We all know that statistics is nothing more than a collection of quantitative data, but can analyzing this data give us a clear picture of how a team performed on the field? The stats can clearly tell us how consistent a kicker is with his goal kicks, or how strong a team is in their line-outs. We can determine how much a team kicks, passes or runs the ball. We can even determine who has the biggest influence in certain parts of play. The question is, can I really look at a piece of paper and tell you how a particular game went down. Well, here is my attempt at doing exactly this.
This weekend the Sharks and the Bulls both forced themselves into the final, comprehensive wins by both teams ensured scorelines suggesting wins with relative ease. The first markedly difference between these two matches is ball possession. The Sharks had more than a 3rd less attacking rucks than the Lions, where as the Bulls had a 3rd more attacking rucks than their opposition. The Sharks made a whopping 141 tackles, the Bulls had to make only almost half of this with 83. So obviously the Sharks defended way more than the Bulls did and had relatively fewer opportunities. The interesting thing to notice is that with 59 runs the Sharks had 46% go forward ball and 14% line breaks in contrast the Bulls ran the ball 74 times with 29% go forward ball and only 4% line breaks. Which means that even though the Sharks had less possession, they were more effective than the Bulls were.
Another interesting and contradicting stat of the two teams are their kicking games. The Sharks kicked 22% of their ball and the Bulls surprisingly enough kicked less with only16%, the interesting part is that about 60% of the Bulls kicks resulted in line outs whereas only 30% of the Sharks’ kicks went into touch. This means either the Sharks has a very bad kicking game or they prefer a tactical kicking game over a territorial kicking game. With the Bulls kicking 60% of their kicks out the Sharks will also need a good look at their line out work.
The stats in both these games also show something that most of us should already know. Even though many people believe that the Bulls have improved their back line play they still rely mostly on a 10 man game to get their results. The backs and the forwards basically gets the same amount of ball, but half of the possession going to the backs goes to Morne Steyn who kicks just about half of the possession he gets. The Sharks on the other hand has the scales tipped to the other side with 60% of the ball going to the backs, relatively equally spread through all the players and the kicking duties divided between Ruan Pienaar and Stefan Terblance, with Steyn putting in a couple of kicks as well. Terblanche has the most kicks though and this gives an indication that the Sharks aren’t playing risky rugby. Anything that comes to our side are just simply sent back or even more likely a high up and under is sent back as a means of attack.
Our forwards worked really hard in this game, Beast, Jannie, Sykes, Johan and Jacques shared duties at the rucks almost equally, Jean and Ryan did most of the attacking work. Their combined effort as ball carriers almost equals the rest of the forwards. Bismarck had a much lower work rate than I expected of him and to add to that his line out work were only okay, of all the players in the team I think he is the only one who needs to bring his game up a notch. Especially with a player and more importantly leader like John Smit on the bench. A surprising stat is the effort of our forwards at the defensive rucks. We committed way more guys than we have in recent weeks and turned over 19% of the Lions ball at their rucks. The Lions pride themselves in this area of play and if the Sharks wanted to make a statement this was the way to do it. Just something to think about for our opponents in the final.
I must honestly say, working out how well a back line player played based on one games stats is very near to impossible. I don’t think it really matters how many times you passed or kicked, but rather how good or influential most of those passes and kicks were. I can tell you that most of the back line players passed just as much as they ran with the ball and almost all of them has a reasonable average of go forward ball and line breaks. JP who didn’t see much of the ball in this game had the best average in this area, with Steyn and Terblanche right behind him. Freddie and Steyntjie were also the two backs who put in a mammoth effort on defense, making three times more tackles than the rest of the backs and staying right up there with guys like Beast 19, Jacques and Sykes 18.
Ladies and gentleman that is all for stats today, I hope this gave you a clear or rather interesting view of our two finalist, especially the Sharks. I must honestly say that at the end of next week the only stat I will be looking at is win or loose, Cup or no Cup. And if that doesn’t work out for me I’ll sulk for three to four days and go back to the all important stat, referees errors…
…Oh please no.Tweet