Boks: Tale of the tape

Keo.co.za does a statistical preview of the Springboks’ clash with Samoa and inspects trends relevant to both sides courtesy of ruckingoodstats.com.

The Springboks’ numbers have been somewhat skewed by their demolition of the decidedly mediocre Fiji and Namibia. Trends and encouraging numbers should therefore be viewed with that perspective.

There are certainly some unexpected trends, like Morne Steyn, who has a reputation for being a relatively conservative flyhalf, third in the tournament for running the ball from set phases. Australia’s Quade Cooper leads in this regard. Steyn will slip down that list as the Springboks’ revert to their preferred pragmatic approach.

There are developments that should encourage – the Springboks have broken the most tackles inside the opposition’s 22 (12.3 per game) – and some that are a cause for concern – they are the third highest in conceding penalties while in possession of the ball.

The rankings are an average after the games played thus far.

Time, Possession and Territory

The Springboks have played the game at pace, evidenced in their ball-in-play and contestable time, which is the highest in the tournament. Samoa have exhibited a similar pattern, but Friday’s Test in North Habour is likely to feature more grind than glitter. Expect an early onslaught from the islanders, who lead the tournament in time in the opposition’s 22m in the first half. The Springboks spend the most time in the opposition’s 22m in the competition. However, the bulk of that time has come in the second half, suggesting they are relatively slow starters.

Points

The Springboks have the second highest number of tries and the most conversions, the latter indicating that Morne Steyn has not had the goal kicking struggles many others have.

Attack

The Springboks break the most tackles inside the opposition’s 22m at 12.3 per game. Samoa are fourth highest with 7.3. and their more structured style is reflected in that they average 9.7 tackle offloads per game, while the defending champions dish off an average of nine per match.

Defence

The Springboks have the best defensive record in the tournament having conceded just two tries in three Tests, but again this statistic needs to take into account the utter impotency of Fiji and Namibia.

However, despite their record suggesting a formidable defensive side, they are missing 1 in 4.6 tackle attempts. It has been as bad as 1 in 3 during the Tri-Nations. Their best performance came against Wales, where they missed 1 in 5. Samoa are better equipped than Fiji or Samoa to exploit their defensive failings.

Errors

The Springboks’ attacking cause has been undermined by fundamental handling errors and turnovers, averaging 21.3 per match (the fifth highest). Samoa are slightly ahead at 23.3, pointing to a game that will lack fluidity unless both sides remedy their shortcomings here.

Excellent discipline in defence has amplified the Springboks’ threat. There average penalty count of 7.3 is the second best in the tournament. However, their discipline on attack lacks that clinical edge – they are third highest in conceding penalties while in possession.

Notably, Samoa lead the tournament in conceding penalties between their 22m and the halfway line. Morne and Frans Steyn will be salivating.

The referee – Nigel Owens (Wales)

Owens has penalised often at scrum time. He is the fourth highest in this facet of play with 5.7 scrum infringements per game. Interestingly, at an average of 16.7, he awards less penalties than any referee in the tournament, including being the lowest for ruck infringements, which bodes well for a free-flowing contest.

By Ryan Vrede, in Auckland

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