Skill matters: The rise of pint-sized game-changers

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Pint-sized predators have become a point of difference in the modern age of rugby, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

In the world of rugby, size matters. It always has and it always will. However, smaller, supremely skillful players – many of whom matured from the Sevens circuit – have become increasingly influential in the 15-man game in recent years due to ever-tightening defensive systems.

The Springboks last year reinforced the age-old adage that defence wins championships as they conceded just 67 points on their seven-match march to a third World Cup title in Japan. Their triumphant journey in the Land of the Rising Sun saw the men in Green and Gold concede just four tries – two against the defending champions New Zealand and one each against Canada and Wales.

The evolution of the game has brought time on the ball and space to manoeuvre in down to an all-time low, leaving coaches with a conundrum. They’ve had to find fresh ways to unlock defences, and many have turned to diminutive dynamos to get the job done.

Locally, the latest example of this new entertaining and effective trend played out in Kimberley at the weekend, where Angelo Davids enjoyed an electric debut for the Stormers in their Super Rugby Unlocked encounter against Griquas.

The Blitzbok was on fire in the No.11 jersey, causing all sorts of havoc with his hot-stepping. He beat a match-high six defenders, made three clean breaks, 85 metres, scored a try and set-up another in eight riveting runs.

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