Queensland Reds Coach Brad Thorn fought back tears on Triple M radio discussing Izack Rodda after his much publicised decision to reject Super Rugby pay cuts alongside Harry Hockings and Isaac Lucas.
Let’s download the offload culture of Super Rugby this year, by comparing it to last season.
In 2018, the eight most frequent offloading teams were not Australian. The Waratahs came in at No.9 – above them were all five Kiwi teams, two South African outfits, and the Japanese franchise.
Perhaps surprisingly, the most offload-happy team was the Sharks, but they do have the Brothers du Preez plus Lukhanyo ‘Lucky’ Am, who likes to make things happen in his outside channel.
The 2018 Sharks offloaded on 12.5 per cent of their carries, which translated to 12.63 completed offloads per match.
Next were the Chiefs and Highlanders, who had the same rate of offloading – 10.8 per cent of carries ended in a successful offload.
But due to the Chiefs creating more carries in the first place – they are a higher possession team, and kick far less than the Highlanders – that translated to 11.81 and 10.44 offloads per match, respectively.
The Blues also offload more than a tenth of their carries, and as long as they have Sonny Bill Williams, can bank on being a ‘chicken wing’ team.
The Hurricanes, Bulls, Sunwolves, Crusaders and Waratahs were in the next group, roughly at one offload for every nine carries, and about nine-and-a-half offloads per match in 2018.
From there, the rate fell precipitously until the bottom team – a grand finalist, the Lions, at 7.4 a game.
Thus, the high-scoring Lions averaged about half the rate of offloads as the Sharks (6.6 per cent versus 12.5 per cent), and this resulted in 5.23 fewer offloads per match.
Ironically, in the grand final, the Lions became prolific offloaders (12) and it did not look like it suited their style.
Here is the 2018 order of offloads per carry, with offloads per game in parentheses.
1. Sharks 12.5% of carries ended in an offload (12.63 offloads per game)
2. Chiefs 10.8% (11.81)
3. Highlanders 10.8% (10.44)
4. Blues 10.1% (11.94)
5. Hurricanes 9.2% (9.56)
6. Bulls 9.1% (9.43)
7. Sunwolves 9.1% (9.19)
8. Crusaders 9% (9.63)
9. Waratahs 8.9% (9.94)
10. Brumbies 8.5% (9.43)
11. Reds 8% (8.25)
12. Stormers 7.8% (8.5)
13. Rebels 7.5% (8.5)
14. Jaguares 7.2% (8.7)
15. Lions 6.6% (7.4)
This year, after seven rounds, it seems there has been less offloading in Super Rugby.
Two more teams than in 2018 are offloading on less than eight per cent of carries. Only two teams – the Chiefs and Waratahs – are offloading ten or more times a game.
The Chiefs, however, have upped their output of 11.81 a game in 2018 to a whopping 14.61 times a game in 2019.
The average is down, but who has increased?
The Chiefs, for one, offloading on almost 12 per cent of their carries.
The Brumbies are up almost 25 per cent up, from 8.5 per cent to 10.5 per cent of carries end in an offload this year.
The Waratahs are completing about 1.5 more offloads per game, including the top offloader in the tournament, Israel Folau.
The Jaguares are passing less and offloading more, and the Lions are also ending more carries with an offload.
We cannot draw conclusions from the composition of that group, except to postulate that rapid increases in high-skill additions with decreased decision-making time may not be a good idea.
The Chiefs’ Anton Lienert-Brown leads the way for his team, but 25 of his team-mates have completed an offload so far, with their big Canadian No.8 Tyler Ardron and Brodie Retallick particularly difficult to tackle.
To put the number 25 in context, the Rebels – who were skeptical of offloads in 2018 and are even more so this year – only have 13 offloading players thus far.
On the other hand, the teams that have decreased are headlined by the Sharks, who don’t have key offloader Jean-Luc du Preez.
The Hurricanes are down from 9.2 per cent of carries to 4.7 per cent, and almost half the number per game, with only 5.57 completed offloads per game.
The Rebels only complete five per match, the lowest in the competition, and the Reds have also dropped.
Then there’s the Bulls – mostly because of injuries to Bok locks RG Snyman and Lood de Jager – and the Highlanders – three less per game, even though they are kicking less.
The Canes do pass a lot, but they are simply not passing inside incomplete tackles. The Rebels don’t pass or offload much.
Who has stayed about the same? The Crusaders, with their perfectly calibrated 9.42 offloads per game, compared with the 2018 average of 9.63.
1. Chiefs 11.9% (14.61)
2. Brumbies 10.5% (9)
3. Waratahs 10.4% (10.5)
4. Crusaders 9.7% (9.42)
5. Sharks 8.8% (8.83)
6. Sunwolves 8.3% (8.28)
7. Jaguares 8.1% (8.17)
8. Blues 8% (8.28)
9. Highlanders 8% (7.17)
10. Bulls 7.8% (6.83)
11. Lions 7.7% (9)
12. Stormers 7.5% (8.5)
13. Reds 6.6% (6.83)
14. Rebels 5.6% (5)
15. Hurricanes 4.7% (5.57)
The overall picture is that in 2018, Super Rugby teams averaged 9.69 offloads per match, and this year, they are averaging 8.42 per match, after seven rounds.