Both the Hurricanes and the Lions have reached the 2016 Super Rugby Final on the back of strong performances from their flankers, each side’s pair boasting strength and consistency throughout the campaign. All four of the players have racked up in excess of 1,000 minutes of game time so far this season and they’ve got impressive statistics to match.
Hurricanes number seven Ardie Savea has made a league-high 192 tackles so far this season and teammate Brad Shields isn’t far behind with the 10th most of any player for the season (141). Whilst the Lions partnership of Jaco Kriel and Warwick Tecklenburg have made 85 and 80 fewer tackles than Savea respectively, they’ve been equally as effective. In fact, Tecklenburg boasts the best tackle success rate of any player in the final to have completed more than 100 tackles in the competition so far.
With the ball in hand it’s Jaco Kriel who has been the most effective of the four flankers. Kriel has scrapped for 822m gained this season, more than any Hurricanes player this season and the second most of any of his Lions teammates (Ruan Combrinck 1,161m). Kriel has found the try line more often than any other flanker in this game as well, crossing for six tries so far in the 2016 season. His six tries are the equal second most of any forward in the competition this campaign.
In terms of general try contributions, though, it’s been Ardie Savea who has been the most potent of the four. Savea has scored five tries and assisted a further five tries for 10 try contributions this season. He’s also been more effective at wining the ball back at the ruck. Savea has won 24 turnovers so far this season, not only is that the most of any player who will be competing in the final but it’s the second most of any player this campaign behind the Brumbies’ David Pocock (25).
Both pairs of flankers have had strong seasons thus far and their all-round effectiveness will need to continue if their respective sides are to get their hands on the Super Rugby trophy for the first time.