One of the most significant aspects from the weekend of Super Rugby was the set piece and how the best teams in the competition do the basics so well.

I know the game has moved on, that the ball is in play a lot longer than it ever used to be and that when people watch games they don't want endless scrums and lineouts. Spectators and viewers, like players, want exciting, multi-phase rugby. Don't get me wrong, that's what we're seeing and teams have become so much better at counter-attacking and using turnovers to ignite them.

It's great for the game, but when you look at the teams on top of the points table, such as the Chiefs, Brumbies and Crusaders, they have strong and well-organised set pieces.

The Highlanders are up there, too, but possibly not to the same extent.


It's about setting a platform. When you look at the other teams, there were some good performances from them at the weekend. The Blues and Hurricanes had good wins, but their set pieces have been inconsistent. The Brumbies demolished the Waratahs scrum and lineout. The Crusaders did the same against the Jaguares in Christchurch.

Both those Australasian teams have very high success rates in the set piece and it all relates to the fundamentals of the game.

If you have a good set piece, it flows through, but if you're not effective at the lineout, you can't get the drive going. If your scrum is shunted back, you can't get across the advantage line or get momentum.

The Chiefs, on a bye over the weekend, have been rightly lauded for their attacking skills but they can't use those without a good set piece.

Some of it relates to experience. The Crusaders had the luxury of leaving out Sam Whitelock but his replacement Scott Barrett was superb against the Jaguares and was in a pack including Luke Romano, Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua and an All Black front row. They are players who are well-established and aware of the need to do their core roles first. The follow-on effect is winning rugby.

Contrast that with the Sunwolves at the bottom of the table who copped a hiding against the Cheetahs.

It's a shame they had to suffer that but not a surprise to me. The fact they have no depth was always going to catch up with them and I've actually been impressed at how they have stuck at it until now.

The best teams in this competition rotate their players really well so they don't hit the wall. The Sunwolves can't do that.

In 2002, I was in a Crusaders team which put 96 points on the Waratahs. In the first 15 minutes of that game, everything we did turned to gold and everything came easily from there. I can understand how the Cheetahs were feeling and can sympathise with the Sunwolves. It's great for the winning side but you know it's an anomaly, just one of those days.

We played the Waratahs a few weeks later in the final and they were a different outfit.

I don't think it's a fair reflection of the Sunwolves' season, I just think it was an off day.