Second Phase

Semifinals by the numbers

Fri, 21 May 2010 00:00 columnist Anton van der Merwe takes a statistical look at the Super 14 semifinals, especially what trends have developed and what can be expected in the set pieces.

The Super 14 competition has reached the semifinal stage. In this edition of Statistically Speaking we look at the four semifinalists by the numbers. The stats below presents (1) line-out turnovers, (2) line-out stealers, (3) scrum incidents on own ball, (4) the details of penalties conceded, and (5) defense and offense rankings. The stats reveal some interesting tactical options for the games and also points to what each referee could expect.

Line Out Stats

The first graph shows the top five teams in the Super 14 that are the most secure on their own line-out ball.

Three of the semifinalists make it into the top five, with very little between the Stormers and the Waratahs. It will be interesting to see how much Bekker will be asked to do as far as putting the Waratah’s line-out under pressure.

The next graph shows the top five teams in the regular Super 14 competition that are the least secure on their own line-out ball.

The Crusaders turn over more than one in every five line-outs! Is this an indication of one of the Bulls best tactical options: kick for the corners and have the Crusaders throw the ball into the line-out?

Scrum Stats

The next graph highlights the top five teams for scrum incidents on their own ball. A scrum incident being a reset, collapse, free kick or penalty.

The Waratahs is the only semifinal contender that made this list. Although, it should be mentioned that the Crusaders is in sixth place on 0.88 incidents per scrum. Mark Lawrence who will be in charge of the game in Cape Town already had something to say about the scrums – is he aware of this stat?

The next graph shows the top five teams with the least number of kicks conceded (penalties and free kicks) at scrum time.

The Bulls and the Stormers make this list. Comparing this graph to the first line-out graph indicates that the two South African semifinalists bring solid set piece play to the table on Saturday. This is obviously what they will be basing their game on. The Bulls in particular stands out in the set pieces.

Penalty Stats

The graph below lists the top five teams conceding the least amount of penalties.

The Bulls are ahead of the pack in this department by some margin – the average for the tournament is 132.

The next graph highlights the top five for the most penalties conceded.

The Waratahs is notably absent from these two graphs. They lie in the middle of the pack with 131. Looking a little deeper the reasons for the Stormers and the Crusaders on the top five most conceded list are as follows. The Stormers are tied second with the Waratahs for most tackle penalties conceded (79) and also tied second with the Reds for most ill discipline penalties conceded (27). The Crusaders make it into the top five list due to an above average count for scrum and discipline penalties and almost topping the chart (they come in second to the Cheetahs) in off side penalties. Stuart Dickinson might want to watch the Crusaders and the off side line.

Defense and Offense

The first graph shows the top five teams with the least porous defense.

The Stormers had the most frugal defense in the competition by some margin.

The Crusaders came in second, allowing only 24 tries in total. The Bulls and the Waratahs are in the middle of the pack on this stat, coming in at 32 and 31 tries allowed respectively. If there is a weakness in the Bulls team this might very well be it.

The next graph shows the top five try scorers in the Super 14 competition.

The Crusaders is the only team that made it onto both lists, which is indicative of just how good they are overall. In this stat the Stormers is in the middle of the pack with 36 tries scored. Will their defense get the better of the second highest try scoring team in the competition? It used to be that defense is what wins championships, we'll see if that has changed with the emphasis on law interpretation in the Super 14.

Can One Glean What The Refs Are In For?

Sometimes two really good team meet and things turn out beautiful, at other times it turns into the ugliest of brawls. The game in Soweto seem to have the potential for either. The Crusaders is suspect in the line-outs but very good on offense and defense. The Bulls top the charts on set pieces but can they keep the Crusaders out of their in goal area and dot down a few of their own? It is the best offense against the second best defense. The last time out against the Crusaders the Bulls were outscored on the try front. How diligent will Stuart Dickinson be on that off side line.

In Cape Town Mark Lawrence has already signaled a sharp eye on the scrum and based on the Waratah’s scrum incidence stat, rightfully so. Other than that, in Cape Town it will be the best defense against the second best offense. The Waratahs are fairly solid in the line-outs but it will be interesting to see how much Bekker puts into disrupting that luxury.

Mouth-watering stuff to look forward to.