Vodacom Super 14

Stats: Bulls v Crusaders review

2009-05-26 09:12
Bulls No 8 Pierre Spies (Gallo Images)
Cape Town – On Friday we predicted that for the Bulls to beat the Crusaders, they would have to continue playing the unique game plan that had taken them so far in the competition already.

And, boy, did they do that and then some! The Bulls showed great composure to come back from 20-7 down but they also played in the Crusaders’ half, kicked their (drop) goals, forced turnovers and capitalised ruthlessly on their opponents’ mistakes.

In many ways, Pierre Spies’s 70m try was a reminder of what teams such as the Crusaders used to do to South African sides like the Bulls of old – on Saturday, the boot was firmly on the other foot (or should that be the ball in the other hand?) as the Bulls were irresistible on the counter-attack, relatively stingy when it came to turnovers conceded, and then expertly strangled the life out of the defending champions in the dying minutes, not giving them as much as a look-in as they shut out the game in a manner that brought back memories of the 2007 Boks in the World Cup final.

Using statistics from Verusco, the New Zealand-based company that supplies video analysis systems to most of the Super 14 teams, including the Bulls, let’s take a detailed look at the figures in 15 categories to see where the game was won and lost.

You may remember that Friday’s analysis showed the Crusaders dominated the season’s ball-in-hand and tackle stats, but that the Bulls reigned supreme in the ‘Big 5’. How did things change – or stay the same – in the big game?

Ball-in-hand stats:
Offloads: Bulls 16 Crusaders 11 (45% more)
Carries: Bulls 132 Crusaders 99 (33% more)
Passes made: Bulls 145 Crusaders 121 (20% more)
Metres gained: Bulls 924 Crusaders 817 (14% more)
Line breaks: Bulls 11 Crusaders 11        
Runs with ball: Bulls 74 Crusaders 76        
Tackle breaks: Bulls 5 Crusaders 7          

Very different figures this time around. Who would have thought: a Bulls team making more offloads, more passes and more metres with the ball in hand than a team such as the Crusaders? Like we said, this year the ball is firmly in the other hand as the Bulls have shed their 10-man reputation for good.

Tackle stats:
Tackles made: Bulls 80 Crusaders 145 (81% more)      
Tackles missed: Bulls 42 Crusaders 61 (51% more)
Tackle efficiency: Bulls 65.57% Crusaders 67.12%

Incredible numbers! The Crusaders missed 61 tackles in a single match, and were forced to make over 81% more tackles than the Bulls, while the home side only needed to make 80 – one of the lowest totals in the competition this year. These figures are also a sharp reversal of the trend in 2009, which has seen South African teams continually being forced to make way more tackles than their Australasian opponents.

Interestingly, Jaco Pretorius, filling in for the injured Wynand Olivier, made the most tackles for the Bulls, namely 10. In contrast, five Crusaders made 11 or more tackles. It’s also interesting to note that both teams’ tackle efficiencies were pretty low. It’s not often that teams have been in the 60% range this year, but this was one such occasion.

The Bulls’ Big 5 stats:
Handling errors:  Bulls 21 Crusaders 30 (43% more)
Turnovers conceded: Bulls 15 Crusaders 18 (20% more)
Kicking metres gained: Bulls 1 647 Crusaders 1 397 (18% more)
Tries scored: Bulls 3 Crusaders 2          
Turnovers forced: Bulls 6 Crusaders 6          

Again, some pretty interesting numbers. Predictably, the Bulls out-kicked the champs, while their relatively low error count, combined with fewer turnovers conceded (a season-long trend) helped set up a famous victory.

In summary, the Bulls won because they had confidence to play the same game they’ve employed all season, in their biggest match of the season so far. Of course, they won because they scored more points than the Crusaders, but the reason they did so was because they pinned their opponents back with a good kicking game, forced them to make nearly 150 tackles, nullified Richie McCaw at the breakdown and once again kept their handling errors to a minimum, while at the same time forcing the Crusaders into making a lot more.

Join us again on Friday, when we preview Super 14 final.

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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