The entertainment factor of the rugby in the current British & Irish Lions series in South Africa has scored very poorly and fans have begun to seriously question the tactic which both sides are obviously employing – the kicking game.
However, in an age with such rigid defences systems (such as the Springboks’) a running game-pan can quickly hit a brick wall, bringing little to no advantage to an attacking side.
Speaking to the press this week, Warren Gatland outlined the reasons for giving the ball so much air.
“I don’t know, there’s a lot of pressure in international rugby isn’t there? There’s less space and everyone’s bigger and faster and stronger and quicker and defensive systems are in place.
"You never see now in the international game, unless someone falls over and makes a mistake or someone’s parked up on the short side after long phases, teams going round each other.
"They’re all someone making mistakes, or it’s going through each other from a kick or something like that.
“You very rarely see the old draw and pass and put someone into space. Those were the days when those sorts of thing used to happen but there’s very little space in the international game at the moment and pressure from players and everyone is always about just winning.”
Gatland continued to argue his point with reference to the most recent World Cup.
"The example of where the international game is at the moment is when we saw how South Africa won the World Cup, and they won through their kicking game," argued Gatland.
"And in 2019, during that whole year, the only team that they lost to were the All Blacks and the All Blacks kicked more than South Africa. Every other team that they played and won they kicked more than the opposition so that's kind of where the game is at the moment.
“It is about territory and kicking in and putting kick pressure on, not playing too much rugby. They don't want lots of phases at breakdowns because every breakdown is a 12% chance of a turnover. You get to the next phase, it's a 24% chance and the next phase is a 36% chance.
“Those are the sorts of things and stats are people are looking at and you're just limiting the percentages.
"And if you if you are South Africa and you have got physical men, who can scrummage and can maul and defend well and have their kicking strategy, then they are a hard team to knock over. The one team that's got the ability to really unlock them with the players that they have is probably the All Blacks.
“Everyone else who plays against them, you are in a tight battle and an arm wrestle.
“But we definitely want to go out there… we talk to the referee and talk about keeping the game and the flow of the game going. Getting some tempo and hopefully creating some chances, potentially tiring them out when they make changes and trying to exploit the chances that we get and making sure that we are more clinical.”