The semi-final: by the numbers

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Bulls, Currie Cup, Original Content, Sharks on 19 Oct 2010 at 10:18
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Let’s let the match statistics from shed a bit more light into the Sharks awesome semi-final win over the Bulls on Saturday.

Looking at the overall stats for the game, we realise just how strongly the Bulls came back into the game in the second half. The overall possession figure ended up at 58% for the Sharks – pretty impressive, but it was probably closer to 85% after the first half. With nearly 60% possession, though, one feels the Sharks might well have expected to win a bit more comfortably than they did (4 points). The weather was a leveller, though and set pieces were not great for either side. The Sharks only won 70% of their line outs, for instance, with the Bulls slightly better (but still way off their best) on 86%.

The game was marked by tigerish defence on both sides, which is self-evident based on a single try being scored over the course of 80 minutes. As you’d expect, the Bulls did a LOT more tackling, making virtually double the number of tackles that the Sharks did. The Bulls missed 25 tackles out of a total of 234 attempts for a respectable effectiveness score of just over 89%. The Sharks, though, were truly superb, missing only 8 tackles out of 114 attempts, giving them 93%, one of their highest team tackle effectiveness stats in the competition. Dewald Potgieter of the Bulls emerged as the most active tackler on the day, with 23 stops, 6 assists and a single miss. None of the Sharks came close to that – because they didn’t need to.

Dries Strauss emerges as the defensive hero for the Sharks, with 13 tackles, 6 assists and only 1 miss. Next best are Charl McLeod, Willem Alberts and Keegan Daniel, with 11 each. McLeod deserves a special mention for not missing any of his 11 attempts, making him statistically the best tackler. Two front row players deserve special mentions for their defensive work, though – Jannie du Plessis for being up among the top tacklers with 8 and Eugene van Staden for a frankly superb defensive job that saw him put in 7 tackles despite only being on the field for 20 minutes or so. Van Staden, unfortunately, emerges as the main villain in the missed tackle stakes, as he was he only player to miss more than 1 tackle (he fell off 2). Lwazi Mvovo ended up with the worst stats overall, since he only attempted 3 tackles and missed one of those, for a 67% return.

It’s when we look at the ball-in-hand numbers that the real extent of the Sharks’ supremacy becomes evident. Again, this unfortunately does little other than to ask further questions about why only a single try was scored! Willem Alberts carried the ball a staggering 21 times – THREE TIMES as many carriers as his opposite number Potgieter, who managed 7. Overall, the Sharks carried the ball up twice as often as the Bulls (142 to 73) with Bismarck (13) and Jannie du Plessis (11) also putting in huge work. Line breaks were few and far between, though, with only 6 breaches in total. To put that in perspective, only 4% of all ball carries resulted in a line break. Keegan Daniel was the guy credited with the most individual line break – he made two. The Bulls, in comparison, only managed a single line break between them the whole day, which is a testament both to the Sharks’ sterling defensive work as well as their own limited attacking potential in the backline. Metres gained is another area where the Sharks completely dominated, making more than twice as much ground (934m to 414m) and yet still only scoring once! Willem Alberts, a deserving man of the match, made 144m on his own, which is more than the combined total of the entire Bulls pack. Ryan Kankowski (113m) and Pat Lambie (100m) were the next best in this department.

It’s when we move onto the handling count that the eyes start to water a little… Charl McLeod handled the ball 101 times in 80 minutes! That means he touched the ball more than once every single minute of the entire game, making an equally astonishing 91 passes in the process. Outside of the halfbacks, it was again Alberts who dominated, touching the ball 31 times. Bismarck du Plessis was also very busy (terrible pun!) in touching the ball 22 times and it’s again interesting to note that both of these forwards touched the ball more often than any of the three quarters. Continuity and offloading were definitely no the order of the day, though, which could explain the dearth of scoring opportunities. Alberts only passed the ball 9 times in total… in fact, the only players (again, outside the halfbacks) to pass more than 50% of the ball they received were Ryan Kankowsi, Alistair Hargreaves and Andries Strauss.

Not surprisingly, the Sharks pack got through a huge amount of work at the breakdown, with the tight five emerging as the real heroes. Each member of that unit hit nearly 40 rucks each and for once they outshone the loose forwards in this department. Beast Mtawarira and Al Hargreaves managed 37 each (since they went off early), while the Dup brothers were the best on the day, with 41 hits each. Steven Sykes was one place back, with 40 hits.

Moving on to the error stats, Charl McLeod’s 8 handling errors are always going to dominate any tally we calculate. Then again, put in perspective, that’s a handling error rate of well under 10%, given how often he touched the ball. Handling errors across the team were very low, considering how much ball the Sharks had and Bismarck du Plessis (3) and Stefan Terblanche (2) were the only other players to drop the ball more than once all game. Alberts and Lambie stood out from an non-handling error perspective, each making 5 balls-ups, while the front-row were the main penalty culprits on the day. Jannie (3), Bismarck (2) and Beast Mtawarira (2) well over half of the 13 total penalties between them.


  • Now to boggle the mind even more Rob..

    On average, an 80 minute game only serves up 35 minutes of actual alive play.. then you start to see that McLeod touched the ball three times every minute!!

  • Comment 1, posted at 19.10.10 10:26:35 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 1) : geez, that’s crazy

  • Comment 2, posted at 19.10.10 10:30:03 by robdylan Reply
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  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 1) : That is a stat I’ve been wondering about. Is there any way to find out how many minutes the ball was in play on saturday. I bet it’s a lot higher than the average

  • Comment 3, posted at 19.10.10 10:41:26 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 3) :

    Some oke on rugby365 postd an interesting article in the week leading up to the semi’s about ball-in-play time.

    I will see what I can find, because I do agree with you about that.

  • Comment 4, posted at 19.10.10 10:43:35 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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  • it is interesting to see that morne steyn made 18 tackles, and didn’t miss a single one. admittedly, none of his tackles put the ball carrier behind the gain line. but pretty good for a scrawny nr 10 tackling alberts and kanko…

    i’m surprised to see that alberts gain line % was only 58%. not too sure if that can be correct.

    i just put up a similar article on our blog. to highlight how much work some of our players got through.

    very interesting that our starting front row, managed to make nearly a quarter of the bulls tackles.

  • Comment 5, posted at 19.10.10 10:54:12 by bloubulblog Reply

    bloubulblogUnder 21 player
  • @Pokkel (Comment 3) :

  • Comment 6, posted at 19.10.10 11:02:11 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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  • The stats highlight again how superbly we played, and how much credit guys like Alberts, Kanko, Strauss and others must get.

    For me though, special mention to Charl Mcleod – his handling count is simply astounding, and he has helped revolutionise our backline play.

    Well played sir!

  • Comment 7, posted at 19.10.10 11:33:31 by Big Fish Reply
    Big FishAssistant coach
  • Alberts doing the hard graft on Saturday –

  • Comment 8, posted at 19.10.10 13:44:12 by lostfish Reply
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  • The bal-in-play stats for the weekend:

    Sharks/Bulls – 40 minutes 34 seconds
    WP/Cheetahs – 38 minutes 32 seconds

    First Division Final – 32 minutes 2 seconds

  • Comment 9, posted at 20.10.10 06:53:44 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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  • Read on Sport24 that Bismarck is injured? His hand apparently?

  • Comment 10, posted at 20.10.10 07:59:28 by SharksRTB Reply

    SharksRTBCurrie Cup player
  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 9) : if i was the EP Kings or SWD Eagles, this stat would be worrying me for the upcoming promotion\relegation matches.

    6-8 minutes of more playing time, is quite a big difference. Watch how the pumas beat the kings without too much problems, even though both teams will be desperate. Eagles\Leopards should be interesting

  • Comment 11, posted at 20.10.10 09:01:08 by bloubulblog Reply

    bloubulblogUnder 21 player
  • @bloubulblog (Comment 11) :

    The thing is though.. the Pumas and Leopards average around 31-32 minutes playing time. The fact that the two semi’s were higher is as a result of the game played. ball in hand.

    As I said, the average throughout the Currie Cup is around 35/36 minutes.

  • Comment 12, posted at 20.10.10 09:04:09 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 12) : mmm… ok.

    do you have any idea what the average is for the 1st Div?

  • Comment 13, posted at 20.10.10 09:07:04 by bloubulblog Reply

    bloubulblogUnder 21 player
  • i guess we can probably assume that the 1st div final was slightly higher than the average over the season?

  • Comment 14, posted at 20.10.10 09:07:44 by bloubulblog Reply

    bloubulblogUnder 21 player
  • this has to be one of the coolest vids of all time:

  • Comment 15, posted at 20.10.10 09:16:50 by robdylan Reply
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  • @bloubulblog (Comment 13) :

    No idea unfortunately.. the stats for the first divisionis quite limited. Sorry..

  • Comment 16, posted at 20.10.10 09:18:10 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 15) :

    Awesome video Rob.. haha.. I miss Deysel..

  • Comment 17, posted at 20.10.10 09:23:01 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 17) : I’m amazed at the effort some people will go to with the videos they post on YouTube… that was simply amazing.

    They should have included that clip of him against the Chiefs, though.

  • Comment 18, posted at 20.10.10 09:24:18 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 18) :

    Thinking of merging your podcast editing skills into making some Sharks youtube vids?

  • Comment 19, posted at 20.10.10 09:26:33 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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