The home ground factor

Tue, 23 Jul 2013 11:45
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Play-offs by the numbers

As Leonard H. Courtney once said: 'There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.'

However, despite this often-used adage, there is an interesting statistical trend worth noting as we build towards this week's Super Rugby semifinals - which will see the Chiefs host the Crusaders in Hamilton and the Bulls at home to the Brumbies, both games on Saturday.

For this exercise we will concern ourselves with the home record of the five teams who have been crowned Super Rugby champions since the game went professional in 1996.

* The three years before the formation of SANZAR, 1993 to 1995, saw all finals take place in South Africa, which meant Australasian teams always had to travel. For the record, Transvaal beat Auckland 20-17 in the 1993 Final at Ellis Park; Queensland beat Natal 21–10 at the 1994 Final at Kings Park and Queensland defeated Transvaal 30–16 at the 1995 Final at Ellis Park.

However, since 1996 the top-ranked teams enjoyed home ground advantage and that is where we start our analysis.

Here are a couple facts:
1. Only one team has ever finished below second and won the competition; the Crusaders, who finished fourth at the end of the regular season in 1999.
2. Only two teams have ever won 'away' in a Final; the Crusaders (1998, 1999 & 2000) and the Bulls (2007)

However, it is worth noting how often the eventual champions had a 100 percent home record.

The worst home record belongs to the Crusaders, who won just 60 percent of their games in Christchurch in 1999, finished fourth and went on to beat the Reds 28-22 in Brisbane in the semifinal and beat the Highlanders 24-19 in the Final in Dunedin.

The next worst home record belongs to the Chiefs, who last year won just 75 percent of their game in Hamilton, but finished second. They beat the Crusaders 20-17 in the semifinal in Hamilton and then beat the Sharks (who upstaged the top-ranked Stormers in Cape Town) 37-6 in the Final at the Waikato Stadium.

All other champions had won more than 80 percent of their home games in the season they claimed the title.

The Crusaders and Blues both won the title three times after having a 100 percent home record - the Crusaders in 2006, 2005 and 2002; the Blues in 2003, 1997 and 1996.

The Bulls and Brumbies both won the title twice with 100 percent home records - the Bulls in 2010 and 2009; the Brumbies in 2004 and 2001.

It means of the 17 years since the game went professional 10 times the champions had a 100 percent home record and another five times that was better than 80 percent.

Of the semifinalists this week, the Bulls and Crusaders both have 100 percent home records in 2013. The Chiefs have won 88 percent and the Brumbies 75 of their matches at home this year.

Given the Bulls' home record in recent years and the Crusaders' ability to win big games away from Christchurch, we can predict a Bulls versus Crusaders Final in Pretoria next week, August 3.

All the champions, since the game went professional, and their statistics:
(Under headings year, champions, opponents, score in final, position on standings and percentage of home wins)
2012: Chiefs - beat Sharks 37-6 in Hamilton; second; 75 percent
2011: Reds - beat Crusaders 18-13, Brisbane; first; 88 percent
2010: Bulls - beat Stormers 25-17, Soweto; first; 100 percent
2009: Bulls - beat Chiefs 61-17, Pretoria; first; 100 percent
2008: Crusaders - beat Waratahs 20-12, Christchurch; first; 86 percent
2007: Bulls - beat Sharks 20-19, Durban; second; 83 percent
2006: Crusaders - beat Hurricanes 19-12, Christchurch; first; 100 percent
2005: Crusaders - beat Waratahs 35-25, Christchurch; first; 100 percent
2004: Brumbies - beat Crusaders 47-38, Canberra; first; 100 percent
2003: Blues - beat Crusaders 21-17, Auckland; first; 100 percent
2002: Crusaders - beat Brumbies 31-13, Christchurch; first; 100 percent
2001: Brumbies - beat Sharks 36-6, Canberra; first; 100 percent
2000: Crusaders - beat Brumbies 20-19, Canberra; second; 83 percent
1999: Crusaders - beat Highlanders 24-19, Dunedin; fourth; 60 percent
1998: Crusaders - beat Blues 20-13, Auckland; second; 83 percent
1997: Blues - beat Brumbies 23-7, Auckland; first; 100 percent
1996: Blues - beat Natal 45-21, Auckland; second; 100 percent

By Jan de Koning