Three key factors in winning Super Rugby

Tom English Roar Guru

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    To go deep into a Super Rugby finals series, there’s more than an element of luck involved.

    However, there are some factors under a team’s control that really come in handy.

    Good home record
    In a competition where travelling almost always involves a multi-hour flight, winning at home is the best way to make up for any games dropped on the road.

    The last four champions have shown that taking advantage of your opponents’ extra travel is as much a factor in success as touring well.

    The Waratahs exemplified this in 2014, winning eight of eight Sydney games in the lead-up to their successful finals series.

    Likewise, the Highlanders won six of their eight fixtures in Dunedin in 2015, the Hurricanes won six from seven a year later, and the Crusaders made a clean sweep of matches in Christchurch last year.

    Halves combo
    The saying goes that the game is won in the forwards, while the backs only decide how many, but that phrase misrepresents the big impact the halves have on a game.

    I struggle to think of a winning team with a poor halfback and flyhalf.

    Our friends in New Zealand like to stress the importance of a first-five ‘production line’, and they’re not far wrong.

    When NSW won the championship, in 2014, they had the pairing of Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley at the height of their powers.

    The Otago side in 2015 had Aaron Smith and Lima Sopoaga – remembering of course, that while Sopoaga played ITM Cup last October and just a friendly against the French Barbarians in June, at that point he was a regular All Blacks starter.

    The Canes in 2016 had the same halves they have now, TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett, which is a big thumbs up as far as competing for the title goes.

    Last year’s Crusaders picked and chose with Bryn Hall and Mitchell Drummond at halfback, but Richie Mo’unga held down first five for most of the year.

    The stability teams show in the halves will surely benefit them come this weekend. Elton Jantjies is one particular player in something of a rut, and you could argue that it reflects his team’s success.

    Elton Jantjies Lions Super Rugby Union 2017

    Elton Jantjies (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    High-ranking after regular season
    This ties in somewhat with the previous point, in that it’s extremely difficult to win a final away from home.

    Only twice in 22 seasons has a side finishing lower than second won a fina – Crusaders in 1999 and the Highlanders in 2015.

    In fact, it’s even difficult to qualify for a final without finishing in the top two: since 2014 only the Highlanders have managed to get in from outside those places – sorry Tahs and Jaguares fans, doesn’t look like it this year.

    Using those three points as a guide, who are favourites?

    The Chiefs have the home record, and a reasonable ranking, but do they have the halves? The Landers have only lost one at home, with a proved halves pairing, but have an unflattering ranking of six. The Waratahs have the ranking – albeit gifted to them by the conference system – but their home record is lacking.

    While many are calling Super Rugby as being already won by the Crusaders, it still looks firmly up in the air.

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    The Crowd Says (17)

    The Roar Live Blog: Latest comments displayed at the top of the page | Click here to jump to leave a comment

    • 11:44am
      MitchO said | 11:44am | ! Report

      First, if you are the Tom English then good luck mate and hope you get into a squad now that TK and SK are out.

      Apart from Harry being right, to win you need a complete team. All the links in the chain plus a little bit extra.

      A near All Blacks forward pack will take you very deep into the finals. Of course Matt Todd is not really an All Black but he’s still an okay player. Not really his fault that some numpties kept picking Richie McCaw instead of him. Romano and Barrett and Whitelock. A cameo from Read.

      Sure you need some backs but they only need to be good enough. Drummond is not as good as Aron Smith but he’s very good and he’s paired with Moounga. That is a better 9 / 10 than pretty much every test team except the All Blacks. Then outside of those guys you have a hack named Ryan Crotty and some kid named Jack Goodhue and Havili at full back.

      • Roar Guru

        taylorman said | 3:01pm | ! Report

        Gee wished someone had told me Smith moved to the Saders. The NEWS these days just aint the same.

        • 3:10pm
          MitchO said | 3:10pm | ! Report

          Tman I said the Crusaders had Drummond and that in my opinion he is good but not as good as Smith. My point simply being that whilst he is not best player in his position in the competition he is not a weak link like us Aussies have to put up with.

          • Roar Guru

            Ralph said | 3:29pm | ! Report

            No, no – it has been said on The Roar – you can’t take it back now.

            Send him over!

        • Roar Guru

          Ralph said | 3:22pm | ! Report

          “Smith moved to the Saders”

          WHOO HOO!

    • Roar Guru

      taylorman said | 2:42am | ! Report

      Interesting summary, Cusaders have the best of the three factors yet its ‘still firmly up in the air’.
      Thats cos of other non key factors perhaps? 😁

      • 9:10am
        Tom English said | 9:10am | ! Report

        I think this site needs another article saying why the Crusaders are already home and happy 😛

        I didn’t mean these are the only factors, not in the least. They’re just things I’ve noted for a while, is all.
        Maybe I should’ve titled it 3 of many key factors to win Super Rugby.

    • Roar Guru

      Ralph said | 2:29pm | ! Report

      “Only twice in 22 seasons has a side finishing lower than second won a fina – Crusaders in 1999”

      I still remember that game like it was yesterday. Brumbies went in hot favourites but the headline the next day was “Brumbies humbled ..” Another little record we hold. Good days.

    • 9:50am
      Highlander said | 9:50am | ! Report

      Gainline dominance
      Missed Tackles
      Turnovers – both ways

      Outcomes tend to look after themselves if you get these right

    • 8:55am
      woodart said | 8:55am | ! Report

      being able to rest key players during the season is a big deal. to still pull off wins with a second string team is very important, in the present season and for the future. some teams fall apart when one or two key players arent there, waratahs without hooper arent nearly as effective.

    • 5:39am
      Faith said | 5:39am | ! Report

      ‘The Otago side in 2015 had Aaron Smith and Lima Sopoaga – remembering of course, that while Sopoaga played ITM Cup last October and just a friendly against the French Barbarians in June, at that point he was a regular All Blacks starter’. I am sure Sopoaga has not started more than 3 games for the ABs. He started against Boks in S.A last year. And then against WBs last year. I can’t even remember a third time.
      Sader have ended up with a tricky run to the Finals. The Sharks believe me are not a pushover. The Saders will underestimate them at their own peril. Then, they have to take on the Chiefs/Canes (two teams that have more points than Tahs and Lions who are in easier conferences) and any of them could tip over the Saders on a good day. The Chiefs are an especially dangerous side. If the Saders make it to Finals they will be hard to beat. Tahs are dangerous at home and that’s why it was such a terrible thing to lose semis home advantage. This years Lions I do not rate at all. They could be turned over by all other teams in comp. I actually think we could end up with a Landers – Jaguares semis and a Chiefs/Canes vs Saders semi. And if the Landers make it they can turnover any NZ side …

      • Roar Guru

        taylorman said | 6:33am | ! Report

        Sapoaga had a great debut start in SA a few years ago, havent checked but it was prior to last year.

        • 9:30am
          Highlander said | 9:30am | ! Report

          Started in JBerg prior to 2015 RWC, had a blinder and still didn’t get selected

    • Roar Guru

      Harry Jones said | 4:46am | ! Report

      1/ The consistent ability to score TRIES when defences tighten up and are all excellent.
      2/ Playing in a pattern that does NOT allow many missed tackles (a system issue, AND individual quality at the skill).
      3/ Winning turnovers and knowing what to do with them.
      4/ Being able to build scoreboard pressure on opponents EARLY and to the END of the game.

      The Crusaders are at the top or in the top 2-3 of every single one of those categories.

      – Tahs score a lot of points, but are near the bottom in tackle efficacy, and are the worst at creating turnovers.
      – Sharks are great tacklers, but don’t create turnovers, and are below average at scoring tries.
      – Lions score tries from their league-leading turnovers won, but they aren’t tackling well at all.
      – Jags have missed more tackles than any team except the Reds, and don’t score tries easily enough.
      – Chiefs do most things kind of like the Saders, but just not quite as well.
      – Hurricanes are about the same as the Chiefs.
      – Highlanders don’t win enough turnovers.

      • Roar Guru

        Ralph said | 2:55pm | ! Report

        At the moment we are showing good patience, good depth and strong belief.

        I am confident that the only way to beat us will be for the Sharks to blow us off our game completely. A heap of stop/start would not hurt the Sharks either. If we get our rhythm going and our shots off we’ll be hard to beat.

        Franks and Taylor are back so scrum should be ok this week.
        Whitelock has played too much, but Barrett is back rested, so lineout should be ok.
        Read has been named which might help our start (but don’t expect more than 40 mins from him).
        Havili back at fullback rested and Mitchell Hunt is on the bench.
        No Tim Bateman on the bench so I guess they expect Crotty to go the distance, hope is hand is ok.

        Excitement building.

    • Roar Guru

      Nobrain said | 3:51am | ! Report

      A big factor is not having Jaco P. officiating the Lions / Jaguares game in SA.

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