Two sets of stats out yesterday prove that the Kiwis are the offensive masters, but make mistakes doing so, and that SA remain defensively stingy.
The Allblacks.com website put together a few stats that prove their five teams to be supremely dominant in factors such as running metres, carries, linebreaks and offloads, thus proclaiming the Kiwi sides to be flying the banner for running rugby.
But this season handling errors and knocking the ball on is an area that is also being ruled by New Zealand teams, which is preventing the truest measure of attacking rugby – scoring tries.
If one was to look at the stats from the Highlanders v Brumbies, one would think that the men from Otago had comprehensively won the game, but they also ruled (not for the first time this season) that coach killer for the round, knock-ons – making a mammoth 14!
The Chiefs made 12 against the Reds, and the Blues and Hurricanes saw the ball knocked on 30 times, a condition that will need to be rectified if Kiwi sides are to top off their attacking intention by scoring tries.
Tries – Chiefs and Blues leading with 23 scored
Clean breaks – Chiefs, Blues and Highlanders top three
Carries – Highlanders and Crusaders top two
Metres – Highlanders, Blues, Crusaders, Chiefs and Hurricanes are 1,2,3,4 and 6
Defenders beaten – Five NZ teams in top eight
Offloads – Highlanders, Chiefs and Blues top three
Handling errors – Five NZ teams in bottom seven
This while Rob Houwing of Sport24 put a piece together proving that the South African conference currently boasts the worst record of the three groups for total tries scored … but the best for preventing them!
At this stage, the SA conference sports a total of 73 tries, which is nine down on the Australian one (82), and as many as 24 behind the New Zealand conference (97).
Slightly more comforting news is that between them the five South African franchises have leaked the fewest: only 78 as opposed to the NZ 81 and the Aussie 93.
Try-scoring “for and against” ratios by South African teams:
1 Cheetahs: 18-19
2 Kings 16-24
3 Stormers 13-9
4 Sharks: 13-10
5 Bulls: 13-16
Hence the conundrum … Play a more adventurous style of rugby, and you will make more mistakes. Play a more defensive style of rugby and you will make fewer mistakes, but score fewer tries.
It was interesting to note on Twitter that Blitzbok coach Paul Treu was really looking forward to the Blues vs Canes game given the amount of Sevens players that were on display. He was especially excited about the Canes players – “Halai, Savea’s, Piutau, Gear, Aaron Smith all in same team?” Tweeted Treu. Questioned by Energade re the lack of focus on defence from the Kiwi sides, Treu responded by saying “Not really, I think they just back themselves and give it a crack when opportunity arises. Very expressive”
Expressive indeed … And as said in my piece this morning, add some defensive structure and tighten up on the mistakes, and you probably have the product that Rugby Union was intended to be …