Are the stats accurate?

Written by Maria Delport (Letgo)

Posted in :Admin, Currie Cup, Original Content, Sharks on 16 Oct 2008 at 10:30

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.


  • It’s amazing how much effort you go to. Are you looking for a job as the Sharks technical advisor by any chance? Always an interesting read. So if the Sharks get more ball they should win comfortably. Go Sharks

  • Comment 1, posted at 16.10.08 10:38:37 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
  • Good luck Letgo.

    I have given up commenting on stats because stats or the interpretation of it is relevant to how you play, or your game-plan and team strengths and weaknesses.

    But supporters are more interested in taking let’s say stats from the two games and comparing Kanko with Spies.

    It is irrelevant, much the same as it was using stats to punt Watson as the best opensider in 2006. At least with Watson it is now being proved in practice.

    One thing I agree on, and you mentioned it – Bismarck is a good player, but overrated in my view.

  • Comment 2, posted at 16.10.08 11:01:15 by MorneN Reply
  • Everybody must be working for a change ❓

  • Comment 3, posted at 16.10.08 11:01:35 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
  • Sjoe! Nice Letgo…guess plenty of PVR watching and late nights without sleep went into this article!! 😀

  • Comment 4, posted at 16.10.08 11:28:57 by Ice Sharkadelic Babe Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • Should it be “are” the stats accurate or is this one of those “slang in die gras” cases of a collective needing an “is”?

  • Comment 5, posted at 16.10.08 11:29:40 by beez Reply

  • @beez (Comment 5) :

    Eish DONT ask me !! I are just heppy to be’s here.. 😉

  • Comment 6, posted at 16.10.08 11:31:33 by Ice Sharkadelic Babe Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • @beez (Comment 5) : I are not sure. 😉

  • Comment 7, posted at 16.10.08 11:34:43 by McLovin Reply

  • @Pokkel (Comment 1) : I’m not looking, but I won’t mind doing it. I enjoy it very much. As I said, if I always had as much time as I do now, I’ll do this with every game. If you take only these two games as a reference, yes the the Sharks should win with a little more ball, but the Bulls aren’t as easy to crack as the Lions are.

    @MorneN (Comment 2) : I don’t think Bismark is overrated, I just think his work rate in this particular game was disappointing. He’s had better games than last week, and aside from the line outs he never really messed up or anything.
    According to just stats from these two games, Kanko was much more effective on attack, and Spies got his hands dirty a little more at the break downs. But since I think both these guys are in their teams to get over the advantage line, I would say Kanko was the better player for last weekend. Spies had plenty of ball with little effect(especially because he knocked each time he gained some ground) and Kanko had a little less ball in his last game, but with much better effect. He had just as much go forward ball as Spies with almost half the ball possession.

  • Comment 8, posted at 16.10.08 11:38:20 by Letgo Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • I’m afrikaans, I always messed up my grammar, so I’ll just leave this one like that, because it’s funny. 😆
    I is not very good at grammar, but I are a big Sharks fan, so don’t make fun of me to much. 😆

  • Comment 9, posted at 16.10.08 11:41:21 by Letgo Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • Which Sharks player has been most influential in the run-up to the final?

    * Jean Deysel – 10.20%
    * Ruan Pienaar – 8.16%
    * Ryan Kankowski – 22.45%
    * Keegan Daniel – 6.12%
    * The whole team – 53.06%

    Total Votes: 49

    I like how so many of us are unbiased, when we know Jean Deysel had a massive effect when he returned, Kanko has been our flair since he returned and Ruan has brought a calm an clinical effect on our whole back line we really needed.

    Most influential, one of those three, but they couldn’t have done it without their teammates. 🙂

  • Comment 10, posted at 16.10.08 11:48:20 by Letgo Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • Good read LG… I’m a sucker for stats…

  • Comment 11, posted at 16.10.08 12:27:23 by bryce_in_oz Reply

  • @Letgo (Comment 9) : Nice Arti !

    It are a good read 😀

  • Comment 12, posted at 16.10.08 12:39:45 by Sauce Reply
    Worcestershire Sauce
  • @Letgo (Comment 9) :
    Nice read Letgo.
    Man I wish I could talk/write Afrikaans nearly as well as you do English.

  • Comment 13, posted at 16.10.08 13:05:45 by Salmonoid Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    Salmonoid the Subtle
  • Comment 13
    Applies to MorneN as well.

  • Comment 14, posted at 16.10.08 13:07:38 by Salmonoid Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    Salmonoid the Subtle
  • @Letgo (Comment 9) : Amazing Letgo. Keep it up and I is also proudly Afrikaans. Do not let little things distract you.

    One thing that I had different while looking at the games was that I thought the Bulls had a tougher, more sapping game than the Sharks had. Your stats of tackles made tell another story, OR, sometimes effective tackling can be harder on the recipient than on the tackler?

  • Comment 15, posted at 16.10.08 13:08:02 by Silver Fox Reply

    Silver Fox
  • @Letgo (Comment 9) : Not meant in a nasty or rude way at all. Only luke would really be upset at you.

  • Comment 16, posted at 16.10.08 14:33:04 by beez Reply

  • Nice work! I like stats but they only tell you how good a team has played, not how they’re going to play. Anything can happen on the day.
    Anyway, enough cliches, i’m boring myself…

  • Comment 17, posted at 16.10.08 16:17:21 by CapeShark Reply
    The Great Couch Shark
  • Where is everybody today? Now that I have time to chat for once 🙄

  • Comment 18, posted at 16.10.08 16:37:19 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
  • @Pokkel (Comment 18) :

    I spent the day in Bahrain, and will be spending most of tomorrow in Qatar. 😀

  • Comment 19, posted at 16.10.08 16:58:09 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @Pokkel (Comment 18) : No rugby this weekend and i final next,everyone is emptying their trays so that next week can be woes!

  • Comment 20, posted at 16.10.08 17:03:08 by PJLD Reply
  • @PJLD (Comment 20) :

    Ja thank goodness all my travelling is almost done. Next week is going to be awesome.

  • Comment 21, posted at 16.10.08 17:07:12 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • Great article Letgo. You should consider writing for one of the many Rugby sites around (Rugby 365/Planet Rugby) to mention only two. You do say you are Afrikaans so maybe Rapport, but, then again you would be way too much competition for that jerk Rudolf Lake who calls himself the Sports Editor there!
    Excellent keep it up….

  • Comment 22, posted at 16.10.08 18:13:33 by Thingfish Reply

  • @Thingfish (Comment 22) : She DOES already write for the best rugby site around, thank you very much! 😉

  • Comment 23, posted at 16.10.08 18:21:56 by robdylan (Go Sharks!) Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @Thingfish (Comment 22) :

    At least JJ Harmse has no worries. He only writes qbout the Bulls. 😛

  • Comment 24, posted at 16.10.08 18:33:28 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @Thingfish (Comment 22) : Watch out guys, all these compliments might go to my head. 🙂
    @KSA Shark © (Comment 24) : JJ Harmse, I stay as far as I can away from that guys articles.

  • Comment 25, posted at 16.10.08 23:34:31 by Letgo Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @robdylan (Go Sharks!) (Comment 23) : That was quick??? 😆

  • Comment 26, posted at 17.10.08 05:25:00 by Silver Fox Reply

    Silver Fox

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