Head to head – SA vs NZ

Ball in hand, offload in the tackle vs kick and chase, defend for your life … In his Sport24 column, Tank Lanning looks forward to seeing the two go head to head this weekend.

Much banter about the Kiwi sides playing a more entertaining brand of rugby than us “Boring” South Africans, but with most Super Rugby thus far being in-conference derbies (bar the Chiefs mauling of the Cheetahs), there has not been an opportunity to see the two styles go head to head.

That all changes this weekend with the Stormers hosting the Chiefs at Newlands and the Bulls having to take on the revitalised Blues at Eden Park. So come Sunday afternoon, even though the monstrous tournament is still in its embryonic stages, we will have a better idea of which is the better brand in terms of attaining results.

One is a brand based on stoic defense, an accurate kicker more inclined to kick than pass, players out wide fast enough to put pressure on the receiver of the kick, and a good lineout. The other is a more ball in hand brand based on skilful and powerful players looking to have a go and get the ball away to a fellow player in a better position, often from within the tackle.

Me, I prefer watching the latter, as dished up by the Highlanders vs Chiefs and Blues vs Crusaders games, but it was interesting to note that a good few people enjoyed the “Test rugby” type arm wrestle dished up in the Bulls vs Stormers and Sharks vs Stormers games.

Different strokes for different folks I guess …

Fundamental to the expansive and open game the Kiwi sides play when playing against each other, though, as proven by the stats detailed below, is that they are very much aided by a shaky defence.

The New Zealand sides kick less and run more, leading to many more line breaks and off-loads in the tackle, but they also miss the most tackles, and perhaps most importantly, make the most ineffective tackles. Line breaks and offloading in the tackle are made a lot easier when the defender you are up against falls off the tackle for you!

This weekend we will see them come up against a much more structured game plan that will have them turning around to field kicks put behind them, and then taking on well oiled defensive structures.

I look forward to discussing the outcome while nursing a badly bruised peach over plenty post Cycle Tour beers …

Below the full stats from the four games, courtesy of http://www.rugbystats.com.au:

Highlanders vs Chiefs
99 RUNS 88
8 (232m) KICKS 16 (488m)
161 TACKLES Attempted 174
31 TACKLES Ineffective 17
17 TACKLES Missed 19
16 TURNOVERS coughed up 13

Bulls vs Stormers
66 RUNS 94
26 (1019m) KICKS 15 (494m)
156 TACKLES Attempted 110
7 TACKLES Ineffective 3
19 TACKLES Missed 14
10 TURNOVERS coughed up 24

Blues vs Crusaders
110 (639m) RUNS 101 (693m)
23 (683m) KICKS 16 (748m)
188 TACKLES Attempted 188
5 TACKLES Ineffective 12
16 TACKLES Missed 19
14 TURNOVERS coughed up 17

Sharks vs Stormers
63 (300m) RUNS 90 (454m)
32 (1116m) KICKS 27 (937m)
167 TACKLES Attempted 132
3 TACKLES Ineffective 3
10 TACKLES Missed 12
18 TURNOVERS coughed up 21