Bulls v Sharks – Tale of the tape

Written by Head Train Spotter (RuckinGoodStats)

Posted in :Bulls, Original Content, Reader Submissions, Sharks, Super Rugby on 16 Jun 2011 at 11:23
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I’ve got the call to come off the bench by the coaches to write up this week’s numbers breakdown and there are real differences between the teams. As visiting writer I will present the numbers and leave the real Sharks analysis to you all. Will pop into the forum to answer any questions, to keep the debate going.

Once the kick-off has commenced the idea is to score tries. However there is a real difference between the number of tries scored by the Sharks in derbies and playing inter-conference. With the last round to go the Sharks are scoring an average of 3.3 tries per match playing inter-conference compared to an average of 1.9 in derbies. While that is a difference for the Sharks, it is not a statistical difference, but very close. Let’s hope this week it doesn’t turn into one. The Bulls have no real difference, scoring an average 2.3 tries in derbies compared to 2.8 playing inter-conference. Still one week to go and I’ll put forward a piece on tries in derbies vs inter-conference next week if people are interested.

Speaking of kick offs, I was very surprised that both teams have identical stats for kickoff and 22 restarts. Both teams reclaim the ball from the kick an average of 1.1 times a game and also let the kicking team reclaim an average of 0.7 times per game. Could be interesting at restarts and kick offs.

Interesting is the number of ruck/mauls each team averages. The Bulls undertaken an average of 73.7 rucks/mauls per game and are 12th highest in the competition, with the Sharks one place ahead with an average of 74.6 rucks/mauls per game.

Where there is another difference is in the penalty count and the areas it happens. The Bulls concede the most penalties out of any team in the competition, averaging 11.9 per game compared to the Sharks who concede 9 per game (11th highest in the competition). When it comes to free kicks these are less than 1 per game per team and are too small to show a pattern.

The Bulls also concede the most penalties at the ruck/maul situation averaging 7.7 per game, to the Sharks 5.2 who are 11th highest in the competition in this regard. I’m not sure what the correct phrase for a Sharks supporter to say about the Bulls on this, but the Bulls also concede the highest in “other” penalties such as foul play, bad sportsmanship, back chat anything that isn’t involving a scrum, lineout, ruck or offside. I’m confidence someone in the forum will enlighten me, but also know the Sharks concede in this regard as well.

For penalties to occur you need a man in the middle and Kaplan has been given the nod for this. Kaplan is averaging (or forced to award) 18.6 penalties per match. This ranks him 16th out of the 17 refs in this regard (1 being the highest/most). He is averaging 11.3 penalties at the ruck/maul making him the 11th highest in the competition. He is 4th highest for scrum penalties at 3.1 per game and if you include free kicks, is averaging 4.5 at scrum time (5th highest). Also at scrum time he is 8th highest for scrum resets at 4.8 per game.

Kaplan has been in the middle 10 times this season tied with Jonker and only Dickinson has had more games (13). Kaplan had the Shark in weeks 7, 8 and 15 against the Stormers, Lions and Waratahs respectively. Kaplan has had the Bulls once and that was last week, where his penalty averages increased so did his ruck/maul penalty average. So force him to award a penalty and he will, and last week he did.

The kickers. In my Waratah v Brumbies piece I posted here earlier in the week (thanks to the six people who made comments), I remarked on the perils of making positive comments about Giteau. I said doing so on an Australian website would dominated discussion. Didn’t listen to myself, mentioned Giteau in stats for an Australian website, it was the only forum topic discussed. So here are the Steyn and Lambie numbers, raw, no analysis. Steyn place kicking is 79% (74 from 94 attempts) with conversions of 31 from 38 and penalties of 43 from 56. Lambie is 79% (62 from 78 attempts) with conversions of 27 from 31 and penalties of 35 from 47.

As Lambie and Steyn have played enough games to get patterns I have looked at their option taking. This can only be done as 1st receiver from a set piece or recycled ball. Steyn kicks the 2nd highest out of any of his counterparts and will opt for this 33% of the time. He will run only 7% of the time and pass the rest. Lambie will run about 10% of the time (and has scored some tries as a result) kick 27% of the time and pass the rest.

The Sharks are 4th highest in lost possessions/turnovers averaging 22.4 per game compared to the Bulls who average 19.3 and are 14th highest. The Sharks make the most handling errors in the competition. The Bulls average 8.4 per game (11th highest) for handling errors. When is comes to counter-rucking or losing ball possession at the ruck, the Bulls are averaging 3.2 concedes per game (9th highest) to the Sharks 3 per game (11th highest).

The Sharks are also turning the ball over an average of 2.1 lineouts per game, 5th highest and the Bulls 1.3 per game. For lineouts to occur the ball needs to find touch and the Bulls will kick for touch around 40% of the time, 5th highest in the competition for tactical kicks from the hand. The Sharks kick for touch 44% of the time and remember these include a penalty awarded that is used to find touch.

The Bulls are 2nd highest in the competition making tactical kicks from the hand including touch finders averaging 26.2 per match compared to the 23.9 for the Sharks, who are 7th highest. However the Sharks make the less kicking errors, in fact just fewer than 1 per game on average, the lowest in the competition. The Bulls average 2.1 per game and are 4th highest.

I’ve avoided the missed tackles for long enough so here it is. Yes the Sharks miss a lot of tackles, 3rd highest average in the competition, but so do the Bulls, 9th highest average in the competition. What that boils down to if you take into consideration the amount of tackles made, the Bulls miss on average 1 out of every 6.6 tackle attempts compared to the Sharks who miss 1 out of every 6.1 tackle attempts. And that is the best I can make the missed tackle stats for the Sharks.

For time spent inside the opposition’s 22, the Bulls are doing better averaging 5 minutes and 56 seconds (4th highest) compared with the Sharks 5 minutes and 16 seconds per match (11th highest). So the Bulls look better but also let the opposition spend lots of time inside their 22, at an average of 7 minutes and 1 second, the 2nd highest in the competition. The Sharks let the opposition live inside their 22 an average of 4 minutes and 55 seconds or 14th highest.

Of course it comes down with what you do and how you use it. As a neutral I can say I really hope the teams play to their potential and reading the forums I think that all the fans really want, but a win would be nice…

I’ll be tweeting throughout the game for those that want stats throughout or check out the website as the halftime stats go up before TV and they stay there instead of going to an ad break. Throughout the game I also do the probability of success for every kick (conversion and penalties, not drop goals) that includes charting the possession and territory for the preceding five minutes (by 30 second grabs) and the kick distance. I will be continuing through the tri-nations, and some tournament being held in September/October in New Zealand.


  • so, to summarise…. concentrate on the discipline, retain the ball and kick the penalties.

    Sounds simple.

  • Comment 1, posted at 16.06.11 11:37:59 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • Excellent stats. Thanks. Would be interesting to see how these stats have evolved over the season. Im sure several of the Sharks key stats such as time in opponents 22, time in their own 22, and handling errors have changed in recent weeks for the worse, while those for the Bulls have probably improved. Remember it took 4 weeks for someone to finally breach the Sharks line, but it seems to happen with ore regularity now. In other words the stats don’t reflect form.

  • Comment 2, posted at 16.06.11 11:53:44 by Pablo Dinero Reply

    Pablo Dinero
  • I have this to build the averages. Up to the Waratahs game the Sharks were double digits in the handling errors except for week 1 Cheetahs and Week 10 Hurricanes with 7 handling errors each. Since the Tahs they have been in single digital handling errors, bit within 95% confidence intervals. In the recent Cheetahs game Sharks spent only 2 minutes and 5 seconds in opp 22. So yes improving, but a couple of hiccups…

  • Comment 3, posted at 16.06.11 12:03:41 by RuckinGoodStats Reply

  • Another interesting stat, the teams the Sharks have beaten have a win to loss ratio on average of 0.69:1 while the teams they have lost to boast a win to loss ratio on average of 1.85:1. Bottom line, Sharks have beaten the weak teams and lost to the good ones. In fact only 2 teams the Sharks have beaten currently boast winning records (the Blues and Waratahs).

  • Comment 4, posted at 16.06.11 12:04:10 by Pablo Dinero Reply

    Pablo Dinero
  • Thanks for the stats. I find it hard to interpret them, but I’d say that Rob has it about right.

    I also think that the battle at the rucks could be telling, given the turnover and ruck penalty stats.

  • Comment 5, posted at 16.06.11 12:04:47 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • Wow that’s a mothfull off stats, thanks statsman :),

  • Comment 6, posted at 16.06.11 12:05:06 by franshark Reply
  • @RuckinGoodStats (Comment 3) : Ok, that disproves my comment. Time of possession? Is it possible the handling errors have reduced as the Sharks have had less ball?

  • Comment 7, posted at 16.06.11 12:05:45 by Pablo Dinero Reply

    Pablo Dinero
  • @Big Fish (Comment 5) : Bulls have Steggie the penalty king. They do debatably have 2 fetcher flanks though… the Sharks 0.

  • Comment 8, posted at 16.06.11 12:07:59 by Pablo Dinero Reply

    Pablo Dinero
  • For me it is important to see where and in what situation something happens, in the game against the bulls in durbs, the sharks knocked the ball 3 times within the 22 on attack(some without any real pressure) and on the other side the bulls kept on scoring and building on the lead.

  • Comment 9, posted at 16.06.11 12:11:25 by franshark Reply
  • @Pablo Dinero (Comment 7) : Just contestable time/ball in play for Sharks in the Super 16 by week, week 1 first 59%, 47%, 49%, 50%, 39%, 57%, 49%, 54%, 44%, 55%, 51%, 62%, 62%, 43%, 44%

  • Comment 10, posted at 16.06.11 12:13:21 by RuckinGoodStats Reply

  • @Pablo Dinero (Comment 7) : sure thing 🙁

  • Comment 11, posted at 16.06.11 12:13:39 by franshark Reply
  • @Pablo Dinero (Comment 4) : Sorry, make that the Sharks have beaten teams with an average win to loss ratio of 0.65:1. I forgot to include the Brumbies.

  • Comment 12, posted at 16.06.11 12:14:43 by Pablo Dinero Reply

    Pablo Dinero
  • @RuckinGoodStats (Comment 10) : Ok, so since the Tahs, the handling errors have decreased, but the possession has been 43 and 44%. Lower than the preceding weeks.

  • Comment 13, posted at 16.06.11 12:15:58 by Pablo Dinero Reply

    Pablo Dinero
  • @franshark (Comment 9) : Agree I’ve got a field chart on the website that shows this by half, and full game. Sharks also did another 9 handling errors between Bulls halfway and 22.

  • Comment 14, posted at 16.06.11 12:16:55 by RuckinGoodStats Reply

  • @Pablo Dinero (Comment 13) : Yeah but to fair you have to see all the numbers across all the games and a few charts to help with it all, and I’m the only one see that at the moment.

  • Comment 15, posted at 16.06.11 12:21:17 by RuckinGoodStats Reply

  • @RuckinGoodStats (Comment 15) : True. If you plotted the handling errors versus time of possession, how would it look?

  • Comment 16, posted at 16.06.11 12:22:59 by Pablo Dinero Reply

    Pablo Dinero
  • Never thought of that. Would have to do it for all teams to get a real sense, so let me have a crack at it and see if that give any insight. Will take a while..

  • Comment 17, posted at 16.06.11 12:24:47 by RuckinGoodStats Reply

  • @RuckinGoodStats (Comment 17) : No worries. Thanks for all the analyses..

  • Comment 18, posted at 16.06.11 12:26:27 by Pablo Dinero Reply

    Pablo Dinero
  • Great job and quite interesting. I still think the Sharks biggest problem is defence. From the 1st week I’ve said the defence needs work.

  • Comment 19, posted at 16.06.11 12:38:07 by Jarson (AddicteD) Reply
    Competition WinnerCompetition WinnerCompetition Winner
  • The Sharks are 4th highest in lost possessions/turnovers averaging 22.4-problem ,once again our forwards just dont clean out and play as a unit.

  • Comment 20, posted at 16.06.11 13:04:55 by Talent Reply
  • @Talent (Comment 20) : The lack of a fetcher is also a problem. No one to seal off the ball when it goes to ground.

  • Comment 21, posted at 16.06.11 13:13:12 by Pablo Dinero Reply

    Pablo Dinero
  • RGS – i am no lover of stats as I find the “disecting” of a game to such an extend, and if one just watch for amounts of errors etc. takes away the simple enjoyment that rugby gives – but this was AWSOME – great explanations and it covers “blonde”! 😉

  • Comment 22, posted at 16.06.11 18:48:30 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • @Talent (Comment 20) : Image if this number fell and they were average in comparision to the rest of the competition? Where would they be on the table???

  • Comment 23, posted at 16.06.11 19:44:19 by RuckinGoodStats Reply

  • @Ice (Comment 22) : Cheers, it can get a bit trainspotting, but computer makes some cool predictors on pressure and momentum on the computer that light up when a Christmas tree when points are likely and it really adds to the drama 😎 . Appreciate the comment as it makes it all worth while pulling an article like this together.

  • Comment 24, posted at 16.06.11 19:48:11 by RuckinGoodStats Reply


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