try in the game of rugby, and it's tries like these that remind us why we still colloquially refer to the game as "football". Regardless, tries like these don't happen without a player with outstanding vision and the ability to execute the basic skills of the game well.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
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