Vodacom Super 14

Stats: Bulls v Chiefs preview

2009-05-29 08:55
Bulls wing Bryan Habana (Gallo Images)
Cape Town – Ninety-three matches done and dusted; just one game to go! The 2009 edition of the Super 14 has lasted 124 hours, featured a total of 440 players, and produced 498 tries.

Now, all that’s left is the most important 80 minutes of all: the final itself, between the Bulls and Chiefs at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.

Will the Bulls win their second title in three years, or will the men from Waikato, the perennial underachievers of Super Rugby, finally win the trophy that has always eluded them?

The match has been billed as a contrast of styles – the Bulls’ kicking game versus the Chiefs’ ball-in-hand tactics – but how simplistic is that assessment, considering the manner in which the Bulls outran the Crusaders in the semi-finals, and how they matched the Chiefs try-for-try in their pulsating head-to-head meeting at Loftus five weeks ago?

Let’s take a penultimate look at the stats from Verusco, the New Zealand-based company who supply video analysis systems to most of the Super 14 teams, to see what they reveal about the finalists.

It feels like longer, but in fact the Bulls and the Chiefs clashed at Loftus just a month ago, in round 11, with the Bulls winning narrowly, 33-27.

In the lead-up to that match, the stats showed that for the Bulls to win, they had to keep missed tackles to a minimum, force as many turnovers as possible (targeting Chiefs flyhalf Stephen Donald in particular), pin the New Zealanders back with a long-range kicking game, and target their shaky lineout.

All of the above happened, plus the Bulls – as they did in the semi-final – never let their opponents get away on the scoreboard.

But what do the Bulls have to do this weekend – and is that anything different to what they had to do last week against the Crusaders, or five weeks ago against the same opponents? Does a final mean a change of tactics? Or do you play it the way you’ve played it all season?

Let’s have a detailed look at the season-long stats of both teams, broken up into ball-in-hand, tackle, and ‘Bulls Big 5’ categories.

Ball in hand:
Tackle breaks: Chiefs 95 Bulls 55 (72% more)
Offloads made: Chiefs 172 Bulls 102 (68% more)
Line breaks: Chiefs 153 Bulls 99 (54% more)
Metres gained: Chiefs 12 177m Bulls 9 779m (24.5% more)
Runs with ball: Chiefs 1 149 Bulls 930 (23.5% more)
Passes made: Chiefs 1 911 Bulls 1 595 (20% more)
Tries scored: Chiefs 43 Bulls 37 (16% more)
Ball carries: Chiefs 1 492 Bulls 1 296 (15% more)

That’s eight out of eight for the Chiefs! But as you may remember from last week, the Bulls were up against similar – if not quite as one-sided – numbers against the Crusaders, and yet prevailed because they were more effective in other areas.

Tackling stats:

Tackles made: Chiefs 1 478 Bulls 1 603 (8.5% more)
Tackles missed: Chiefs 457 Bulls 591 (29% more)
Tackle efficiency: Chiefs 76.38% Bulls 73.06%

The Bulls are up against one of the best defensive sides in the competition in terms of tackle efficiency, as well as one of the most demanding teams in terms of tackles required to make over 80 minutes. They have missed more tackles over the course of the season than the Chiefs, but they are also used to making loads more as well.

Bulls’ ‘Big 5’ stats – where they can win the game:
Handling errors: Bulls 309 Chiefs 396 (28% more)
Turnovers forced: Bulls 180 Chiefs 160 (12.5% more)
Turnovers conceded: Bulls 280 Chiefs 350 (25% more)
Kicking m gained: Bulls 20 364m Chiefs 16 774m (21% more)
Lineouts lost (own throw): Bulls 26 Chiefs 45 (73% more)

As was the case last week, for the Bulls to beat their Kiwi opponents they will have to keep their handling errors to a minimum, while forcing as many turnovers as possible and then converting that advantage into points.

They’ll also have to put a lid on the amount of turnovers they concede, drive the Chiefs back with the boot, and then prey on that nervy lineout. In a nutshell, the same tactics as in their last match, and the same tactics as for the semi-final.

The above stats show where the Bulls have the edge on the New Zealand teams and it’s where the Kiwis’ soft underbelly lies. The Bulls’ gameplan is tailor-made for finals rugby: a minimal error, territory-based tactic which, should they employ it once again on Saturday, should be enough to give them the title.

But that all depends of course on how much ball the Bulls are prepared to give to the Chiefs’ dangerous backs!

Join us again on Tuesday for our final Verusco stats column, when we review 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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