World Cup hangover for Kiwi franchises
Melbourne Rebels players celebrate after defeating the Auckland Blues. AAP Image/Joe Castro
You know that feeling: you build the night up, go out and put all your effort into having a good time and enjoying yourself, only to wake up in the morning feeling like you have been slapped in the face with a cold fish.
Yes, I am talking about the dreaded hangover. The next day is a right off; you cannot function.
Can this happen in sport? You bet.
It is happening right now in the New Zealand conference of the Super Rugby competition. Has anyone else noticed that the two teams stacked with All Black regulars, those involved with the World Cup the most, are struggling at the bottom of the conference?
Could these loaded teams be full of players who, after preparing extensively for and successfully breaking a 24-year curse, are not fully committed to this season?
It would not be surprising given their levels of effort for the last four years and the amount of celebration which occurred throughout a country which was just short of starting joyous riots in the streets.
The players were lauded no matter where they went; everyone wanted a piece of them. But now that they have reached the peak, they have conquered the demons created by past teams, are they simply cruising a bit now?
The other theory is that they are just too old; the All Blacks were a bit of a dad’s army in 2011 and these players are simply regressing with age. Not everyone can do a Brad Thorne.
I would expect the hangover to be far more severe for players involved with the All Blacks given the weight of expectation placed upon the team, so when the ultimate success is achieved the outburst of emotion and celebration is far greater.
If you do not believe me, watch the next All Blacks game and look closely at the final whistle. There is no celebration, just relief. This is a result of the pressure, they are just happy they won’t be crucified.
I am going to provide you with some statistical analysis in regards to their performances up until this point of the season, mainly because the Highlanders will probably fall over soon and completely destroy my theory and the Crusaders have a fly half debutant scoring all 31 points against a good sharks outfit.
I have broken this down into each team having players which you could describe as “key players,” those who played a significant role in the winning of the World Cup. “Fringe players” are those which were either on the bench or have been a contributing factor in the lead up to the World Cup and non-All Blacks, which is self explanatory.
Please keep in mind that the sample size for this experiment is incredibly small, given that we only win the World Cup every 24 years but the stats are indicative and a loose trend can be ascertained but it would require a larger sample size to help increase the reliability of the stats.
I should also point out that I have removed Richie McCaw from the sample given that he has not played, I could see Crusaders fans firing up about this, do not worry, I have it covered.
The preliminary analysis shows that there is nearly no effect to having non all blacks in your side as they only accumulate 0.11 losses per player this season. This would seem to make sense as they are not good enough to play for the country but can fill up the numbers… Just do not load up a whole team with them.
The surprise comes in the key players. It would appear, statistically, that there is a possibility that you could lose up to 0.68 games for every All Black regular you have on your side. Uh oh.
The season would seem to support this with Auckland misfiring badly, given they picked up two more All Blacks in the off season. Remember this is the same team, essentially, that won 10 games last year. The addition of two more All Blacks with a hangover has hurt them.
The Crusaders are also struggling with Carter and Richie out for large chunks of time, but they are still full of key players and have been struggling, only winning four games and not looking convincing in any of their victories.
The big benefit comes from the fringe player. Which players am I talking about? Guys like SBW, Slade and Vito. These are the players who appeared in fits and bits prior to and during the World Cup. They are still young enough to have a shot at the next one.
These fringe players are not as fatigued as their playing time was limited and they still have the goal of winning the World Cup again, it is still attainable in their rugby life. The statistics suggest that they are responsible for 0.95 victories per player. This would seem to make sense right?
You do not believe me? Here are the three top teams in the NZ conference to date:
Key players – one (Thompson).
Fringe – three (Slade is now injured, Hore, Cowan).
Key players – one (Kahui had a fair bit of game time).
Fringe – four (SBW, Cruden, Elliot, Messam).
Key players – two (Smith, Jane).
Fringe – two (Vito, Eaton).
The bottom two:
Key players – six (Crockett, the Franks Brothers, Read, Dagg, Carter).
Fringe – four (Flynn, Donnelly, Ellis, Guildford).
Key players – six (Nonu, Weepu, Woodcock, Kaino, Mealamu, Williams).
Fringe – two (Braid, Boric).
Given that this is not my day job, I do not have time to analyse other clubs or conferences, however I find this fascinating and I wonder if it happened in other countries like England.
It just seems to me that there is too much of a coincidence in this, the resemblance between the factors I mentioned previously and their current position is uncanny.
I am saying to you, if your team is not succeeding right now it may be due to the worst hangover any NZ rugby player has felt in 24 years. Give them a bit of time to recover, you know how they feel