Why South African teams are losing more than they should

Corne Van Vuuren Roar Guru

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    As a South African supporter the current season of Super Rugby has been frustrating to put it mildly, losing matches we shouldn’t and sucking the hind leg of the Australian and New Zealand conferences.

    I thought it prudent to collate some stats on the results in cross conferences matches. My apologies for not including the Jaguares and Sunwolves; it was more a country versus country analysis than per team.

    The following statistics came out of the results.

    South Africa versus New Zealand
    South Africa New Zealand
    Played 15 15
    Wins 4 11
    Points scored 407 444
    Tries scored 50 60
    Average score 27.1 29.6
    Average tries 3.3 4
    South Africa versus Australia
    South Africa Australia
    Played 10 10
    Wins 4 5
    Draws 1 1
    Points scored 23.4 22.2
    Tries scored 31 27
    Average score 23 22.2
    Average tries 3.1 2.7
    New Zealand versus Australia
    New Zealand Australia
    Played 7 7
    Wins 7 0
    Points scored 260 116
    Tries scored 35 14
    Average score 37.1 16.6
    Average tries 5 2

    Siya Kolisi of the Stormers.

    (Steve Haag/Gallo Images via Getty Images)

    It is clear New Zealand is dominating the tournament – you just need to look at the log after 13 rounds and notice that log points-wise New Zealand should fill the top four slots with Crusaders on 42, Hurricanes on 41, Highlanders on 32 and Chiefs on 31. The Lions are situated in second position with 31 log points, having lost six of 12 matches, and the Waratahs with 26 log points and five losses from ten matches.

    There is one telling statistic that shows why South African teams, although close in try-scoring and points-scoring, are losing more matches than they should.

    South Africa has lost nine of 11 close matches – seven points or less – whereas New Zealand has won seven of eight close matches and Australia has won four of seven close encounters.

    I suppose I can wildly speculate why this is the case – and I do firmly believe referees play a role in results – as many of these matches were lost at the death. Game management is the biggest cause, and this goes hand in hand with poor decision-making, whether it is to relinquish possession in the final minutes, kicking possession away, poor ball retention, not playing the territory or poor discipline.

    Quite a number of these losses were attributed to a sequence of penalties, fairly or unfairly, causing the South African teams to relinquish territory and ultimately defending their red zone in the dying minutes.

    Whichever way you want to explain those losses, this will be one of the more important challenges that will face Rassie Erasmus.

    The one light at the end of the tunnel is that South Africa has embraced a positive brand of rugby. They are scoring plenty of tries and are creating many more opportunities; however, they are still naïve in their process to build a positive style of play. Too often poor decision-making produces risky plays and offloads, creating counter-attack opportunities for opponents.

    They need to find synergy between the traditional strength of South African rugby, set piece, discipline in defence and how to transition into defensive mode from attack.

    The good news for Australia is that they aren’t as far in the hole as they believe. For one, they have a better win rate against South Africa, and there is still plenty of opportunity to turn things around against the New Zealanders.

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    The Crowd Says (101)

    • May 15th 2018 @ 5:26am
      bluesfan said | May 15th 2018 @ 5:26am | ! Report

      Personally have being impressed with the SA teams this year – whilst the results have not gone their way and which probably reflects an inability to play an 80 minute games, their have being a few fair occasions where the likes of the Bulls, Stormers and Sharks have dominated and bullied the Kiwi Sides.

      Some of the passing of the Bulls (j.mitchell affect I assume) into space has being really impressive and I hope R.Erasmus can harness that play and utilize that to build out Springbok success further – seems to be a fair bit of common sense has come into SA with the promotion of Erasmus and hopefully that plays out onto the playing field later this year.

      • Roar Guru

        May 15th 2018 @ 6:02am
        Corne Van Vuuren said | May 15th 2018 @ 6:02am | ! Report

        Agree bluesfan, let’s hope there isn’t too much political interference during his tenure.

        • May 16th 2018 @ 9:16am
          mania said | May 16th 2018 @ 9:16am | ! Report

          all is not dire BB. i agree with bluesfan. SA are bringing it this season and for once in a long long time are improving imo in a positive way and playing rugby i enjoy. sharks and lions ive enjoyed this season.
          i just hope that in the pursuit of ‘positive rugby’ that SA doesn’t lose its dominance and expertise at set piece.

        • May 17th 2018 @ 8:41am
          P2R2 said | May 17th 2018 @ 8:41am | ! Report

          of course there will….whats the ratio to be 50/50 black and white??? that is what will kill the Boks

      • May 15th 2018 @ 8:09am
        woodart said | May 15th 2018 @ 8:09am | ! Report

        looking forward to the tests between the two best teams in the world. theres nothing better than good hard games against the springboks.

      • May 16th 2018 @ 11:31am
        Danny said | May 16th 2018 @ 11:31am | ! Report

        Agree Bluesfan, I am quite surprised at the points etc after watching the games. Been bugger all blow outs and I get the feeling that the SA teams are going to be even harder to beat next year as they get into playing their style for full 80 minutes, and don’t drop off intensity at end . Bulls, Stormers and Sharks have all shown they capable of footing it with Kiwi teams as well as Lions of course. Love to see it, and suspect the Boks are going to more than useful especially next year going into WC.

    • May 15th 2018 @ 5:27am
      Faith said | May 15th 2018 @ 5:27am | ! Report

      It depends on what you mean by Aus teams could ‘turn around’ their season against NZ teams? Do you mean they can make the win-loss ratio 50-50? See below for the games they have to play. Out of these I truly think the Tahs will pull one back against the Landers or the Chiefs. The Rebels might pull something against the Blues though I doubt that as without anything to lose the Aucklanders are pretty good. I think the Chiefs vs Brumbies is another banana skin game for Chiefs as their ABs will be shot. This would not ‘balance’ the ledger.
      Hurricanes v Reds, Wellington, May 18
      Waratahs v Highlanders, Sydney, May 19
      Chiefs v Waratahs, Hamilton, May 26
      Reds v Highlanders, Brisbane, May 26
      Blues v Rebels, Auckland, June 2
      Blues v Reds, Auckland, June 29
      Brumbies v Hurricanes, Canberra, June 30
      Chiefs v Brumbies, Hamilton, July 7
      Highlanders v Rebels, Dunedin, July 14

      • Roar Guru

        May 15th 2018 @ 5:39am
        Corne Van Vuuren said | May 15th 2018 @ 5:39am | ! Report

        I doubt they can square the ledger, but surely there must be an opportunity to stop the rot?

      • May 15th 2018 @ 9:19am
        Ex force fan said | May 15th 2018 @ 9:19am | ! Report

        Forgot the Force vs Crusaders on 22 June

      • Roar Guru

        May 15th 2018 @ 10:47am
        PeterK said | May 15th 2018 @ 10:47am | ! Report

        So far my pre season analysis that there was no reason to think any oz team would beat a nz team is looking pretty good.

    • May 15th 2018 @ 5:54am
      Sherry said | May 15th 2018 @ 5:54am | ! Report

      Thanks for the stats, Corne. You’re one of the few Roarers who’ll bother to use a diacritical mark BTW. Of all the Saffer fans on this forum I think you’ve suffered the most disappointment going back several seasons. But I believe your time for cheering is on the way. I have a good feeling about Rassie, and the squad will have a hell of a lot more confidence knowing they have the horses to beat England specially as several of their experienced players – Hartley, Lawes, Watson, Kruis, Cole, Haskell, Care – won’t be available. Plus you’ll have altitude on your side for two of the tests. Steyne, Am, Kriel, De Allende – way better midfield than England has to choose from. Better line out, better pack. Looking good for you guys.

      • Roar Guru

        May 15th 2018 @ 5:59am
        Corne Van Vuuren said | May 15th 2018 @ 5:59am | ! Report

        Thanks Sherry, I sure hope things improve after the annus horribilis we have had.

        • May 15th 2018 @ 6:25am
          Highlander said | May 15th 2018 @ 6:25am | ! Report

          anni horribiles ?

          • Roar Guru

            May 15th 2018 @ 6:33am
            Corne Van Vuuren said | May 15th 2018 @ 6:33am | ! Report

            Bad year

            • May 15th 2018 @ 6:45am
              Highlander said | May 15th 2018 @ 6:45am | ! Report

              I think we are all hoping the coach, new selection can see your guys fire up against England Corne .

              • Roar Guru

                May 15th 2018 @ 6:51am
                Corne Van Vuuren said | May 15th 2018 @ 6:51am | ! Report

                Definitely highlander, as rugby supporters we really need a turnaround in fortunes

            • May 15th 2018 @ 7:02am
              Highlander said | May 15th 2018 @ 7:02am | ! Report

              Ps…did think the Latin plural , ex Lions, was a fair question.

              • May 15th 2018 @ 7:30am
                moaman said | May 15th 2018 @ 7:30am | ! Report

                @ Highlander.So did I mate, so did I.

              • May 15th 2018 @ 7:38am
                Highlander said | May 15th 2018 @ 7:38am | ! Report

                Comedy gold that mm.

            • Roar Guru

              May 15th 2018 @ 7:27am
              Lano said | May 15th 2018 @ 7:27am | ! Report

              Highlander, who is an educated fellow, is pointing out SA has had “bad years” plural. Very amusing H. H could have posted “anni mala” –

              on the SA conference the ladder is so tight because the teams are so darned inconsistent. The Sharks wins in Aus/ NZ were spectacular beautiful rugby then they went home and crashed to the Bulls.

              • May 15th 2018 @ 4:59pm
                Highlander said | May 15th 2018 @ 4:59pm | ! Report

                And a small reminder not to underestimate our prop friends Lano.
                Also, mala is a bit harsh I think.

      • May 15th 2018 @ 6:25am
        adastra32 said | May 15th 2018 @ 6:25am | ! Report

        Looking forward to the detailed, position-by-position analysis of the RSA vs. England midfields from your assertion.

    • Roar Guru

      May 15th 2018 @ 7:32am
      Kia Kaha said | May 15th 2018 @ 7:32am | ! Report

      Thanks, Corne.

      I do get the impression Rassie will have a firmer base on which to build this year.

      I base this mainly on the fact that this year there is certainly enough talent from which to pick, but notably in the backs. This is where SA struggled last year.

      Defence for me is potentially still a problem area but the attack looks a lot more potent. Decisions under pressure, as you allude to, also need to be addressed.

      • Roar Guru

        May 15th 2018 @ 1:13pm
        Corne Van Vuuren said | May 15th 2018 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

        Yes kia, defence is a major concern, it seems as if the players find it hard to make the switch from attack to defence and that hesitation impacts their anility to reotganise and thus the confidence and attitude is not there

    • Roar Rookie

      May 15th 2018 @ 8:51am
      Playerfromwaybk said | May 15th 2018 @ 8:51am | ! Report

      Good to see you back in the saddle BB, I have missed your posts. You should be proud of the way the South African teams have been playing. I have enjoyed watching the Lions play the last two years, but this year, I am loving the Sharks!!! When they click, they play some very beautiful rugby. The game against the Highlanders is case in point, I will be the first to admit, I never like to see any kiwi side lose, but I had admire how they went about their business on the field, their support lines and offloading was truly top shelf. Honestly, England should be worried come the June series, the talent at Rassies disposal this year is scary.

      • May 15th 2018 @ 9:59am
        moaman said | May 15th 2018 @ 9:59am | ! Report

        @ Playerfromwaybk
        Even the Waratahs put some lovely passing together on Saturday…especially that beautiful passing move down the right flank.
        Nothing better than a good sequence of passes at speed–out in front and right in the bread-basket!

        • Roar Rookie

          May 15th 2018 @ 11:37am
          Playerfromwaybk said | May 15th 2018 @ 11:37am | ! Report

          True that moaman, that was a sequence of pure brilliance! The Waratahs looked unstoppable, 29 nil after 30 minutes, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

      • Roar Guru

        May 15th 2018 @ 1:14pm
        Corne Van Vuuren said | May 15th 2018 @ 1:14pm | ! Report

        Thank you Sir, yes the inconsistencies in performances are frustrating to say the least.

        The Sharks in particular can look devastating one moment, only to completely lose it the next.

    • Roar Pro

      May 15th 2018 @ 9:11am
      Jonty Shonty said | May 15th 2018 @ 9:11am | ! Report

      Thanks Corne

      I do agree we have a lot to learn in terms of game management. When I look at the key decision makers in key positions, a lot of them are still quite young and finding their feet. All the fly halves (apart from Elton but that’s a story for another day), are under 25. And there’s a bunch of young scrum halves and full backs too. I’m hoping this improves with experience.

      One of the things I admire about the Crusaders, is how they approach things when they’re under the pump. The game last weekend against the Waratahs is a perfect example. They almost slow things down, focus on the basics, get into good positions on the field and trust their system. At the moment, SA teams by comparison turn a little frantic, push passes, and try and run from everywhere.

      A lot of this comes down to leadership on the pitch, which I also think is an area in which we’re struggling.

      But you’re right, there’s some positive signs at the moment, and real improvement shown in a number of players. Even though our SR teams have been inconsistent and struggled occasionally, I do feel we’re going to put together a very strong Springbok squad and will be no push overs this year.

      • May 15th 2018 @ 11:50am
        woodart said | May 15th 2018 @ 11:50am | ! Report

        leadership is VERY important ,especially when things are going wrong. the crusaders have always had good leaders, blackadder, thorne, mccaw, read ,whitelock. a strong leadership group IS the key to making a champion team .

      • Roar Guru

        May 15th 2018 @ 1:15pm
        Corne Van Vuuren said | May 15th 2018 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

        It is true we lack the leadership jonty, the Lions especially seem lost without Whiteley and Kriel.

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