Australian Rugby
Rugby 'entertainment industry' - Rathbone
ESPN Staff
August 5, 2013
The Brumbies' Clyde Rathbone scores a try against the Rebels, Brumbies v Melbourne Rebels, Super Rugby, Canberra Stadium, June 7, 2013
Clyde Rathbone says "there is almost something wrong with rugby if you can win a final not having played much football" © Getty Images

Clyde Rathbone has lamented the Brumbies' conservative game plan with which they played territory-based rugby throughout 2013, describing as "poetic justice" their defeat by the Chiefs in the Super Rugby final at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton, New Zealand, on Saturday.

"I think it was almost poetic justice in the sense the Chiefs won this game, having played the most football in the last 15 minutes," Rathbone said after the defending champions defeated the Brumbies to secure back-to-back title.

"There is almost something wrong with rugby if you can win a final not having played much football. I think we need to get to the place where to win a championship, you've got to play football. The Chiefs did that, I'm not sure the Brumbies got that right from an attacking perspective. You can get into the final, you can choke teams out in games, to the point you can potentially win a championship doing that, and I don't think that's healthy for the game on a whole, particularly for Super Rugby. We're in the entertainment industry, we've got to score tries. I'm not sure the balance is right there."

The Chiefs have played attacking rugby with ball in hand consistently in the past two seasons as they became the fourth Super Rugby franchise to win back-to-back championships, after the Blues, the Crusaders and the Bulls; the Brumbies under Jake White, meanwhile, have been more conservative, kicking from their half and "playing rugby" predominantly only when deep inside opposition territory.

"I think Jake is coaching in a way that gets you wins," Rathbone said of his fellow South African, the Springboks' Rugby World Cup 2007-winning coach. "I don't see it as a coaching flaw, if anything smart coaches are coaching in a way that positions their team to succeed. I think it's more a case of where the rules are, and where the interpretations are, allowing teams to play in that way. We need to force teams into playing more."

The Chiefs are just Super Rugby champions, Clyde Rathbone believes © Getty Images

Rathbone, part of the Brumbies' 2004 Super Rugby-winning team that boasted the best attack in the competition, said of rugby now that he would "love to see a more open free-flowing game". Rathbone made one attacking bust on the Brumbies' left wing against the Chiefs, when he collected a kick from Christian Leali'ifano then cut inside the cover defence, but he said "I got two touches in attack" and described rugby as "just a war of attrition".

"You're pinning teams with field position, little one-percenters," he said. "If you're a rugby purist or traditionalist you probably don't mind. I think going forward rugby's got to be more than that to more people; we need to fill crowds.

"I think back to '04 when we won the championship, it was on the back of our attacking game. This season most our achievements were on the back of our defensive game. From an attack perspective, I see that as where our most obvious area of improvement is. We've got some outstanding attacking players, I don't think we've got the best out of them in the big games. We've played a Test-match style of football where we strangle teams into making errors, and feeding off those."

The Chiefs capitalised as the Brumbies capitulated in the final 20 minutes in Hamilton (video available only in Australia)
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