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Was the Australian conference weakest?

Rusty Roar Rookie

44 Have your say

    With the resolution of the pool stages of the Super Rugby season for 2011, I thought it an apt moment to review one of the contentious issues this year.

    I don’t have an entire lifetime to analyse refereeing, judiciaries, KPIs or playpower. So, I went for the next in line.

    That’s the one that’s raised a fair amount of comment and ire around the relative weaknesses and intensity of each conference.

    Specifically that the Australian conference is the weakest and that the derby matches have provided an unfair advantage to its finals aspirants. So in schoolboy fashion I decided to do some statistical analysis.

    Analysis – Brief

    The idea is to get figures around the cannibalising of points from “weaker’ teams in each conference by the leading teams within the same conference and those from other conferences.

    Key figures in the weighting will therefore be point difference (PD) and points from matchups between the leaders and numbers across conferences.

    The larger the PD the more lopsided the victories. Points gained then gives us an indication of ranking gains independent of landslide victories.

    First step: Identify the leading teams. Fortunately due to each conference supplying two teams not only is it truly representative but also balanced from a statistical point of view:

    Leaders:

    Blues – New Zealand
    Sharks – South Africa
    Crusaders – New Zealand
    Reds – Australia
    Stormers – South Africa
    Tahs – Australia

    The rest then make up the numbers.

    Numbers:

    Brumbies – Australia
    Bulls – South Africa
    Cheetahs – South Africa
    Chiefs – New Zealand
    Force- Australia
    Highlanders – New Zealand
    Hurricanes – New Zealand
    Lions – South Africa
    Rebels – Australia

    From here on the math is pretty simple:

    1. Sum the for and against for each “numbers” team the leader team has played in each conference to derive an overall PD against the weaker teams split out by conf.

    2. Sum the points for the above match to put table ranking into the equation

    Contender Analysis by Conference:

    Conf

    Team

    Data

    NZ

    OZ

    SA

    Grand
    Total

    Average
    Points

    Blues

    Average
    of PD

    14

    8.5

    8

    10.17

    Sum
    of Games

    6

    2

    2

    10

    Sum
    of Table

    22

    7

    10

    39

    3.9

    Crusaders

    Average
    of PD

    9

    27

    7

    14.33

    Sum
    of Games

    6

    2

    2

    10

    Sum
    of Table

    20

    10

    4

    34

    3.4

    Reds

    Average
    of PD

    3

    11.17

    15.67

    9.94

    Sum
    of Games

    2

    6

    3

    11

    Sum
    of Table

    5

    22

    14

    41

    3.73

    Sharks

    Average
    of PD

    5

    15.67

    6.33

    9

    Sum
    of Games

    2

    3

    6

    11

    Sum
    of Table

    6

    15

    19

    40

    3.64

    Stormers

    Average
    of PD

    2.5

    28.33

    6.67

    12.5

    Sum
    of Games

    2

    3

    6

    11

    Sum
    of Table

    5

    14

    22

    41

    3.73

    Tahs

    Average
    of PD

    16.5

    22.67

    -3

    12.06

    Sum
    of Games

    2

    6

    3

    11

    Sum
    of Table

    9

    27

    6

    42

    3.82

    Total
    Average of PD

    8.33

    18.89

    6.78

    11.33

    Total
    Sum of Games

    20

    22

    22

    64

    Total
    Sum of Table

    67

    95

    75

    237

    Average
    Conf Points

    3.35

    4.32

    3.41

    Key Analysis Notes:
    • The Australian conference has resulted in the largest mismatches with the average PD between the leadings teams across all conferences and weaker teams in this conference at 18.89, followed by New Zealand 8.33 and South Africa 6.78 respectfully.

    • The Australian conference has also provide the most points to the leaders from each conference with 95 at an average of 4.05 per game, followed by SA 75 at 3.41 and New Zealand 67 at 3.35

    • The Reds and Blues are the only teams with higher average PDs against other conferences. SA and New Zealand respectfully.

    • The PD flat track bullies in order are Saders, Stormers, Waratahs, Blues, Reds and Sharks.

    • The bonus point (BP) flat track bullies per average game are Blues, Waratahs, Reds/Stormers, Sharks and Crusaders. Interesting shift here showing that teams who may run up big scores aren’t getting the maximum and some that get the maximum aren’t that far ahead of their opponents.

    • Blues, Crusaders and Waratahs have struggled most against weaker SA sides which is backed up the PD ratio

    • Reds, Sharks and Stormers have struggled most against the weaker New Zealand sides.

    • Through the imbalance of conference scheduling system the Blues and Saders have played one fewer games against weaker teams than the other contenders.

    • The teams most to benefit from playing weaker conference teams Waratahs, Reds/Stormers, Sharks, Blues and Crusaders. I suspect the latter two miss out a little due to playing one game less.

    • Intra conference BP average Australia: Waratahs 4.5, Reds 3.67.
    • Intra conference BP average New Zealand: Blues 3.67, Crusaders 3.33
    • Intra conference BP average South Africa: Stormers 3.67, Sharks 3.17
    • Total PD for each conference: Australia -229, New Zealand 100, South Africa 129

    Final word:
    In summation its pretty clear that the contenders in each conference have severely plundered table points from the Australian conference and in that sense it has been the weakest for opposition with the most lopsided results.

    The question is, has this advantaged the Waratahs and Reds? Looking at the points gained and you would say yes.

    The median for the Australian contenders is 24.5 points gained versus their counterparts in New Zealand 21 and South Africa 20.5 but its not that clear cut.

    The biggest winner from the derby system is not the table leading Reds who accumulated an overall median 22 but the Waratahs who flambéed their weaker opponents for a massive 27 point haul.

    It’s the Reds ability to gain points inter conference specifically against SA opponents that has been their strong point.

    So with the rest of the teams bar the Sharks (lowest ranked finalist) and ‘Saders (drawn game) well in the median it would show that the matches may be closer in the other conferences but the leaders are gaining equal amounts of points.

    Have Your Say



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    The Crowd Says (44)

    • June 23rd 2011 @ 7:01am
      Bayboy said | June 23rd 2011 @ 7:01am | ! Report

      3/4 of the bottom placed teams coming from the Australian conference speaks volumes Rusty,
      I like the breakdown you have down but it doesn’t take a genius to work it out.
      The average or casual rugby fan will clearly see the gap in strengths of the conferences as soon as they look at the table.

      • June 23rd 2011 @ 10:00am
        reds fan said | June 23rd 2011 @ 10:00am | ! Report

        fair call but ‘bottom 4’ is an arbitary cut off point. as shown by the fact that the Force who came 12th (4th last) won the same number of games as Cheetahs and Hurricanes.

        • June 23rd 2011 @ 10:04am
          Working Class Rugger said | June 23rd 2011 @ 10:04am | ! Report

          The Force were very competitive all season with a number of very tight loses, if a few things had gone their way here and there, their place on the ladder could have been very different. The ladder position can be deceptive.

        • Roar Guru

          June 23rd 2011 @ 11:10am
          Rusty said | June 23rd 2011 @ 11:10am | ! Report

          In the words of the great Ricky Bobby “If you arent in the top six then you are last”

    • June 23rd 2011 @ 8:13am
      Willy said | June 23rd 2011 @ 8:13am | ! Report

      Love the analysis, Rusty! Great stuff.

    • Roar Guru

      June 23rd 2011 @ 8:41am
      PeterK said | June 23rd 2011 @ 8:41am | ! Report

      If you average the intra conference results for playing teams twice or just take the first result the same 6 teams are in the final just in a different order.

      So Aust may have had the weaker teams BUT in the final wash up had very little impact on the finals. Bulls still would of missed out.

      • June 23rd 2011 @ 8:43am
        Jerry said | June 23rd 2011 @ 8:43am | ! Report

        A different order of finishing has a HUGE impact on the finals, Peter.

        • Roar Guru

          June 23rd 2011 @ 10:55am
          PeterK said | June 23rd 2011 @ 10:55am | ! Report

          not in this case since in all scenarios Reds finish first and always get the home game advantage.

          • June 23rd 2011 @ 11:05am
            Jerry said | June 23rd 2011 @ 11:05am | ! Report

            And for second place? Third?

      • Roar Guru

        June 23rd 2011 @ 8:53am
        Rusty said | June 23rd 2011 @ 8:53am | ! Report

        I dont know how you can really do that if you play a team twice and firstly win 28-0 gaining 5-0 on points and then lose
        16-9 then next time for 4-1. How does that really translate to an average where your overall gain is 6 – so 3 points where the only scenario that would happen is a 4 try draw

    • Roar Guru

      June 23rd 2011 @ 8:43am
      Jiggles said | June 23rd 2011 @ 8:43am | ! Report

      Thanks for that Rusty, very good analysis. I really think you have to look at who each team got there results against and how many points 4 or 5 they got from them.

      I love doubters who say that the Reds are only benefiting from the conference system, but when you look at their results they have W6 L2 in those 6 Wins they got only 4 points in 4 of those matches.

      The Reds sit where they are because the beat all teams from the Republic (that they played) and they beat the two front running NZ teams. The Blues and Tah’s got better results against their respective conferences however they let themselves down through inter conference loses. the Stormers and the Crusaders are similar to the Reds however I think the Stromers will really be disappointed with that Cape town Loss to the Reds and Crusaders alike, while the Crusaders would be upset with the Cheetah’s match.

    • June 23rd 2011 @ 9:35am
      westius said | June 23rd 2011 @ 9:35am | ! Report

      This is a really interesting analysis – certainly better than just looking at the table and seeing the Aus teams at the bottom and concluding the Aus conference was the weakest.

      What you have actually shown is that the bottom 3 teams in the Aus conference are, as a group, the worst of the bottom 3 teams in any conference. It is a subtle point, but this is not the same as saying Aus is the weakest conference, although perhaps this is some evidence towards that conclusion. If you wanted to rate conference against conference, you’d need to use all the teams, and then it would come down to judgement calls on how to do it given Qld did so well and beat plenty of foreign teams.

      Anyway… what this shows, and what is quite clear from the season, is that the Aus conference had the biggest disparity between well performing teams and poorly performing teams. This however may change with the salary cap. It is possible, given the increased numbers of derbies, in a conference where there is a clear difference between good and bad, that the poor teams pick up no points against the local teams and end up near the bottom of the table no matter how they go against the foreign teams. This analysis shows a little more than that by showing that the foreign teams also beat up on the poor Aus teams. So good stuff.

      • Roar Guru

        June 23rd 2011 @ 9:43am
        Rusty said | June 23rd 2011 @ 9:43am | ! Report

        You hit the nail on the head – the analysis was never to say the weakest conference as a whole was the Australian one. its not possible when you consider the performance of the Reds and to a lesser degree the Tahs. The analysis is there to show the gulf between the contenders and the weaker teams in each pool and between pools.

        • Roar Guru

          June 23rd 2011 @ 10:10am
          B-Rock said | June 23rd 2011 @ 10:10am | ! Report

          Rusty – absolutely correct – good to see some real analysis on the roar.

          Worth noting that while the bottom three Oz teams are way off the pace, to be fair the Rebels are in their first season and were not expected to be competitive. The brumbies were in the reverse situation where established stars didnt perform due to off field issues. The force are the force and were always expected to be in the bottom third of the table.

          I would argue that next season will be quite a different story – the Brumbies will be fired up with Jake White and finally seeing the back of Gits, will still struggle to some extent without AAC while Rocky didnt play this season anyway. The Rebels will clearly be much sronger with KB and JOC. The force will be a bit weaker but given the current low level, cant really detract any further from the Oz conf. The Lions and Cheetahs have shown great progress this year, highlighting it can be done. To some extent we may see this in Oz next year.

          • June 23rd 2011 @ 12:11pm
            Karlos said | June 23rd 2011 @ 12:11pm | ! Report

            And how about the mass exodus that will occur, of which i predict the likely effect will felt greatest by, in order, SA, NZ, AUS? (Given that the SA rep teams appear to be made up more of older custodians than their two counterparts).

            • June 23rd 2011 @ 12:12pm
              Karlos said | June 23rd 2011 @ 12:12pm | ! Report

              Sorry – to clarify i obviously meant player exodus to Northern Hemisphere rugby

          • June 24th 2011 @ 4:09am
            sittingbison said | June 24th 2011 @ 4:09am | ! Report

            Complete rubbish

    • June 23rd 2011 @ 10:27am
      mudskipper said | June 23rd 2011 @ 10:27am | ! Report

      Definitely the most stretched with the new province starting up… Will next year also but 2013 we will be better for it. It does affect the Wallabies they will be enough solid players to field a mighty team. Some good talent coming through for the RWC this year.

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