Vodacom Super 14
Bulls lose fortress advantage
Orlando Stadium (Gallo Images)
Pretoria – Statistics prove that teams that move to new stadiums are 25% worse in their first season than they would have been playing on their regular home grounds.
Winning percentages improve in the ensuing years and are usually restored to the percentage prior to the move.
While Saturday’s Super 14 semi-final between the Bulls and the Crusaders at the Orlando Stadium does not quite fall into the same category, sport scientists Ross Tucker warns that the Bulls will be sacrificing something because they are not playing at Loftus Versfeld.
Tucker said in a series of talks, sponsored by Powerade, that two factors play a role when teams play away from home or at a new stadium.
There is a possibility that teams will under-achieve because their routines and focus is not the same as before. Opponents also do not have a psychological barrier about the home team’s “fortress”.
Tucker believes the Bulls are good enough to overcome the problem and says that training sessions at the Orlando Stadium would have helped to focus the team more.
“Even if Orlando Stadium is made to feel as familiar as possible with flags and noise, it may turn out to be totally irrelevant. Just ask the Crusaders on which one of the fields they would rather play.”
Tucker found in his studies that teams generally perform better when playing at home, tough he found that the Stormers are the South African team that fares the worst at home compared to their performances away from home.
The team’s performances are only five points worse when playing away from home. The Cheetahs and Lions are 13 and 14 points worse off away from home respectively.
This can be a negative for the Stormers in their semi-final against the Waratahs.
However, they have the routine of playing at Newlands and all the usual things that go with that on their side.
Tucker also points out that referees are influenced by home crowds. The bigger the home crowd, the better the chance that the visiting team will be penalised.
Findings in other sporting codes such as ice hockey and basketball back up that view.
No team has won a semi-final or final outside its own country since 1999. It is a factor that will definitely be in play on Saturday, Tucker believes.