If the current Super 15 log reflected target shooting, the SA sides would be stone last as far as grouping is concerned.
The Sharks and Lions still have to tour, and with a dismal record of no wins in 11 attempts from the rest, the task of getting log points looks daunting.
Perhaps the torrid win against the Cheetahs over the weekend will be a timely wake-up call for the Sharks who currently lead the competition on 31 points from 8 games. They are, realistically, our only hope this year, and I believe that all SA rugby fans really wish them well on their tour after bringing the Hurricanes down to earth this coming Saturday.
The Lions appear to be waning, if experts can be believed, and it will take an effort of heroic proportions to maintain their tenth spot on the log while touring. The bye this weekend should help a lot to get the walking wounded patched up and battle ready.
Sadly, the only confidence shown in the other three sides comes from guys at the bottom of the Superbru log who pray for a massive upset to better their own log positions.
On a more serious note: hats off to 22 000 fans who supported the Stormers at Newlands on Saturday. I am sure they shamed the team into playing better in the first half before being instructed to convert to a kicking game in the second half. Toetie en Fleckie wil nie hulle werk verloor nie.
What the Statistics reveal
I spent some time over the long weekend getting accustomed to the new Vodacom Super 15 stats app. As with any other set of data, one has to be careful to read too much into the various trends that appear here. A player may be doing well, or not, but if he missed game time because of injury or rotation, he may well not feature in the top rankings.
Below are some statistics I found interesting:
The first twelve positions on this log belong to South African players, led by JJ Engelbrecht, Adriaan Strauss, Francois Uys, Jaques du Plessis and Stefan Watermeyer. The Bulls and the Cheetahs each contribute 5 of the top 12 in this list, with the other two playing for the Lions. The Stormers are so ravaged by injuries that only one player, Damian de Allende, appears on the list. The Sharks also have only one name on the list – Marcel Coetzee. The latter is probably due to Jake White’s clever rotation of players, and picking horses for courses.
A major contributor to extensive game time of SA players must be the havoc caused by injuries. This should be a serious consideration for our brains trust when discussing the future of the Super Series. It could of course also be an indication of the conditioning of the local sides, and should be investigated by SA Rugby.
This is another area where our sides are, unfortunately, well represented, with half of the top 10 being local players. Jacques du Plessis is second on the list and 3 of the top 10 play for the Cheetahs. Perhaps Naka should take this into account when he strategises on how to get away from the bottom of the log. You make tackles when the opposition has the ball. I believe it is a valid assumption that possession is still a prerequisite for scoring points. Your faith has to be very strong if you believe that the opposition will continue to gift you penalties in kickable positions.
I suspect that most injuries are sustained during tackles, which could again account for the extensive time players are forced to stay on the field, as pointed out above.
Here, fortunately, we do not feature too well. There are 5 Aussies in the top 10, and only three SA players – Stefan Watermeyer in second spot, Johan Goosen (4th) and Willie le Roux (6th).
Despite our bleating about referees, the Aussies weigh in with half of the top ten on this list, with SA and NZ contributing 3 each. Deon Fourie takes the dubious honour of second, but then one has to bear in mind that he also features third on the list of turnovers won. Adriaan Strauss is second here, Bismarck 4th, Marcel Coetzee 6th and Francois Steyn and Stefan Watermeyer joint tenth. Perhaps the other sides can learn from Jake White here – saying that each player is in fact a fetcher is one thing, but proving the point will come out in the stats.
Lineouts won on own throw
No prizes for guessing who ranks tops here, despite not having played in all his team’s matches. The statistics reveal that Victor Matfield simply has no equal in the world, despite having come back from retirement. His fellow Bulls lock, Flip van der Merwe, is 5th on this list. Matfield only features 10th on the list of lineout steals, but that is simply because of less game time than Ben Mowen (8 steals) of the Brumbies who heads this list. Ryan Kankowski, who featured in all of the Sharks’ matches this season, is second, with 5 steals.
The Vodacom App also allows one to drill down into each player’s individual stats. I hope that Heyneke Meyer is using this to have a quiet word with coaches who over-extend key Springboks to safeguard their own positions, rather than take the interests of the national side to heart.