Glasgow versus Scarlets produced a moment that made me cringe. Sizeable Fijian-Australian winger Taqele Naiyaravoro caught the ball from a kick and had the space to build up a head of steam and go on a truly bullocking run.
Prop Rhodri Jones tried to bring him down and got bumped off. Naiyaravoro just ran him over really. Normally I like seeing these things. There were plenty of moments like that today in Cape Town and I loved them, but this one made me cringe.
Jones got his head in front of Naiyaravoro as he tackled and paid for it. Luckily he was not injured, but we have seen plenty of head and neck injuries caused by poor tackling like that. The most prominent in the past while has been Leigh Halfpenny, who has a knack for getting his head in the wrong place.
As a youth coach I cannot bear to watch that. I spent years teaching under 12s how to tackle and I kept hammering it home with the under 14s, the under 16s and the under 18s. Often I went back to the very basics, tackling from stationary positions and working up to running tackles from all directions.
I made sure the guys and gals who survived making a bad tackle without getting injured were punished. Even when training myself with the seniors, we kept going through these basics, at every club I’ve played or trained with. Not only do you make your team-mates work harder when you miss a tackle, you can seriously hurt yourself.
Tackling is dangerous, there can be no doubt about that. It is the hardest thing you have to do on a rugby field. It takes the most courage, throwing your body in the way of a rampaging opponent and trying to bring him down. And it is what makes rugby rugby. It is what makes a rugby team such a close unit and what makes different teams respect each other like they do. It is when defending that you really put your body on the line for your team-mates and your opponents do the very same thing when you have the ball.
When I look at the elite players, I cannot help but think back at what I have trained many under 12s to do. And I constantly wonder why there are so many bad and dangerous tackles. All of them were taught at a very early age how to tackle properly and I always assume the basics have been hammered home over and over again every day.
So how can it be they go wrong so often, when the men are bigger and more powerful than before and the stakes are even higher?
I honestly do not know…
Paul Peerdeman, Pundit Arena