Bulls turn the tide

The Bulls and Hurricanes used turnover ball to brilliant effect to record big wins in Perth and Johannesburg respectively, writes JON CARDINELLI.

Eight matches were played in round 10. According to SARugbymag.co.za’s Opta-powered stats, six were won by the team that had less possession. Only the Chiefs (62%) and the Jaguares (55%) prospered by holding on to the ball.

The Bulls were the only South African side to win in round 10, and what a win it was. The 42-20 bonus-point victory was significant in the context of the 2016 campaign and in terms of their recent record Down Under. The win against the Force brought an end to an 11-game losing streak in Australasia, and also marked their first win in Australia since 2012.

While the Bulls scored five tries, the key to the big win against the Force was their defence. Adriaan Strauss’s charges forced 14 turnovers, the joint-most of the round.

The Bulls' accuracy at the defensive breakdowns was complemented by their one-on-one tackling. The Bulls made 126 tackles and boasted a 93.3% tackle completion. Overall, the Bulls are ranked second behind the Crusaders with a tackle success rate of 87.1%.

Of course, most would have noted the thrilling manner in which the Bulls transitioned from defence to attack. The Bulls had 44% of the possession in Perth, but when they did have the ball, they used it to good effect. This is highlighted by the clean breaks (11), defenders beaten (18) and metres made (332) stats.

The Hurricanes weren’t as solid defensively in their match against the Lions. In fact, they missed 33 tackles in Johannesburg (only the Kings missed more in their 73-27 loss to the Jaguares in Buenos Aires).

And yet the Hurricanes still made as many as 134 tackles as the Lions enjoyed a whopping 64% of the possession (only the Highlanders, with 187 tackles, made more in round 10). The Hurricanes' defence forced 14 turnovers, several of which culminated in tries.

The Hurricanes carried the ball just 79 times, but still managed to make 500m. This means that they averaged 6.33m per carry. No team was more effective with ball in hand in round 10, not even the Jaguares, who carried 142 times for 798m against the Kings (an average of 5.62m per carry).

The Sharks had less possession than the Chiefs, but lost the territorial battle. They made only 259m with ball in hand.

While they scored three tries in this fixture, the Sharks' overall tally of 17 in nine matches (the second worst in the tournament) suggests they have battled on attack in 2016. Their lineout problems have hampered them in this respect. The Sharks are ranked 17th in the tournament at this set piece with just an 81.3% success rate.

The Stormers will lament the red card conceded by Leolin Zas in the game against the Waratahs. That said, the Cape side had 72% of the possession in the first half when Zas was still on the field. They failed to make sufficient inroads into the Waratahs’ defence.

The Cheetahs and Kings have struggled in 2016, and study of their stats explains why. The Cheetahs are statistically the worst team in the competition in the categories of ruck success (90%) and scrum success (70% – the Jaguares are the second worst with 82%).

The Kings' attack has beaten the fewest defenders and has made the fewest carries, clean breaks, offloads and metres to date. The Eastern Cape franchise has also battled on defence, and has the second-worst tackle success rate (79.9%) after the Sunwolves.

Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images

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