'Canes attack v Bulls tactics
Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Johannesburg - Most teams talk about having a “balanced” game plan, but this Saturday’s Vodacom Super Rugby game between the Hurricanes and Vodacom Bulls looks way more like the competition’s version of all-out attack against tactical planning.
It isn’t surprising given the way the Bulls play that they aren’t sitting high on the charts when it comes to attacking play while New Zealand teams – with a much more attacking based plan – are dominating the statistics at the moment.
Take the Hurricanes – while they have not always done as well as they would have liked, they top the try-scoring stakes with the Blues, have the most clean breaks (52), carries (736) and metres (2928) in the competition and have beaten 146 defenders – the most of any team in the competition.
Now those stats would be remarkable if you haven’t seen the Hurricanes play, but they also underline Bulls’ coach Frans Ludeke’s undertaking that what the Chiefs showed in their 34-all draw with the Pretoria side at Loftus Versfeld is exactly what the team will expect to face on tour.
And you have to remember just how dangerous the Hurricanes are if they become effective. The team may be 10th on the log and have won just two games, but they have already racked up four bonus points in the opening half of the competition.
Now contrast this with the Bulls - and if you compare these figures on the Vodacom Rugby Stats App – then it is easy to understand how such an assertion can be made.
But with the Bulls playing a much more tactical game, they rely a lot more on their forwards, using the setpiece and a flyhalf to determine how their scoreboard moves along.
The return of Victor Matfield is one reason why the Bulls’ lineout currently sits at an impressive 94.2%, the best in the competition but their problem – something Ludeke has eluded to more than once – is the execution which is somewhat lacking at times on attack.
The Bulls have scored just 11 tries – making them the 10th most successful team to cross the tryline, but their other stats aren’t much better.
They are ranked 14th in clean breaks (18), 13th in ball carries (528) and 14th in metres made (1722). In addition to this they are 14th in offloads (30) and last in the stat for the most defenders beaten (68).
This all means little when the two sides meet on Saturday, and it will be interesting to see which team can impose its game plan better on the opposition.
Key player this season for the Hurricanes has been All Black winger Julian Savea, who has averaged 8 metres per run – and he has been one of the best wingers in the tournament, with 448 metres made, beating 20 defenders. Nine clean breaks underline his worth to the team.