Front Row Grunt

Rugby … with cauliflower ears

Sharks on paper, but …

A sneak preview of Tank’s column to go up on Sport24 tomorrow …

Tank Lanning

The Stormers will start their semi final against the Sharks on Saturday with 10 points on the board … Well, if you take what sport scientist Ross Tucker – SA’s next Prof Tim Noakes – says to heart that is

“The competition’s history shows that home ground advantage is already worth five points, and with the physical toll of the overseas flight, combined with the bumps and bruises they have to recover from, I’ll speculate that the Stormers will start with an 8-10 point advantage,” said Tucker.

I have no reason not to believe Tucker, in fact every time I have heard him speak, or spoken to him privately, he has impressed me no end – the man knows his oats. But it does give rise to an interesting concept that I thought I would fool around with this week – the pre-game score.

So I am going to be bloody presumptuous and call myself a rugby scientist (the good folk at Sport24 must publish my ramblings for more than my good looks and beer drinking ability after all) and come up with a pre-game score based on the head to heads.

Scoring will be simple – 1 point for every match up, but an extra 2 points if all the players in the six key combinations (front row, locks, back row, half backs, centres, outside backs) of one side outscore the opposition in the head to heads, and 2 points for the better bench.

NB – For this exercise I took the liberty of moving Keegan Daniel to 7 as I see Siya Kolisi and Marcell Coetzee as being a key head to head that will pan out on the field.

So, Stormers vs Sharks, pre-game score:
 
15. Joe Pietersen vs Louis Ludik (Stormers – 1)
Ludik has not let the Sharks down, but “Klein Percy” has been a revelation for the Stormers

14. Gio Aplon vs JP Pietersen (Sharks – 1)
Two superstars of SA rugby. Seems a little unfair to score one above the other, but Pietersen has been quite remarkable with his turn of pace, swerve and ability to spot a gap.

13. Juan de Jongh vs Tim Whitehead (Stormers -1)
Unlike Johann Sadie, Whitehead has made his move away from the Cape count, and while some have questioned De Jongh’s form of late, his scintillating feet and pace off the mark edge this battle.

12. Jean de Villiers vs Meyer Bosman (Stormers -1)
Should almost be a 2 point battle. Paul Jordaan a huge loss for the Sharks.

11. Bryan Habana vs Lwazi Mvovo (Stormers -1)
Mvovo is without doubt a man for the future, but Habana, now back to his very best as a man looking for work, and more importantly, finishing when given the opportunity, is the present.

10. Peter Grant vs Frederic Michalak (Stormers -1)
Tough call. Michalak at his best is mercurial, and we have seen that recently. In a game that will be all about defence, though, Grant taking the ball flat has to be the man.

9. Dewaldt Duvenage vs Charl McLeod (Sharks – 1)
Safe as houses is the Stormers man, and has been a rock for the home side. Slightly slow from the base though, and McLoed’s form has coincided with a return to form for the Durban boys. Edges it.

8. Deon Fourie vs Ryan Kankowski (Sharks – 1)
Man of the match last week, but Fourie is still a hooker playing 8th man, and it’s a real problem area for the Stormers. Kankowski has been nothing short of magnificent for the Sharks recently

7. Rynhardt Elstadt vs Keegan Daniel (Sharks – 1)
If you are good enough you are big enough. Daniel has shown form that should have seen him get a start for the Springboks. Elstadt was playing lock for the Stormers last year.

6. Siya Kolisi vs Marcell Coetzee (Sharks – 1)
Two of the more exciting things to happen in SA rugby this year, this clash will empty a few cooler boxes. Giving it to Coetzee for his the experience he would have got in Green and Gold this year.

5. Andries Bekker vs Anton Bresler (Stormers -1)
Bresler was impressive against the Reds and showed that he will not back down to anyone. Bekker is not shy to lurk in the backline, but his lineout prowess gets him the edge.

4. Eben Etzebeth vs Willem Alberts (Stormers -1)
No room for David in this encounter … When these two Goliaths collide it will crack ice in the Arctic. Etzebeth shades it for me because Alberts is out of position.

3. Brok Harris vs Jannie du Plessis (Sharks – 1)
Du Plessis put all debate regarding who is the best tighthead in the country to bed against the English. Not flashy, but hugely reliable come scrum time – where it counts, especially at tighthead.

2. Tiaan Liebenberg vs Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks – 1)
One of those clashes that should get the Sharks 2 points. Du Plessis would be an early selection in a Super Rugby team of the year, if not a World XV. Game changer of note. 

1. Steven Kitshoff vs Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks – 1)
The young red head has grown immeasurably as a player this year, and will not let any side down, but the “Beast” is all muscle come scrum time, and all fire and brimstone in the tight-loose.

Bench vs Bench (Sharks – 2)
I am no fan of the 5/2 split which the Sharks have gone for, but with Michalak able to play scrumhalf, they can afford five forwards. Up against the Bok front row, the Stormers have gone for the two prop security blanket, which then takes away from the potential impact. Having two Springboks and the ability to make a bigger impact seals the deal for the Durban side.

Bonus combination points: Sharks – 4 (front row and back row), Stormers – 4 (locks and centres)

Which brings the pre-game score to: Stormers 11-14 Sharks

Throw in Tucker’s 8 to 10 points for travel, and it’s the Stormers by 5 to 7 on Saturday …

So do you believe Tucker? Do you believe Tank? Would you use the above to make your SuperBru pick or place your bet on Sportingbet? Thank heavens rugby is played on grass and not on paper …

Eyeball the preview video Tank did with Gareth Rosslee for Sportingbet:

Author: Tank

Ex WP prop with a fair amount of experience in all things media ...

5 Comments

  1. Very interesting views mate… Exciting battles coming up! And by your review( and my heart) I say Stormers by 6….

  2. Tank, I do hope that Ross Tucker is not another Noakes – the man(Noakes) is nothing else but an academic scientist, who if he had his way would have players playing two games and resting for 12 when all they want to do is play rugby – this is the same person who for years preached carbo, carbo and more carbo – now its fish in the morning, lunch time and evening. He probably would have predicted someone like Mike Procter(30 gunston a day and copious amounts of liquid refreshment) would last one season. Do you recall his “take” on why the Proteas lost the semi – final to Oz in the world cup in the West Indies – I have never heard so much drivel.

  3. Hi tank

    Lofty praise indeed, thank you very much! The comparison alone is huge praise, the rest was excessive! Though from the sounds of Neil’s comment, those shoes are not only big, but may be a little unpopular to fill too!

    On to home ground advantage. I hope it’s clear to everyone that my 8-10 point statement is not a prediction per se, but rather a pre match score or “handicap” as you have pointed out. What it is saying is that IF the two teams are evenly matched, then the result would be a home win by 8-10 points.

    That’s why your method is so good as an addition, because it asks whether in fact the teams are evenly matched, and I think no matter how one does it, the cOncept is good (so I think you can keep that rugby scientist title!)

    Perhaps the one thing you can never measure is momentum. We have tried this with SA Sevens (I work as an advisor to the team on performance strategy) and we want a way to quantify momentum.

    I think perhaps if you add this into the mix, given the Sharks results over the last month, you probably get that pre-match score even more closely matched, because coming into a match with momentum must be worth 3,4, maybe even 5 points!

    End result is a very evenly poised match!

    Final point- my 8-10 is not a prediction as much as way to give context to the ultimate result. If the Sharks win by 5, for example, I would say they are 13-15 points better. If the Stormers win by 3, I’d say they owe “part” of the win to home advantage (will probably be shot for that one!)

    Let’s see what happens Saturday. My guess, in the name of a bit of fun, is Stormers by 3, 17-14!

    Cheers!
    Ross

    • Top comment Ross, especially the part about me being able to call myself a rugby scientist :) I certainly saw it exactly as you explain it, but definitely worth getting it out there. I have not yet had the courage to look at the comments on the Sport24 version! Cheers …

  4. Ross, I am sure I am in the fairly “large” minority group when it comes to TN so your popularity will most certainly not wane – all I ask (no beg – I will even buy you a beer) is please try and stay away from the TN sermon of, “Thou shalt play one game and rest for seven” – that was proved to be so wrong in the lead up to the ’07 RWC when JW was forced to play his ‘Boks in Super rugby (whilst Henry regretted not playing his AB players until virtualy the very end). At 17h05 tomorrow when Walsh blows his whistle, science goes out the window – then its about tackles ( no doubt we will see many missed one’s), holding onto the ball, straight throw ins at lineout time and making sure the penalty column is minimal etc etc. I guess Tanks title to his column sums up my feelings, “Sharks on paper,BUT….. – enjoy the game, could be a cracker. Tank, well done again – your columns/posts always conjure up good debate – I always enjoy reading other opinions or points of view on this site as opposed to other sites – keep it up.