It’s about the journey, not the destination, at the Rugby Championship

Highlander Roar Rookie

By Highlander, Highlander is a Roar Rookie


38 Have your say

    This year’s Rugby Championship finished largely as expected. New Zealand were comfortable winners, Argentina continue to struggle with the same squad of players being with each other ad nauseam, while South Africa and Australia battled it out for finishing order in the middle of the pack.

    But while the destination may have been well known in advance, there were a few interesting by-ways on the journey that are worth a mention.

    Building depth to the Rugby World Cup
    At the start of the tournament, there were less than 20 remaining games before the pool games of the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Experimentation, rotation and introduction of new players could have been the order of the day, but the results across the teams varied.

    The All Blacks used the most players, at 36, and also utilised the most reserve minutes, at 1161, an average of 24 minutes per reserve per game.

    Argentina used 31 players and 965 reserve minutes at an average of 20 minutes.

    There is quite a gap in bench usage back to South Africa and Australia.

    South Africa used 31 players, with total reserve minutes of 793 at an average of 17 minutes per reserve, while the Wallabies’ numbers were 30 players, with 849 reserve minutes at an average of 18.

    We constantly hear about modern rugby being a 23-man game and that the finishers – I hate that expression – are key. Well, it appears they are, but not always in the games when it really matters.

    The match that wins this year’s ‘I don’t trust my bench’ award goes to the Australia-South Africa 23-23 all draw in Perth.

    Total reserve minutes were the season’s lowest, at 185, with an average of 11 minutes per reserve. As this was probably the most important game in terms of determining the final order of the table, it is an interesting reflection of both coaches’ mindset.

    Execution, exectution, execution
    Many were the handfuls of Kiwi follicles flying during the Lions series, as the ball went to ground again and again. Sadly, during the Rugby Championship things did not improve.

    The All Blacks coughed up a massive 219 handling errors across the six games, which is a horrendous 67 more than the second-worst side, which was Argentina.

    South Africa and Australia tied for the most offloads thrown, with 71, and combined this with a relatively low handling error rate compared to the New Zealand. Encouraging signs for both.

    Penalties kicked
    The only positive statistic that Argentina won, with 13 successful from 17 attempts, however herein lies a message: in this comp, you have to kick for the line, guys. Tries are needed for wins in the Rugby Championship, and maybe this is the difference between Argentina being close with 20 to go, to potentially being in front with 20 to go.

    For completeness, South Africa kicked 11 from 17, Australia ten from 15, New Zealand five from seven.

    Tackling percentages
    The tackling percentage spread from best to worst was only three per cent, with New Zealand at 87 and Argentina at 84.

    Tackling completion percentages are a reasonable stat to look at for a single game, but it the actual number of tackles missed that is likely to better reflect outcomes.

    Turnover and the breakdown
    Curiouser and Curiouser noted Lewis Carroll, and this applies to Australian rugby fans’ continued obsession with the role of the openside at the breakdown.

    Australia both conceded the fewest turnovers and won the fewest, but I would argue this means little in isolation.

    New Zealand, a side who does not play an outright fetcher, finished top of the turnover tables with 32, nine more than Argentina and ten more than South Africa.

    How does a side that has played an almost zero ruck numbers commitment strategy come out top?

    (Note, New Zealand were bottom for turnovers last year, with 30, so almost no change in the absolute number.)

    Having an outright pilferer is not going to be a requirement under the news laws, but in fact it hasn’t been a requirement since before the last Rugby World Cup.

    England have dominated the Six Nations and put together a world-record-equaling 18 games without one, and New Zealand have continued on their merry winning way without one.

    For the record, and to keep the Luddites informed, Michael Hooper topped the turnover stats for Australia, with five, and he was also the leading openside flanker in the comp for this stat.

    There a few more outliers worth noting:

    • New Zealand had the lowest kick metres, while South Africa kicked the most and furthest
    • South Africa conceded the fewest penalties
    • Australia won the fewest lineouts (not a reflection of execution, teams just didn’t kick the ball out against Australia)
    • The All Blacks conceded only four scrum penalties in six games
    • Australia had the same number of tackle breaks as Argentina

    While the final destination was the same again this year, the journey itself continues to evolve.

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    The Crowd Says (38)

    • October 13th 2017 @ 4:16pm
      DavSA said | October 13th 2017 @ 4:16pm | ! Report

      Boks conceding the least penalties is a mighty interesting stat. Puts a few stereotypes to rest.

      • Roar Guru

        October 14th 2017 @ 12:33am
        Harry Jones said | October 14th 2017 @ 12:33am | ! Report

        We play better when we use our full allotment of penalties before a card comes out. Never give up the 7; let them have 3 for a while, and don’t let just one player do the deed–spread it out so the ref can’t get cross at one guy. Then, feel when the ref is about to find the card, and sin no more.

    • Columnist

      October 13th 2017 @ 7:58pm
      Nicholas Bishop said | October 13th 2017 @ 7:58pm | ! Report

      Interesting stats H’lander – and good comments about the number 7 in the overall scheme of turnover stats! Thanks.

    • October 13th 2017 @ 8:24pm
      Highlander said | October 13th 2017 @ 8:24pm | ! Report

      HI Nick

      Interesting this year TJP is NZ’s top turnover agent, last RC it was fekitoa

      Question about the new laws.
      Have watched a few Premiership games’
      Struggling to think, will loose forwards get smaller for the increased pace, or bigger for the more frequent collisions (Hansen seems to favour the latter outcome)

    • Roar Rookie

      October 14th 2017 @ 6:06am
      atlas said | October 14th 2017 @ 6:06am | ! Report

      Numbers, numbers … some RC stats on the 10s based around BBBB’s numbers (doesn’t include numbers of times he made what many might say we’re poor decisions…)

      There were four principal first-fives in the championship by minutes played: Barrett (413 minutes), Bernard Foley (480), Elton Jantjies (437) and Nicolas Sanchez (355).
      Barrett carried the ball 65 times, the next closest was Foley (47).
      Barrett made nine clean breaks, the next closest was Foley (4).
      Barrett beat 20 defenders, the next closest was Foley (10). His four offloads were bettered only by Foley (6) but his seven try assists were well ahead of Foley’s four.
      Barrett made 36 tackles and missed just five; Foley made 37 and missed 13; Jantjies made 36 and missed 11; Sanchez made 35 and missed 15.
      Barrett’s 81.3 per cent success rate with the boot compares well with Foley (78.9), Jantjies (81.3) and Sanchez (78.9), though you could point out that the All Blacks are more likely to turn down difficult penalties than other sides.

      • October 14th 2017 @ 7:25am
        Taylorman said | October 14th 2017 @ 7:25am | ! Report

        Geez, good numbers and third in number of minutes on tthe field. Impressive.

      • October 14th 2017 @ 7:52am
        Highlander said | October 14th 2017 @ 7:52am | ! Report

        That’s an impressive set from Mr B.

      • October 14th 2017 @ 8:35am
        Taylorman said | October 14th 2017 @ 8:35am | ! Report

        Farrell anyone? ?

        • October 14th 2017 @ 9:03am
          Highlander said | October 14th 2017 @ 9:03am | ! Report

          I couldn’t resist a look at Farrell’s numbers Tman.
          Farrell is undoubtedly the worlds best goal kicker but he has got bugga all going on with the rest of his game.

          For the 3 June tests.
          Total metres run 22……..that’s committing zero defenders at this level
          Clean breaks 1
          Defenders beaten 4
          Offloads 1
          Tackles made 25
          Tackles missed 8…..not a great ratio, esp for an ex leaguie
          Tries and try assists, a big round number, 0

          Wouldn’t mind a dollar for every time he was caught in possession behind the gain line over the 3 tests either. Esp the first test.

          • Roar Guru

            October 14th 2017 @ 9:17am
            Carlos the Argie said | October 14th 2017 @ 9:17am | ! Report

            Facts! Darned facts!

            Opinions are much more interesting, forget about facts! Maybe they are “fake” facts.

          • October 14th 2017 @ 9:19am
            Taylorman said | October 14th 2017 @ 9:19am | ! Report

            Yes figured as much, imagine an AB 10 with those sort of stats, you wonder what he does all game…leers at his opposite? ?

    • October 14th 2017 @ 9:19am
      Highlander said | October 14th 2017 @ 9:19am | ! Report

      The stats we see Carlos aren’t always the best, but they are a pretty good indicator