Vodacom Super 14

Stats: Bok depth to be tested

2009-05-08 06:50
Sharks fullback Stefan Terblanche (Gallo Images)
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.

Flankers:

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

Cleanouts:
Botes        117
Stegmann    85
Brussow    72
Grobbelaar    72

Fullbacks

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 www.verusco.com or email info@verusco.com

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