We hear this phrase regularly on the rugby pitch and after the first two tests between England and South Africa I thought it would be a good time to assess the difference between not only a good kick chase and a poor one, but the importance of putting the ball into the right areas in the first place. The kick/chase has become such an important play in recent years, not only because your limiting the chances of a counter attack but you can also give yourself a chance of winning the ball back, not all kicks have to be an aimless punts down field or more importantly result in a turnover.

A poor kick - doesn't even lead to a chase

I'll start with the first test in Durban where Hougaard was putting his box kicks on a sixpence and Steyn was firing some bullets into the far reaches of the England defence. The accuracy of the kicks allowed a good chase which in-turn put pressure on the retreating England defence forcing them to play out from deep. Whilst the Boks were putting on the pressure, England's kicks were wayward and off the mark, Young's box kicks were taking too much time and going too long and Farrell was struggling to find space in behind the Boks line. England's kicking was not giving the chasers an opportunity to disrupt, no matter how quick or organised the chase was. So could have England improved their poor kicks by having a better chase, probably not, they had lost the opportunity to apply pressure as their kicks were so poor.

A good kick kick is made excellent by an even better chase

Skip forward to the second test in Johannesburg and ignoring if you can the juggernaut that is the South African pack. A large part of their game was still based on putting England under pressure in the right areas of the pitch. Hougaard and Steyn again pulling the strings to give the likes of Habana, F Steyn, Lambie and Peterson a chance to not only tackle but to compete for the ball, the majority of the time they became 50/50 opportunities to win the ball back. In this test England, with a remarkably improved Young's and recalled Flood combinaing at half-back started to find the right areas but the chase let them down. It wasn't as aggressive or with as many numbers as South Africa. In this game England's much improved kicking game could have been a lot more effective if it was supported by a more dynamic chase.

A kick is only as good as the chase

So what to conclude from the two tests so far? England are losing the territorial battle and this is mainly due to their kicking game. A kick is only as good as the chase but it needs to start with a 'good' kick to give the chase a chance, this is something that England have failed to execute thus far. An effective chase can go some way to rectify a poor kick but a perfectly executed kick can have the defence in a whole world of trouble even before the chase has started. South Africa do have a great chase but they have shown they are technically superior at kicking from hand and they use this to create a platform for the rest of their game. It may not be the most attractive style of play but it isn't half effective. This is one of the key areas England need to address if they are to have any chance of victory in the 3rd test in Port Elizabeth.

“People might not like it, but we don’t kick to please the public, or outsiders, we kick for a reason and when our chasers are as good as the ones we’ve got, we’ve always got a chance to win the ball back when we kick it,”

Morne Steyn, South Africa