The statistics show how the four Vodacom Super Rugby semi-finalists have pushed the envelope and conceded more penalties than most in 2019. JON CARDINELLI crunches the numbers.
What do the Crusaders, Jaguares, Brumbies and Hurricanes all have in common?
Most of the stats below highlight the differences between the respective strengths and styles. In terms of conceding penalties – and manipulating the laws to their advantage – the four semi-finalists appear to be on the same page.
The Crusaders are perennial offenders at the breakdowns and collisions. Anyone who’s watched the Cantabrians this season would have noticed how often they push the boundaries at the offside line and at the ruck.
According to FoxSportsLab, the Crusaders are joint-third in the tournament – along with the Hurricanes – for penalties conceded. The Jaguares are second in this department while the Brumbies are at sixth.
The most penalised team in the 2019 tournament is the Sunwolves. The difference between the last-placed side and the four semi-finalists, however, couldn’t be more stark.
SEMI-FINALISTS RANKING DEFENCE, DISCIPLINE AND KICKING
What sets these top teams apart from the also-rans is their ability to spoil and stifle an opposition attack. They may concede a lot of penalties, but as long as they’re not losing men to the sin bin, they’re realising their objective. The Crusaders, for example, have conceded the fewest tries to date while the Jaguares have conceded the second fewest.
Despite their high penalty count, the Crusaders are at a middling seventh for yellow cards conceded. Either referees are too lenient on the defending champs or the Crusaders have learned when to stop forcing the issue.
In an ideal world, the laws would be simpler and refereed to the letter. As things are, however, there’s too much room for interpretation and the better teams have learned how to exploit that.
Every team should be pushing the boundaries to gain an edge. New Zealand teams do it at Super Rugby level, while the All Blacks and the top northern-hemisphere nations do it on the Test stage.
Indeed, it’s worth noting that the last time the Boks pushed the boundaries – and were accused of cheating by their opponents – was when they were the No 1 side in the world.
British & Irish Lions coach Ian McGeechan criticised Heinrich Brüssow for pushing the envelope in the 2009 Test series staged in South Africa. Later that year, Brüssow and a few other breakdown bandits were at the heart of a Tri-Nations triumph.
The four South African franchises have much to rectify in the lead-up to the 2020 Super Rugby season. The respective coaches may feel that discipline is not an issue and point to the stats.
SEMI-FINALISTS RANKING ATTACK
The Stormers finished 14th out of 15 teams for penalties conceded. The Lions were 13th, the Sharks eighth and the Bulls seventh. Some might argue that these teams are making the right calls and avoiding sanctions.
However, apart from the Bulls – who really pressed the Hurricanes last week – the South African teams are not doing enough to push the boundaries and gain an edge.
As many have opined, the local sides need to become more street-smart in their approach to the breakdowns and collisions.
Photo: Shaun Roy/ Gallo Images