Super Rugby Final: Statistically Speaking

Last updated 06:00 03/08/2012

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Super Rugby Final: Chiefs versus Sharks

Statistically Speaking


The last time the two teams met –Round 9, Sunday, April 22, Kings Park, Durban

- Chiefs win 18-12.

- 50 turnovers in the game. Sharks made 24, Chiefs 26.

- 25 handling errors. Sharks 12, Chiefs 13.

- Possession was equal.

- Sharks dominated territory with 56% over all and 61% in the second half.

- Sharks took the ball into a ruck/maul 100 times to the Chiefs 98.



Super Rugby Season: at a glance 

- Neither team likes to hold onto the pill. Both average less than 50% possession over the season.

- Both teams like to spend time in the opposition's 22. Sharks spend 14.9% of the game in the 22 compared with the Chiefs 15.7%.

- Both teams averaging 27.3 points per game and 2.9 tries per game.

- Neither team kicks a lot. Chiefs make a tactical kick every 47 seconds (fourth longest in the competition). The Sharks kick, on average, every 43 seconds.

- Chiefs make the most kicking errors in the competition with 13.7% compared with the Sharks 9%.

- Chiefs put pressure on teams at the restart. An average of 9.6% of the time the team the Chiefs kick the restart to makes an error. Chiefs also reclaim 12.8% of the restart ball compared with the Sharks 8%.

- Both teams boast strong defence averaging just above 102 defensive breakdowns per game.

- Both have the ball stolen at the breakdown more than stealing it. Sharks have the 13th lowest number of turnovers in the competition. Chiefs aren't much better at 11th.

- Sharks break less tackles, make less line breaks and offloads than the Chiefs, but average the same number of tries.

- Chiefs are the best in the competition at breaking tackles with 1 in every 5.3 attempts.

- Chiefs also top the competition for clean line breaks with an average of 3.3 per game. Sharks make 1.7.

- Sharks miss more tackles than the Chiefs.

- Chiefs make a lot of errors (second worst in the competition), the Sharks don't (second best in the competition).

- Chiefs concede highest number of penalties with an average of 11.2 per game.

- Both teams have consistent goal kickers. Sharks have more to choose from. Chiefs: Aaron Cruden: 77% (86/111) Cons 39/49, Pens 47/62. Sharks: Lambie: 79% (52/66) Cons 20/24, Pens 32/42; Michalak 85% (33/39) Cons 21/24, Pens 12/15; Bosman 86% (6/7) Cons ½, Pens 5/5; F. Steyn 33% (1/3) Pens 1/3.

In depth analysis


The Chiefs errors should be a concern. Chiefs concede a lot of penalties, handling errors, kick errors. They get the ball stolen at the breakdown more than they steal.

The Sharks play the game at a fast pace. They can play it at speed regardless of how far they have had to travel. They also seem to have a power play button that they flick either at the start of the game or in the 2nd half. Here they put on some points then run the clock down.

The Shark stats are not as high as you would think for a team that made the final, but this does suggest that they create and take the opportunities they get.

The Sharks ratio of missed tackles is better than the Crusaders, but not by much. The Crusaders missed 1 in 3 tackle attempts and this was part of the reason they lost. It is not something to be concerned about, but it needs to be noted.

Both teams can score tries, but concede a few tries as well. Both teams have their ruck ball turned over more than they turn over.

If the teams play to their stats and of course there is a reason the ball is oval, then:

“The Chiefs will keep conceding errors, especially penalties, at the rate [they are] then this might be the factor that the Sharks pounce on to score some quick tries. The Sharks are very hard to catch when they have piled on the points. The Sharks will have to be better tacklers than they normally are as this will undo any work. This game hopefully will be sorted by tries, but there will be some penalty kicks taken as good measure to keep the scoreboard ticking over.”

The stats suggest that the set piece should be used largely to restart play.

Game pace

A key to winning will be the pace of the game. The team that plays it at the pace they want will win. The Sharks like a fast game, real fast. Forget the speculation about jet lag. In the semis they played at a very fast pace in both halves and the Stormers didn’t win. Expect them to play at a pace that blows apart the jet lag theory.
The stats show the Sharks prefer a fast game pace. The Sharks are 2nd highest in the comp for the ball in play with 16:57, highest in 2nd half with an average time of 18:31, and overall with 35:29. This means the ball is in play 43.7% of the time. This was a key reason they beat teams all season, they play it at a pace and the teams can’t keep up. Even teams that like a fast pace can’t keep up, such as the Stormers last week.

The Chiefs like a fast game, but only in the 2nd half where they play it 3rd fastest in the competition. They are the 11th fastest in the first half.

Another thing I have spotted about the Sharks is almost like a 'power play' button they flick. During this time the game is played fast and the Sharks put a lot of plays together resulting in some quick points. The Stormers tried to stop it, but couldn’t. The Chiefs are an attacking team and this could cancel out the Sharks power play.

Field position

The possession and territory stats are meaningless to these teams. Neither team likes to hold onto the pill that much. Both teams are averaging less than 50% over the comp for possession and territory. This pattern is repeated in each half as well. In fact, in the 2nd half, the Chiefs have the lowest average possession in the competition. This lack of possession and territory suggest, given the teams have made it to the final, that they don’t panic and have confidence in the systems within the team. Might be stressful for the fans though.

Both teams like to spend time in the oppositions 22 and only 0.8% separates them. The Sharks are averaging 14.9% compared to the Chiefs 15.7%.  So expect these teams, once they get into the opposition’s half, to move quickly into the 22 .If teams stick to their stats then expect about a 1/3 of the game spent inside the 22. That is good for the spectators, but not their hearts or stress levels.



These teams are very close in relation to tries and points, but the Sharks get more for there efforts, and this could be a factor in determining the winner. The Chiefs and Shark are averaging scoring 27.3 points per game and 2.9 tries per game.  

Chiefs defence is often talked about in the media and given they are only conceding 1.8 tries a game, or 14th lowest in the competition, this isn’t too bad. The Sharks concede 1.9 tries per game, so again very close. The difference is that the Sharks get more tries and points for their effort. We know they spend less time in the 22 and further on we will see they Chiefs break more tackles than the Sharks, but as a ratio of effort the Sharks get more return when they attack. 

When it comes down to penalty kicks, and given how many penalties the Chiefs cough up, the Chiefs should be worried. Now this is the thing, when teams are ahead by a decent margin they cough up penalties to slow the opposition momentum. The Chiefs and the Sharks do this a lot and it's no surprise they are in the final.

The Chiefs are the highest in the comp for getting 2nd half penalties that take them out of a converted try range . Given this is a final that is an important stat, as it give them more options on how to run the clock out. However, and this is also a biggie, both teams are high in the competition with giving up 2nd half penalties that put the opposition within a converted try. So this could come down to trading penalties a little bit in the 2nd half.

Should it come down to the drop goal the Sharks are 2nd in the competition at slotting them.

In term of arbitrages there is only one and it is relatively important. The Sharks are more likely to score a try on the left side of the field and this is the side of the field the Chiefs are more likely to concede a try.

The Boot

Both team don’t kick a lot and this is why they are less than 50% in the territory stakes. Expect little kicking in this game if the team follow their stats. 

The Chiefs make a tactical kick an average of 47 seconds, or 4th longest in the comp. The Sharks kick every 43 seconds, 7th longest in the comp. 

Team also don’t like kicking to either of these teams. Teams playing the Chiefs will make a tactical kick from the hand an average every 51 seconds, 2nd longest in the competition. Teams playing the Sharks kick every 47 seconds, 3rd longest in the competition.


When making a tactical kick from the hand, these teams take different options. While it hasn’t come back to bite them the Chiefs need to get on top of their kicking errors. They make the most kick errors in the competition - a high 13.7%, compared to 9.0% the Sharks make.

The Chiefs will opt to kick back in play 56.1% of the time they make a tactical kick from the hand, 4th highest in the competition. This means the Chiefs kick for touch the least as a proportion with 30.2% compared to the 37.9% the Sharks kick for touch.

The Chiefs put pressure on teams at the restart/kick-offs/22 drop-outs. An average of 9.6% of the time the team the Chiefs kick the restart to are making an error. This is 2nd highest in the competition. The Chiefs will also reclaim 12.8% of the restart ball. Sharks reclaim 8.0% of their restart ball.


The 'Sumo’ stat 

The Chiefs employ their 1st 5/8 from set piece/recycled ball 16.4% of the time compare to 24.5% that of the Sharks. The Chiefs use Cruden 14th lowest in the competition.

When Cruden does get the ball he runs it the most as a proportion of any other 1st 5/8 in the comp, a whopping 19.5% of the time. Cruden passes the least, but that is still 51.3% of the time. Cruden kicks 3rd most as first receiver - 29.2% of the time. The Sharks are average in relation to the rest of the competition in this regard.


The Breakdown

These teams take the ball into the ruck/maul a similar number of times, with the Chiefs slightly ahead with 85.1 to the Sharks 82.5. Defensively the number are a lot higher and virtually identical - 102.4 and 102.9 respectively. This means that these teams can tackle all game if needed and a pick-and-go game plan, or one with a lot of pods, isn’t so effective.

Now here is the weird thing, when the Sharks have the majority of the ruck/mauls i.e. have more rucks than the team they are playing, they lose. The below chart shows this. It's not a fail safe guarantee but it is a nice coincidental stat that seems to play out. Factor this into the fact that the Sharks have little possession and this suggests this team creates opportunities and pounces before the opposition know what has happened.

At the breakdown these team are much better at having it stolen at the breakdown than stealing it, which is counter intuitive to what you would expect for two teams in the final.

The Sharks are turning over an average of 2.9% of opposition’s rucks in a game compared to the Chiefs 3.1%.  This puts the teams 13th and 11th in the competition respectively. However, the Sharks made one of their few turnovers last week in the 80th minute when the Stormers were looking to score, so they make the critical ones.  However, when it comes to getting the ball stolen from the ruck you take it into, the Sharks lose 4.0% and the Chiefs are losing 4.2%.

So there is a net loss for these teams that are identical. The Chiefs have a net loss of 1.1% (3.1 - 4.2%) of turnover rucks, equal to the net loss of the 1.1% for the Sharks (2.9%-4.0%). 


Tackle time

While the stats will show the Sharks break less tackles, and make less line break and offloads than the Chiefs, they score the same number of tries as the Chiefs. This means the Sharks get a better return on their efforts. 

The tackle is an area the Chiefs have used to great effect all season and the Sharks will be looking to shut this down as much as possible. The Sharks break on average 1 in every 6.2 tackle attempts by the opposition.

The Chiefs are best in the comp and break a tackle 1 in every 5.3 attempts. The Chiefs were breaking 1 out of every 3 of the Crusaders tackle attempts in the semi, so the Sharks defence needs to be up to it. 


Both teams like to offload and let their opposition offload as well. This could be a game changer. Both teams are at the right end of the competition for offloads, but the Chiefs are ahead. The Chiefs lead the comp with 9.1 offloads per game and the Sharks are 2nd in the comp with 7.4. The Chiefs tackle technique is such that they let their oppositions make 6.4 offloads per game, 4th highest. Sharks let oppositions make 5.1 offloads per game. Of more concern to the Sharks is that Chiefs are 2nd in the comp for making intercepts, but the Sharks are 5th in the comp for intercepts. Basically, offload at peril.

The Chiefs also lead the comp for the number of clean line breaks per game with 3.3. The Sharks are 11th in the comp for clean line breaks. Making a clean line break against the Chiefs is tough, they only let teams make an average of 1.7 clean line breaks per game, or 13th lowest in the competition. The Sharks only let teams make 1.9 line breaks per game.

When it comes to missing tackles the Sharks are highest by volume in the comp with 20.7 per game. When it comes to missing tackles, the Chiefs miss 1 in every 7.6 attempts and the Sharks 1 in 6.3 attempts.  The Chiefs missed-tackle ratio is the 3rd best in the comp, Sharks 5th worst. The upshot is the Chiefs are good at breaking them and the Sharks are average at missing them. This is an area the Sharks need to rapidly improve on, or as the Crusaders found out, it might cost them the final..

A nice quirk is that the Chiefs are highest in the comp for charging down the opposition kicks, and again, this is the type of stat that can determine a final.

Penalties and errors

The Chiefs make a lot of errors, the Sharks don’t. The Chiefs have been making a lot of errors as expressed by lost possession/turnovers. The Chiefs are making a lost possession/turnover every 48 seconds, 2nd shortest in the comp. The Sharks are making a lost possession/turnover every 58 seconds, 2nd best in the comp.

Penalties are a problem for the Chiefs, but yet to really cost them.

The Chief are highest in the comp for conceding a penalty with 11.2 per game. They are also highest for ruck/maul penalties. The Chiefs also concede the most offside penalties. The Chiefs also concede the 4th highest amount of free kicks.

Handling errors could be a factor for the Chiefs. They make the 5th highest amount of handling errors (as determined by the ref) in the competition by volume, and 3rd highest by time.

The issue with handling errors the Chiefs make isn’t that they make them, it is that they are 2nd highest in the comp for making them and the opposition pick them up, referee signals advantage and the opposition takes that advantage. 

Expect a wide game plan from the Chiefs as the stats suggest the Chiefs have a wide across the field game plan as
they get run into touch a lot - 3rd highest in the competition.

Set piece

The stats suggest both team use the set piece as a way to restart the game rather than use it to obtain possession. The stats for these team are very similar as well.

The Sharks are stealing/pinching 7.1% of lineout ball in the air (excluding infringements and not straight), 2nd lowest in the competition. The Chiefs are stealing/pinching 7.7% of lineout balls. These teams are losing about the same amount of lineouts in the air - 12.2%. So both team lose more than they win, but win and lose about the same.

Expect the Chiefs to take quick throw-ins.

The Chiefs favour throwing to the front of the lineout and is highest in the comp in this regard (note 54). The Sharks throw it to the front as well, but are 3rd highest in the comp. Again the proportions are very similar.

Chiefs concede more scrum infringements with 14.1%. This is higher than the Sharks with 6.9%, which is the lowest in the competition. 


Ref stats: Steve Walsh

Steve Walsh has refereed13 Super Rugby games in 2012.

Walsh had the Sharks in:

round 8 when they beat the Blues at Eden Park. The Sharks were behind until they flicked their 'power play switch'.
round 11 when the Sharks beat the Highlanders in Durban.
Semi-final last week.

Walsh has only had the Chiefs in round 17 when they lost to the Crusaders.

At scrum time Walsh is averaging 3.7 resets per game, or 20.0% of scrums, this puts time the middle of the comp. He is handing out 2.8 scrum infringements (pens and F/K) per game 3rd lowest. On average 53% of the time it will be conceded by the defending team, 2nd lowest out of 19 refs. So basically he hands outs resets more than scrum infringements. it's likely to be a penalty more than a free kick, but he is split 50/50 on who gets it.

Walsh is handing out an average of 19.0 penalties per game. On average 6.8 penalties will be inside the 22 and 7.2 penalties will become kicks at goal.

The penalty profile for Walsh is, on average, per game (ranking out of 19 refs in brackets):

ruck/mauls 12.0 (12);
scrums 2.5 (6);
lineouts 0.5 (7);
offside 2.2 (14);
not already specified 1.8 (13)

Of the rucks/mauls in the games Walsh is in charge of, 6.8% end up as penalties with 62.2% conceded by the defending team.

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