Tackles take it out of SA sides
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – Latest statistics hint that South African Super Rugby teams, generally speaking, are spending more time going backwards on the field in 2014 than counterparts from the Australasian countries.
Scrambling and tackling as though their lives depend on it seems to be a hallmark, based on figures after week eight for individual tackle counts in the season thus far: SA players occupy the top two positions and six of the top 10.
The absence of players from the overall log-leading Sharks, however, seems to say something about their superior ability over other teams in the domestic conference to not only hold onto possession more effectively but also ensure better field position.
Top of the tackle count are two players from the Cheetahs – loose forwards Phillip van der Walt (96) and Lappies Labuschagne (89) – who occupy second-last position on the overall table at present.
Van der Walt tops the pile despite missing the latest round of matches (and it will be several more) because of a broken hand: the Cheetahs were involved in a 43-43 rollercoaster ride against the Chiefs in Bloemfontein.
The Stormers, unusually occupying the wooden spoon position with one win from seven starts, have a presence in the top 10 tacklers, in the form of utility forward Deon Fourie (73).
Other South Africans to feature are Lions captain Warren Whiteley (fifth with 85), the Cheetahs’ Boom Prinsloo (sixth with 83) and emerging Bulls blindside flanker Jacques du Plessis (ninth with 75).
Du Plessis was a busy presence in the Bulls’ overseas tour-opening defeat to the Hurricanes on Saturday, where they reportedly were forced into making a remarkable 50 tackles within the first 14 minutes alone.
The leading tackler for a team abroad is currently Shane Christie, open-side flank for the Highlanders, who are in the bottom half of the overall log.
Here is the full top 10:
96 Phillip van der Walt (Cheetahs)
89 Lappies Labuschagne (Cheetahs)
88 Shane Christie (Highlanders)
87 Matt Hodgson (Force)
85 Warren Whiteley (Lions)
83 Boom Prinsloo (Cheetahs)
79 Luke Braid (Blues)
77 Sam Carter (Brumbies)
75 Jacques du Plessis (Bulls)
73 Deon Fourie (Stormers)
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