STATS FEATURE: The Entertainers

12 Mar 2015
STATS FEATURE: The Entertainers

This week, we take a look at the last four seasons of Super Rugby since the introduction of the current three-conference system to examine which sides have been the best with ball in hand and whether their silky skills have led to overall success.

Of course, we also take a peek at the figures for 2015 so far.

2011 

The Reds were arguably the last side to lift the Super Rugby crown without being particularly dynamic in attack.

The Queensland side found itself amongst the pack when it came to key offensive indicators, but the Reds found other means of being effective, with a strong defence and set piece paramount for their success. Given that Quade Cooper and Digby Ioane ranked 2nd and 4th respectively for metres gained, with Ioane also topping the defenders beaten chart, their lowly averages are even more of a shock.

Surprisingly, the Brumbies were the top side when it came to getting over the gain line, but they struggled to turn this into points, finishing just fourth in the Australian Conference.

2012

2012 saw the beginning of a shift away from disciplined and well-drilled teams from having a monopoly on success as the Chiefs walked away with the trophy.

Though not domineering in possession, the Hamilton-based side was dynamic when they did have the ball and simply possessed too much firepower for their rivals.

Sonny Bill Williams was perhaps their most dominant attacking player, finishing the year top of the list for clean breaks and second for defenders beaten. He also managed at least 15 more offloads (42) and at least six more turnovers (20) than any other player to really underline his stature in the sport that is glad to see him return in 2015.

2013

The Chiefs retained their title in 2013 but had to adapt their game with the (temporary) loss of SBW to rugby league.

Though still among the top sides for most attacking indicators, it was the Highlanders and interestingly the Waratahs who really shone. The performances of the latter were a clear hint of the groundwork being laid by Michael Cheika for the eventual 2014 champions.

The Highlanders however were the anomaly to the notion that sides who beat tackles and get over the gain line win matches, as they finished bottom of their conference.

2014

The year of the Waratah can be attributed to a slick backline that contained the likes of Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale and Bernard Foley.

Foley was the year’s top points-scorer, Folau joint-top of the try charts and comfortably the top offloader in the competition, while Beale was top of the combined tries and assists rankings.

The Waratahs starved their opponents of ball and exploited defences with ease. The Hurricanes were the only competition to the Tahs in attack; however like the Highlanders in 2013 they missed out on the Finals Series, finishing fourth in the New Zealand conference.

2015

One month in and there are few who could pick who will be the three conference leaders even come the half-way stage of the season. However if the premise of strong attack bringing success is to continue then it could be the Waratahs celebrating back-to-back titles come the season’s end.

The Chiefs are also performing well, while this year’s anomaly so far seem to be the Blues. The Auckland-based outfit have found themselves getting around the edges and finding gaps, but are vulnerable in defence.

On evidence of this 15-team competition, a successful side in Super Rugby is not always a ball-hogger but an ability to get over the advantage line and pierce defences is key in a competition that continues to flourish with regards to attractive and open rugby.

All indications are that the model won’t change any time soon.