How Cruden could be the difference

Last updated 10:27 03/08/2012

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OPINION:  

Greater distance with the boot has been one crucial part of Chiefs five-eighth Aaron Cruden's development this season. But just how much has he improved? In partnership with @ruckingoodstats.com, we had a look at Cruden’s kicks this year to give Waikato Times readers the exclusive inside numbers on his kicks and how he shapes up.

The first thing to be noted is Cruden's kicking success this year is 77%, not far from his 80% of last year. The big difference in 2012 is Cruden taking and getting a lot harder kicks than last year. The numbers bear this out. 

Last year 33% of Cruden’s Super Rugby attempts were out in front, 50% were around or near the posts. About a quarter of Cruden’s kicks this year have been around the or near the posts, and less than 20% have been out in front.

This year Cruden is backing himself to take tougher kicks and longer ones, and confidence is a factor for kickers. Chiefs fans saw this confidence in the semi when Cruden was happy to step up and take a penalty kick near halfway. And its not the first time he has done that this season. 

This year there have been seven times Cruden has attempted a penalty kick greater than 50 metres and he landed two of them. This gives him a 28% success rate at penalties in this 50m plus range, above the comp average of 17%. This might not seem like much but in a close game, like the final, it could be the difference on the scoreboard.

Typically kickers who attempt 50m penalties regularly are playing at altitude making Cruden’s 28% more impressive. Being able to kick that far out also sends a clear warning to the Sharks. Concede a penalty or infringe at the breakdown at your peril. 

Cruden is 39 from 49 conversions this year. His trouble spot is one metre from the right sideline. However this is the toughest conversion for all right-footed kickers.

The Sharks’ Freddie Michalak kicking success is 35 from 41 attempts, or 85% (cons 12 from 15, pens 23 from 26) and he is likely to get the kicking duties over Pat Lambie, who is returning from injury. Michalak shown he can also do drop goals, something Cruden has yet to attempt this year.

On Saturday each kick will really count. The stats show that each team is averaging 2.9 tries per game and 27.3 points per game. This is why these teams are in the final. 

The Waikato Times will be taking live stats feed from Ruckin’ Good Stats during the game. They will be posting Cruden’s and Michalak kick distance and the probability of success of each kick about the same time the ball is placed on the tee. Those with weak constitutions should probably look away when that happens.

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- Waikato Times

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