In the southern hemisphere it is all about scoring tries and as such it is no surprise that the Rugby Championship adopted the bonus point system early on. Similarly, it can be no surprise that it has taken until now for the Six Nations to adopt a similar system as northern hemisphere rugby has always been perceived to be attrition based. I know there are a lot of people who may disagree with these assumptions but my question, now that the Six Nations has decided to introduce a bonus point system, is will it make a difference?
In relation to where teams will finish in the table the simple answer is no. If you were to apply the new rules to the last three championships there would be no change in any of the final positions and it is interesting to note that the Six Nations have also introduced an additional three bonus points if a team wins the Grand Slam, thus reducing the unlikely possibility that a team may win all their games but still lose the Six Nations because one of their opponents has racked up more bonus points.
As for will the new bonus points will change the mentality of the teams? Making them more likely to go in search of that crucial bonus point towards the end of the game, I again feel the answer has to be no. northern hemisphere rugby’s mind set has already begun to change to a more attacking philosophy, even without bonus points in their premier international competition, just think back to the try fest on the last day of the 2015 Six Nations. This is can be attributed to the increased skill levels of the players, which are slowly catching up with those of the Southern Hemisphere counterparts, and it is increasing these skill levels which is the most crucial factor in bridging the gap between the north and south. Not the mind-set.
I started out this post by saying northern hemisphere rugby has always been perceived as attrition based but a better word would perhaps be pragmatic. Whilst the Aussie rugby public would like to think they share a common mind set with their Trans-Tasman counterparts the truth is most of the All Blacks success is based upon pragmatism. Yes, they have the richest vein of the most talented rugby players on the planet but the reason why they have held the Bledisloe Cup since 2003 is because when the chips are down they will always take the pragmatic approach to winning a game.
So, instead of the southern hemisphere’s rugby press taking a condescending viewpoint that their northern cousins have finally caught up with how they award points they should be more worried about the closing gap between the two hemispheres’ skill levels. I have written before about how the Autumn Internationals have been a disaster for the southern hemisphere teams and as the northern hemisphere teams continue to improve their technical skills I can imagine the types of results we saw this Autumn continuing until the south, not the north, change their mind set.
It is now no longer good enough to think you are going to emerge victorious because you have the ability to cut open the opposition defence almost at will because your opponents are now realising they can do that too. And now there is a levelling of the technical playing field, rugby becomes about what true elite sport should be about, what is in your head. Ireland and Wales have both overcome significant hoodoos against southern hemisphere opposition in the last few months and with these mental blocks being vanquished, when the chips are down, they know they have mental strength to see things through because they have been doing it for years in the Six Nations.
I fear until the Wallabies and the Springboks realise this instead of believing they have the better players they are going to face tough times against teams they once expected to beat. And as for the All Blacks? Start getting concerned, we’re catching you up!