Brian Ashton: Super 14's fearless creativity makes it a joy

Tackling The Issues

I am not a person who needs much of an excuse to watch Super 14 rugby, or to return to my northern roots by casting an eye over the latest happenings in top-class rugby league, so I did not exactly struggle to fill my time during last weekend's break from Six Nations activity.

The Super 14 broadcasts were of particular interest in light of Danny Cipriani's decision to head Down Under at the end of the season, and to judge by some of the imaginative, free-flowing stuff currently being played in the southern hemisphere, I'm quite happy to predict that he'll revel in his new surroundings.

Super 14 has had a bad press up here in Britain – the critics see it as a form of rugby candyfloss invented by, and played for, television – while the more die-hard union followers have dismissed league as too simplistic and predictable to be truly satisfying. I disagree on both counts: in fact, I think these barbs demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of the demands placed on those who play these dynamic brands of rugby.

Much has been said about the extraordinary 65-72 scoreline in the Lions-Chiefs game in Johannesburg and the statistics were certainly startling: 18 tries in a single match – more tries than 40 per cent of the Guinness Premiership clubs have managed all season. I'm not suggesting that tries by the dozen automatically equate to entertainment or that heavy scoring and good rugby are one and the same thing. I've argued the precise opposite in this column in the past, and last weekend's game at Ellis Park was as notable for its lack of committed defending as it was for anything else.

But I also have to say that, over the course of this European season, I've been thoroughly cheesed off by the continuous stream of coaches, administrators, player and media pundits claiming that it's impossible to play rugby under the current laws in force at the tackle area. With the right mentality, rugby can be played under any set of laws you care to name. The high level of invention and creativity frequently seen in both Super 14 and Super League proves as much. If entertainment is part and parcel of professional sport – and I don't see that there's much of a case to be made against the proposition – here are two tournaments that seem to have their priorities right.

While we're on this subject, whatever happened to the prophets of doom who, at the start of the Six Nations, said that because of the refereeing it would be "impossible for teams to do this" and "too difficult for them to do that"? The Wales-Scotland and France-Ireland matches in the last round told a very different story. If I can find myself some shares in the rugby bandwagon business, I think I'll buy them. It's one of the few growth industries we have left.

There were several themes common to both Super 14 and Super League. Both had players showing bold and creative footwork on the ball and an ability to open up space for others; both featured a high level of reciprocal understanding among support runners; both were impressive in the quality of their second-wave attacking; both demonstrated just how effective an intelligent kicking game can be. A number of tries were scored from well-directed, well thought-out kicks. In comparison with the Premiership, there were very few examples of players putting boot to ball aimlessly, or in a fit of panic.

Here were people staying on their feet, keeping the ball off the ground and constantly switching the focus of attack, all of which called into question one of the myths of coaching: that attacking rugby of this quality is necessarily a high-risk venture. To my mind, that is as lazy a view as it is negative. Individuals armed with good core skills and blessed with the right mindset are not taking risks: instead, they are playing what they see in a confident, challenging fashion. If you doubt that, just watch the way some of the Super 14 players attack, flooding into dangerous areas of the field in the expectation of a tackle being broken. Sometimes, it seems to me that Premiership players freeze with shock when one of their colleagues beats an opponent.

If we could just change our mentality here, we might see more "value-added" players coming to the fore: players who not only fulfil their primary roles but bring something extra, something different to the mix. The two Saturday games in the last round of Six Nations matches showed what can be done if the game is approached in a spirit of optimism and adventure. Let's hope this weekend's matches reinforce the point.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform