Stats: Bok depth to be tested

2009-05-08 06:50

Cape Town – Here we go, down to the wire in the final fortnight of the 2009 Super 14! Two South African teams are in the running for the semi-finals and there have been a number of excellent performances from local players.

But more worrying from an international point of view, the poor form of a number of Springboks is giving coach Peter de Villiers headaches ahead of the Lions series.

Even worse, De Villiers has lost fullback incumbent Conrad Jantjes for the season, while the likes of Schalk Burger, Frans Steyn and Adi Jacobs, to name but three shoe-in Boks, are in doubt for the most important series in 12 years.

With that in mind, we looked through the full 2009 Super 14 statistics from Verusco, the New-Zealand based company who supply stats and video analysis systems to most of the Super 14 teams, to see who’s waiting in the wings in the all-important positions of fullback and openside flanker.

We’ll restrict our comparisons to those players who have represented their teams primarily in the positions we’re examining. Therefore, back-rowers such as Luke Watson, Hendro Scholtz or even Pierre Spies, who could quite easily play No 6 flanker and have  both done so at international level, have been disregarded because they’ve been playing most of this season at No 8.

Of the abovementioned trio, both Watson and Spies are very strong contenders for Springbok selection anyway, and the chances of one of them playing openside flanker in the possible absence of Burger is not out of the question.

When it comes to contenders for the side of the scrum, we’ve thus narrowed down our possible Bok opensiders to the Bulls’ Deon Stegmann, Heinrich Brussow of the Cheetahs, Lions skipper Cobus Grobbelaar and Jacques Botes of the Sharks.

When it comes to fullback, we’ve also chosen four contenders playing regularly in the No 15 jersey for their franchises – Zane Kirchner of the Bulls, the Lions’ Louis Ludik, the Sharks’ Stefan Terblanche and Hennie Daniller of the Cheetahs –  and disregarded the likes of Jaque Fourie, Odwa Ndungane, JP Pietersen or even Earl Rose, to name but four other players who have a lot of first-class experience in the last line of defence.


From an analysis of 16 categories, the Cheetahs’ in-form Bok flanker Heinrich Brussow came out tops in 9 of them, including most tackles made, most metres gained, most line breaks, most turnovers forced, most tackle breaks and most turnover tackles.

Stegmann missed the least tackles and conceded the joint-fewest turnovers; Grobbelaar conceded the least penalties and claimed the most opposition kickoffs; and Botes scored the most tries, cleaned out the most breakdowns, conceded the joint-fewest turnovers, and made the least handling errors.

Looking specifically at tackling and breakdown skills, here are the full figures:

Tackle efficiency (total attempted; made; missed; efficiency):
Brussow:    210    180    30    85.71%
Stegmann:    96    79     17    82.29%
Botes:     165    134    31    81.21%
Grobbelaar:     120    88    32    73.33%

Turnovers forced:
Brussow    21
Stegmann    13
Grobbelaar    8
Botes        8

Turnovers conceded:
Stegmann    7
Botes        7
Brussow    8
Grobbelaar    12

Turnover tackles:
Brussow    15
Stegmann    8
Grobbelaar    6
Botes        2

Botes        117
Stegmann    85
Brussow    72
Grobbelaar    72


In 15 categories, Stefan Terblanche gained most metres with ball in hand; had the most runs; most offloads; conceded the least penalties; made the most passes; kicked the most metres; made the least handling errors; and forced the most turnover tackles.

Daniller, too, came up tops in a wide range of skills: most line breaks; most tackles made; most offloads; least penalties conceded; and most turnovers forced.

Let’s take a more detailed look at some position-specific categories:

Tackle efficiency (total attempted; made; missed; efficiency):
Daniller:    84    67     17    79.76%
Ludik:     71    56    15    78.87%
Terblanche:     75    53    22    70.66%
Kirchner:    64    32    32    50%

Line breaks:
Daniller:    9   
Ludik:     7   
Terblanche:     6   
Kirchner:    6   

Turnovers conceded:
Kirchner:    14   
Ludik:     15   
Daniller:    16   
Terblanche:     19   

Handling errors:
Terblanche:     15
Ludik:     18   
Kirchner:    22   
Daniller:    26   

Kicking metres gained:
Terblanche:     5 158m
Daniller:    2 759m   
Kirchner:    2 392m   
Ludik:     1 644m   

Running metres gained:
Terblanche    1 157m
Kirchner    1 107m
Daniller    1 059m
Ludik        1 013m

In summary then, we think Heinrich Brussow’s fine all-round attacking and defensive games would make him an excellent choice to partner his provincial team-mate Juan Smith in the Bok back row if Schalk Burger were injured. It’s highly likely the tearaway flanker will find himself in the squad anyway, while a back row of Brussow, Smith and Burger at No 8 wouldn’t let anyone down, either.

When it comes to fullback, we think Stefan Terblanche’s excellent form, his safety under the high ball, his good kicking game and his huge experience (he made his Bok debut in 1998 and has played 37 Tests) would make him a logical replacement for Jantjes. Kirchner is a good prospect but his inexperience, poor tackling efficiency and high error rate would certainly be preyed on by the Lions at this stage of his career.

Join us again on Tuesday, when we’ll review the penultimate round of Super 14 matches and begin the build-up to the climax of the round-robin: the Sharks v Bulls match next weekend.

Verusco are suppliers of video analysis systems to most of the South African Super 14 teams. Find out more at or email


  • Anonymous User - 2009-05-08 07:30

    You missed two stats for selection. Are you black, brown or pink. And do you play for PDV beloved Province

  • Anonymous User - 2009-05-08 08:27

    What these stats don't tell is where these handling errors or missed tackles were performed! To my recollection, Terblanche fluffed at least three tries with an open tryline at his mercy (and they weren't difficult at all)! N24 say that he is the logical replacement for Jantjes because of "his safety under the high ball, his good kicking game and his huge experience"! Here's a newsflash for you so called experts, Terblanche isn't safe under the highball, its just that some of his forwards obstruct opposition players from putting heat on him! I can recall quite a few Gary Owens that he missed! Furthermore, he is as slow as a snail, hardly joins the line to create an overlap, nor form part of the first line defense in the redzone! Finally, Terblanche never played FB at international level, so what "huge" experience are you talking of? Someone should put this oldman down and he should join Percy on the sidelines! Take up surfing or golf! Just don't get further involved in rugby please, I beg you!

  • Anonymous User - 2009-05-08 08:28

    what about daniller. Behind a dominating pack? he is a solid boy, and Brussouw? dont right Schalk Burger out of the series yet.

  • skywalker - 2009-05-08 09:01

    PdV promised us he would pick in form players,and if he stuck to his promises there would be no problems with selections...lose the world cup has beens...the Lions tour is no place to cross your fingers and hope a player comes back into form...If the selectors pick a team on form we should have no problem thumping the Lions at home...but selecting out of form players for the sake of consistency may cost us dearly...

  • Allen - 2009-05-08 09:14

    What i would like to see is stats comparing the Springbok imcumbants with their closest rivals i.e. Burger vs Brussow. Jean de Villiers vs Frans Steyn vs Wynand Olivier vs Jacques Fourie etc....

  • Tim - 2009-05-08 10:06

    Why do guys even mention Tereblanche and Kirchner in your conclusion? Surely the logical choice is Daniller at fullback and Brussouw at flank? They playing in the worst performing team yet they still shining. Kirchner and Tereblanche are clearly over rated. Kirchner 50% tackling effiency is a disgrace...

  • Anonymous User - 2009-05-08 12:22

    I dont like these stats... Kills the game for a fan! You might think a player plays well and it having a cracking gamr but then the stats shows errors, missed tackles etc... I believe that if a team is being selected on stats that we are in the WRONG direction! Pick on form what you can SEE and not READ.

  • Mhusa V Duru - 2009-05-08 13:22

    From the WP, we will definitely see Jean, Schalk Burger, Bekker, D Vermeulen, P Grant, January in the Bok squad. The reason: WP is best on attack, when they manage to "click" on the day, and that is why Pieter Div is so in favour of selecting players from WP. My friend Pieter Div dont believe in stats, he is looking for natural foot ballers i.e R Pienaar, E Rose, etc. those that can make a difference and change the game (that moment of brilliance). I've seen E Rose passing brilliantly (2 both sides) playing at flyhalf....and I know Pieter is looking for that sort of timing and skill. You cannot teach this. J White aslo saw the potential in Rose, why cant the rest of SA?? He just needs time and guidance and I know Pieter will provide that.

  • Gareth - 2009-05-08 13:41

    @Anon User 12:22. Do u not like the stats because they show that your player is not good enough? I think these stats are a great way of judging a player, you can't argue with facts. Fact 1: Brussouw is the best flank in SA, on form better than Burger. Fact 2: Kirch can't tackle or catch a ball and so much for his great attacking flair (see line breaks). Fact 3: Terblanche is awesome and Daniller is underrated (PDV please pick one of these two). I don't know what type of business u r in but accurate stats (see article) are facts and you can't argue with facts with subjective assumptions.

  • Ekke - 2009-05-08 14:06

    I don't know where you guys get your facts. I Don't like Terblanche at all but who ells do we use? He is the best performer, like it or not. We should be happy because we got a back up. None of the other guys got what Terb's got. He is good and that is a fact. Like any other rugby player He stuffs up! Luckily we don’t have Jantjies. He is pathetic. And why he still plays rugby only Rassie would know. He never performs and can't tackle and he can't catch a ball, if it’s been kicked to him or passed to him. Just look at the 2007/8 season for the Boks where he stuffed up. As for flank, if you look at the stats and the total games a player has played I think Kobus should be 1st choice. He has been on form from day one. And don't think he had one bad game. He's all over performance is of high slandered. He's a great leader and he backs anyone and never gives up till the end. He's just a great guy overall. Not just from a personal opinion but from a player’s opinion. Even guys like Richard Bands rate him as a top player and why he never made the team only the panel should know. He is a good player and hope he makes the Boks. Brussow would be a good back up.

  • RQ - 2009-05-08 14:27

    What did Stefan Terblanche ever do to you Ekke?

  • Cor - 2009-05-08 14:29

    Please pick inform players, Schalk is good but Brussow is just so much better. Hands down Danniler should take fullback stats dont lie and he delivers.

  • Richard - 2009-05-08 14:53

    All the stats should be as a percentage as not all the players have played the same amount of games so you do not get a fair result of a players performance

  • stevie - 2009-05-08 17:35

    Stats are great in that you can establish that Kirchner can't tackle and Brussouw is an awesome player in a weak team. They should however only be used as guidelines. What stats can't show you is the character of a player. What you want againts the lions are players, that if after 10 minutes they find themselves 14-0 down, Durban crowd quiet, blood gushing from their head, being tackled by a welsh flanker that stomps your head in the ground, screams in your ear that you are a pansy, can pick themselves up and play the best rugby of their lives and still love it. And I am sorry Mr. Mhusa V Duru, but Earl Rose is not that player. Kirchner also isn't. If I was bok coach I would use these stats to find the best tacklers and work from there. Its really difficult to beat 15 players that CAN tackle.

  • skywalker - 2009-05-10 18:33

    Stefan certainly contributed to the Sharks being bundled out of the competition this SA flullback was Ludik,top flank was Brussouw and top wing was Nokwe,and Rose once again showed he is nowhere near international level.

  • Anonymous User - 2009-05-10 22:12

    Earl Rose is the one going to be picked at no15

  • carl - 2009-05-11 09:26

    Personally i think the obvious choices are Terblanche, Daniller and Kirchner. Yes Terblanche fluffed at the worst possible time. But on retrospect the touch judge should have noticed the foot in touch when Terblanche caught the ball. The one thing that these statistics fail to mention is which of these fullbacks is the best at being in the right place at the right time. Which of these has the sense to see what the oppositions kickers are going to do and then be in the right place. Which of these fullbacks made the most try saving tackles or through positional play managed to be in the right place to stop certain tries. Leaders in all the aspects of a perfect allround nr 15 would then be Terblanche, Daniller and Luddick. When it comes to flanks i say chose the best. Schalk has got the the place where he feels comfortable enough through his reputation to be chosen as natural choice for PDV. My personal back three would be Brussouw, Spies and Watson. All three are fast paced and carry the ball well. Brussouw and Watson manage to steal many balls. There strength through tackles and passing create many gaps. My choice at lock would be difficult. Matfield and bakkies are getting a bit older and dont have the direct impact they used to. Danie Rossouw is playing well and although Albert van den Bergh is nearing his retirement. I dont think there is a better all round player than himself. I wont touch the backline because we all know who will play. But would like to see Jean de Villiers at 13 with either Jacobs or Olivier at 12. Ruan Pienaar should not be at nr 10. At scrumhalf he is superb. But tends to get stage fright at 10. Again topping the logs at 10 is Morne Steyn. Althogh he lacks the natural flair of a Carter or Larkham or Gitteau. His all round play, deffence and kicking and distribution so far the last three seasons has made him a logical choice.

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