Super Rugby title contenders: tale of the tape
June 26, 2014
Super Rugby is back in the spotlight this weekend, after a mid-season hiatus during which the Test stars took centre stage, and things are hotting up with the Australia and New Zealand conferences tightly contested. We profile the top eight sides in the competition and analyse their strengths and weaknesses, with some of the findings suggesting that Super Rugby remains wide open.
1st : Sharks (P14 W10 L4)
Good: The Sharks have knocked over more penalty goals per game (4.5) than any other side, and put boot to ball from hand the most often as part of a kicking game plan that is proving highly effective this year. Despite the fact below, the Sharks' last line of defence has been rock solid this year. They have conceded fewer points (18.3) and tries (1.3) per game than any other side, and their defensive power is also highlighted by the fact they've forced the lowest success rates at opposition scrums and rucks.
Bad: The South Africans have conceded more turnovers than any other side, and this will need to be addressed in the coming weeks. They also have the lowest tackling success rate in the competition this year, but the figure is skewed somewhat as they have attempted fewer tackles than any other side.
2nd: Waratahs (P13 W9 L4)
Good: The Sydneysiders have been rampant in attack, making more carries, metres and passes than any other side while opting to kick the ball less often than any other team. They have averaged 28 points per game so far, the third-best haul in the competition. Less spoken about is their defence, but they are one of only two sides to average fewer than 20 points conceded per game.
Bad: The Tahs' game can sometimes be a little rough around the edges. Their opponents have won more turnovers per game (10) than against any other side, and they cause the fewest problems at opposition scrums - with their opponents winning 91% of their own put-ins.
Super Rugby Preview: Greg Growden and Andy Withers bring you the inside word on round 17
3rd: Crusaders (P13 W9 L4)
Good: They have scored more points per game (29.3) than any other side and have also shown great discipline (9.3 penalties per game). They also cause the most problems at opposition lineouts, forcing the lowest success rate (78%) and winning possession back at the throw more than twice per game.
Bad: You can argue that their goal-kicking accuracy is relatively modest (74%) and that they start their games quite slowly (just 10 first-half tries) but it is otherwise hard to point a finger at any specific areas of performance that have rivals licking their lips.
4th: Brumbies (P14 W9 L5)
Good:The Canberra side have won 90% of their lineouts to date, the second-best success rate in the whole competition.
Bad: Their Achilles heels are in key areas: they have landed a Super Rugby low 65% of their shots at goal and have the lowest success rate at the scrum (77%), while their opponents tackle at a Super Rugby-high 89% success rate too.
5th: Highlanders (P13 W7 L6)
Good: The Highlanders are a clinical side as they spend the least amount of time in possession per game in the competition - subsequently attempting the most tackles - but they still notch a very fruitful 26.8 points per game on average.
Bad: With their volume of attempted tackles comes a high volume of missed tackles; if they surrender too much possession to other teams come the end of the season, they may be punished. Fatigue may also play its part in their success at the business end of the campaign.
6th: Hurricanes (P14 W7 L7)
Beauden Barrett is at the heart of everything good for the Hurricanes © Getty Images
Good: The Hurricanes make more breaks (9.6) and beat more defenders (23.1) than any other side, and respect possession at the breakdown better than any other outfit (96% ruck success rate).
Bad: They can leak points and have shipped 2.4 tries per game on average.
7th: Western Force (P13 W8 L5)
Good: The Force have conceded fewer turnovers per game than any other team, and see their opponents commit more errors per game (16.7) than any other side.
Bad: The Perth outfit struggle to score points at times, and they can concede as well. They have found it difficult to gain ground in attack having averaged the fewest metres (341).
8th: Chiefs (P13 W6 D2 L5)
Good: Some of the Chiefs' figures belie their relatively modest placing to date. They are the top offloaders in the competition and miss the fewest tackles; they also boast the best tackling success rate).
Bad: Their discipline has been a problem (most penalties conceded per game) and their set piece has been way off the mark. They have the lowest lineout success rate in the competition, and their opponents' success rates at the scrum and lineout are each 91% - both highs in the competition.
Follow @OptaJonny, the official Twitter page for Opta's coverage of rugby union and rugby league, and @OptaJason, the official Twitter page for Opta Sports' coverage of sport in Australia and New Zealand.
Making more carries, metres and passes than any other side, the Waratahs are one of the best attacking sides © Getty Images
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd with Opta Sports
The time for tinkering is over - England must nail their colours to the mast in key positions, writes Phil Vickery
"New Zealand-born Joe Schmidt has forged the Irish into a street-smart, well- prepared side," John Mitchell on the Irish renaissance
"I am bored of hearing 'I can't fault the effort'. Let us take that for granted and look for some quality." John Taylor writes
Reports comparing the 2014 Wallabies with their rabble-like predecessors of 2005 are unfair and self-serving, Greg Growden reports