31 May

Super 15 — Round 16 Preview
by WAJ
31 May 2013

Crusaders v Waratahs
An interesting match to start the weekend off. Two teams who aren’t playing all that well despite the calibre of player available. The Crusaders have been doing well up front, but the spluttering efforts of the likes of Carter, Fred and Fruean has seen little attacking venom from the Crusaders, whose avenue to the tryline is mainly through the forwards. The Waratahs returned to their bad old ways last week, got lazy, failed to adapt to the ref, and failed to shut the game down when they were ahead. What is interesting, well I think so anyway, is that they consistently get more players in the Wallabies squad than any other Aussie team – perhaps explains why the Wallabies are all over the place at times! Anyway if the Crusaders stick to the pattern that has worked so well at home then they will get up, but don’t think there will be much in it. Would like to see the Crusaders show a bit more enterprise, they will need it if they are going to ultimately win the ntitle.
Crusaders 1 – 12

Brumbies v Hurricanes
This is the last chance saloon for the Hurricanes. Lose this and their chances of a playoff berth are all but gone. The Brumbies are a tough nut to crack in Canberra and the Hurricanes will need to find a way to beat the structure and territory game that the Brumbies are playing under Jakey boy. THe main problem for the Hurricanes will be up front, and only top class efforts from the likes of Franks, Coles and Vito will see them get up. Actually it is again interesting that the Hurricanes can get so many forwards in the AB squad from a pack that has never really been consistently dominant – 6 AB squad members should give you some clout in a game! Results have been pretty even between these two teams but I would expect the Brumbies to win reasonably comfortably at home.
Brumbies 13+

Highlanders v Blues
Ha! Very bullish here. Just the type of set up the Blues need to show once and for all where they stand this season. Indoors, average opposition, the knights bollocking still ringing in their ears – they should win it in a canter! Some great match ups in the backs – Piutau v Smith, Halai v Gear, Weepu v Smith, the midfields. And we have the two (supposedly) senior AB hookers both on the bench! I am looking forward to the spin from Hansen to justify both getting picked for the French tests, if that happens. If the Blues play with the mind set we have seen from them in their better performances this year (ie not last week) then they should win. How can the Highlanders win??
Blues 13+

Reds v Rebels
What to make of this one? Heart v Head again here, and I gotta say the head is in front. Though who could say the Rebels won’t get up again against the odds? They have become extremely resiliant, better in defence, though far from perfect still as individuals drop off too many one on one tackles still, but they keep scoring points themselves from multiple avenues – Higginbotham (what a player he is turning into), Woodward, English, Inman are all shining in attack and Bieber back in adds another dimension. And against an out of sorts Reds, who have made a lot of changes, maybe, just maybe they can win, and the MR have shown little fear away from home in recent weeks. Genia and Cooper are of course the key and defending against the long flat passes that both throw. Study the tape of how the Stormers and Cheetahs bottled them up, copy that, win the game???
Rebels 1 – 12 (the heart won in the end)

Stormers v Kings
Yawn of the week. Might even get to see a try if you are willing to put yourself through the torture of watching how ever long that will take.
Stormers 13+

Cheetahs v Bulls
Could be a game worth watching – the contrast of the adventurous Cheetahs against the pragmatic Bulls. Think the structure of the Bulls will win it, though the Bulls are developing an interesting centre combination as well, great match up in the centres between the two pairings of up and comers.
Bulls 1 – 12

Regards Waj

25 May

Super 15: Round 14 Preview
by WAJ
25 May 2012

What is it with coaches and there need to change everything around all of a sudden. I hope Rennie is not tempting fate too much, Hammett did last week!!! And how much of a legend is Brad Thorn. A hugely impressive individual who is the ultimate team man.

Chiefs v Bulls – game of the round. Two of the best attacking teams of the comp to date who score plenty of tries and who usually win at home against each other. The concern for me is whether the Chiefs have made unnecessary changes with the changing of both props who have gone so well all season. TKB also comes back in and he will need to be a lot steadier than his last start under what will be some intense pressure from a very good Bulls pack, 7 of whom have made the just named Bok squad. But if the Chiefs can pressure the Bulls pack, which is what the Waratahs did for a while in the close loss and the Highlanders did last week, and focus on ball retention, then the Chiefs can have a good win. Cruden and SBW are the keys in keeping the ball in front of the Chiefs pack, both having great seasons andtheir play, and a return to the team defensive attitudepre-Lions, will bring the Chiefs home.
Chiefs 1 – 12

Hurricanes v The Mighty Rebels – Can the mighty Rebels win 3 in a row? Will Kurtley cut yet another team to shreds? Loving the way they are playing at the moment, scoring plenty of tries and really entertaining. They have named a strong team with Jones on the blindside a great in, he is very promising. If Kurtley is given any space then the Rebels become very dangerous as he brings in dangerous runners the likes of Vuna and Inman. The concern though is whether the defence shows up and is on the job. And the Rebels have a 100% against the Hurricanes with a 6 try to 4 belting last year:-) The Hurricanes will be hurting after the capitulation to the Brumbies last week and they too have named a stronger looking team. Double B gives them a much better look and should steer the Hurricanes home, though their goal kicking will need to improve
Hurricanes 1 – 12

Blues v Highlanders – The biggest question with this game – how many spectators will turn up? The Highlanders should take this comfortably against the Blues B team. It should be a good training run for the Highlanders, giving them a chance to try a few moves, practice their goal kicking; and the opportunity to get some games into some young Blues players and too see how they measure up. Not much else to say on this game
Highlanders 13+

Brumbies v Reds – the next best game of the round, this one has a huge amount riding on it in terms of winning the Australian conf and thus getting a finals spot, (there is only going to be one spot in it for Aus this season).This is a super impressive Brumbies team who never give up and who are incredibly good at finding ways to score tries -whether it be the locks bursting, a jink and weave from the 1 5/8 or pace on the wing these guys sense and take the opportunities brilliantly. On the back of a rock solid T5 and a real goer on the openside flank they are always in the contest. But the Reds are rising and have looked a lot better the past few weeks with an excellent win against the Chiefs and then getting the job done with some comfort against the Lions. The Burglar of course is back and whilst he is nowhere near peak form he does add class especially at this level. But it is the Reds forwards who have really stepped up, Link looks to have settled on a group of 9 or 10 who are really getting their work. Could go either way but think the Reds will get up with that little extra class they have overall.
Reds 1 – 12

Force v Lions – who cares.
Force 13+

Cheetahs v Waratahs – OMG 2 in a row. This might be a slightly better game, hopefully see some running rugby from the Waratahs for a change, they have nothing to lose. And is Berrick Barnes the most over rated 1 5/8 going around. Used to rate him, but has turned to crap of late.
Waratahs1- 12

Sharks v Stormers – predicting a dour slog here. Yeah I know hard to believe isn’t it.But the Stormers defence is unbelievably stingy and they score bugger all themselves so you would have to say it is going to be a low scoring game. And it is hard to see the Sharks finding a way through the wall, though they have been in reasonable form of late with 3 wins on the trot. I just can’t see the Sharks doing enough, even home advantage is negligible with both teams having won4 times at the Tank.
Stormers 1 – 12

Regards Waj

9 Oct

The Northern Quarters
by Paul Waite
9 Oct 2011

Northern_HemisphereThe Northern Hemisphere Rugby World Cup quarter-finals gave us two pulsating tests, and two results that many experts did not predict. But one things is certain, the best teams are through to the semis.

The first of a brace of Saturday evening quarters was played at the Caketin, in Wellington between Ireland and Wales. The pre-match predictions were all leaning towards the Irish due to the upset they scored over Australia in the pool games, the experience of the squad, and their general Irish ‘pile into it’ playing style. Most thought that they would hoe into Wales and blow through them enough times with that big pack of theirs, to take a place in the semi-final.

Against that is the evidence of our own eyes. Contrary to some teams (eg. France, as described below) Wales have built gradually through the pool stages, and have shown themselves to be masters of every facet of the game. Right across the team, and right across the width of the paddock they have been putting in strong performances. Warren Gatland has got them humming.

The game started with a bang as Wales built pressure and moved on the Irish line with some lovely probing runs and great ball retention scoring a try in the right corner through Shane Williams. The Irish, smarting from the early slap, came back strongly and drove the ball dangerously in the forwards, adding darting probes in the backs. They signalled their intent when Ronan O’Gara kicked for a 5m lineout three times instead of taking kickable penalties, though none of these resulted in the try they sought.

The Welsh soaked up the Irish pressure for what seemed like an age, but showed that this is another facet of the game that they have mastered under Gatland’s tutelage. At halftime they went in 10-3 to Wales having added a penalty each.

In the second spell Wales really nailed the game, but only after the Irish had their fans cheering as Keith Earls crashed over the line in the 45th minute, and the scores were levelled.

Only six minutes later Welsh pressure led to a ruck on the left hand side of the field inside the Irish 22m. Man of the Match, Welsh halfback Mike Phillips picked the ball up and made a lightning run down the blind to touch down with an athletic dive millimetres inside the corner flag.

At this point the Irish lost their way, and instead of piling into the Welsh defence with strong driving and great darting runs from the likes of O’Driscoll, started to hoof the ball downfield, presumably for field position. Whatever the reason it back-fired, and just kept handing the Welsh possession, which they used in the 64th minute to score again this time through Jonathan Davies who walzed through a number of sleep-walking Irish defenders before dotting it down. With the conversion bringing up a 22-10 score-line with 15 minutes left, the game was more or less done and dusted.

Wales 22
Shane Williams, Jamie Roberts, Jonathan Davies tries
Rhys Priestland 2 con, Leigh Halfpenny con

Ireland 10
Keith Earls try
Ronan O’Gara pen, con

HT: 10-3

The second quarter-final was not predictable, by definition, since it involved the French. On pool play this game was going to be a walk in the park for the English, as Les Bleus had been more like Les Bleeeurghs! With two losses, one to the All Blacks and one to Tonga, they couldn’t have looked less promising as World Cup semi-finalists.

England coach Martin Johnson had picked a strange-looking back-line with the injury of Mike Tindall, bringing together two first-five eighths, Toby Flood and Jonny Wilkinson.

The side in white started off the game moving the ball wide, showing an intention to play attacking football, however the French defence was up to the challenge, making some strong forays back in the opposite direction and giving early indications that they had shaken off their pool-play sluggishness. There was an urgency and an enthusiasm about the French which had been missing.

The English, as the cricket saying has it, did not trouble the scorers, for the whole first half. France notched up 16 points without reply from their opponents via two penalties and two unconverted tries through Clerc and Medard. The former danced and spun through a seemingly bamboozled England defence 5m in from the left corner. Medard’s try was the result of a lovely French backline attack, again down the left, aided by some lacklustre English defence which saw three players committed to the man they thought would try to score, only to see it passed infield for Medard to dart through the hole they had created.

The English had their chances too, but it was evident that their skill levels were not up to the task as each time the ball was fumbled, or did not go to hand in the crucial moments. They looked like a bunch of players trying to take their game up a notch, to a level they had never before played. It was a level beyond them.

The second half was a tighter affair as the French, understandably, tried to consolidate, rather than create. But as time wore on the English continued to make mistakes, and eventually a raft of replacements started coming on.

One of those, Ben Foden, finally got England on the scoreboard with a try, and Jonny Wilkinson converted, before being replaced himself. His absence immediately gave the back-line a bit more fluency, and some time later Mark Cueto bagged another try with about 5 minutes left. A conversion at that point would have brought the English to within 5 points, allowing extra time if they scored another try or a win if it was converted. However, for once Flood’s boot failed him despite the kick being relatively easy.

With Trinh-Duc on at No.10 for France, they easily played out the final moments of the match with some nice tactical kicking and defensive clearances.

France 19
Vincent Clerc, Maxime Medard tries; Dimitri Yachvili 2 pen, Francois Trinh-Duc drop goal

England 12
Ben Foden, Mark Cueto tries; Jonny Wilkinson con

HT: 16-0

Paul Waite

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2 Oct

Time To Front Up
by Paul Waite
2 Oct 2011

TrenchesWith Dan Carter out of the tournament the All Blacks’ chances now rely on the forwards fronting up in three consecutive World Cup test matches to provide their stand-in No.10 with a winning platform.

To be blunt, Colin Slade isn’t even half the first five-eighth that Dan Carter is. The All Black coaches acknowledge this with statements such as “we may have to simplify the attacking menu” for him. Andrew Hore also showed some of the same kind of thinking in the after-match interview after the final pool game vs. Canada when he told us that it was now up to the forwards to front up and give the No.10 the support he needs.

The old saying that it’s the forwards that determine the result and the backs by how much, has never rung truer for New Zealand than right now in this World Cup.

It’s going to be hard yakka from here on in, starting with a gritty Argentina, adept at muscling up in the bruising close quarter contact situations. The All Blacks need to treat the remainder of the World Cup as a series of battles in a war. The forwards have to fight the enemy to a standstill, and then dominate them, completely. There are no magical game-breaking options at No.10 anymore, and none of the subtle tactical kicking that Carter provided so effortlessly either.

Looking at the test match against Canada, and taking into account the second-tier nature of that opposition, Slade is evidently still short on form. His distribution to the backs was laboured, and his goal-kicking is still too patchy. Graham Henry admitted as much when he told us “he needs more rugby”.

Star-in the-making Aaron Cruden has been brought into the squad as the bench cover, and may get some game time to aid bringing him up to speed in this quarter-final, depending on how it goes, but it is a big learning curve to step into the All Blacks in the knock-out stages, when you haven’t even been involved with the squad for the Tri-Nations. That said Cruden is gifted enough to be a potential magic bullet for the team, albeit from a long-shot.

Piri Weepu also got some time against Canada at No.10, and his goal-kicking is better, however starting him there smacks of the same out-of-position selections which have bitten the All Blacks in the arse in several World Cups previously. Hopefully Henry & Co. will NOT go down that same road again.

Aside from the Carter-replacement issue, the All Blacks also looked disjointed in this test. A lot of that was the unfamiliarity evident in the Cowan-Slade-Sonny Bill Williams back-line. The ball was moved in the awkward, stilted manner you always see with backs which haven’t played much together in a test environment.

In the forwards Ali Williams also continues to underwhelm. His fumbles of the ball and general lack of work-rate around the field have us wondering what Boric needs to do to get more game-time than a quick cameo off the bench in the dying minutes.

The test also saw Mils Muliaina at fullback, where he did nothing more than show us he is a class act, but a fading one. But given the ‘brittleness’ of Israel Dagg it’s great to know he is there in squad ready if needed, and we wouldn’t bet against him getting his 100th test cap in this tournament.

On the left wing Zac Guildford had a blinder, redeeming himself and show-casing his speed and ability to finish. That said, he was allowed a great amount of space by Canada, space which won’t ever be available in the tight tests coming up.

The first choice back-three from now on still has to be Jane, Kahui and Dagg, fitness allowing.

In the forwards, we had Victor Vito at openside, and he played extremely well against a modest opposition. His ball-carries were excellent, and defence solid. Kaino made a much better fill-in at No.8 than Richie McCaw did recently and capped it with a push-over try from a 5m scrum, something hardly ever seen these days with scrum resets always pushed back to the 5m mark. Aside from that Kaino remains in awesome form both carrying the ball and on defence.

Perhaps the most satisfying performance was Keiran Read’s return from serious ankle injury. He played 60 minutes with no problems, which will give him the confidence needed for the knock-outs.

The All Blacks chances of winning this Rugby World Cup have undoubtedly taken a huge blow with Dan Carter being ruled out of the tournament.

But if they refocus, strip their game back a little to the basics revolving around forward dominance, and provide Slade with a solid platform then they are still able to beat any team in the World.

All that’s required is Three Big Tests.

Give it everything boys.

Paul Waite

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11 Sep

Cup Balls: Heeeeeere's Jonny!
by Paul Waite
11 Sep 2011

England versus Argentina down in sunny Dunnydin turned out to be a corker of a game which took Los Pumas to the verge of victory with 8 minutes to go, before the dastardly Poms stole it 13-9 with a last-gasp try.

To be frank, apart from the final slightly fluky result, bugger-all went well for the English in their opening match of Rugby World Cup 2011. By half-time they were 6-3 down on the scoreboard, hadn’t looked like scoring a try, had watched Jonny Wilkinson miss most of his kicks at goal, had one man in the sin-bin, and all the numbers were peeling off their cheap imitation All Blacks kit.

To make things worse, judging by facial expression and some lip-reading, they thought they were being refereed by an alien life-form which had taken over the body of Bryce Lawrence and had been sent here to Earth for the sole purpose of putting them out of the tournament.

I have news for them, Brycie isn’t an alien, but is definitely a ‘special’ referee and all New Zealanders are thankful that he can never, ever, officiate in a game that the All Blacks are playing.

In a typical incident the whistle would shrill, followed by a polite request for clarification from the English forward penalised. "The fookin’ ‘ell was that fookin’ for??" asked the player, rising from his rightful position on the Argentine side of the ruck and carefully dropping the player he had by the neck. "You can fook right off" he prompted in an attempt to gently guide the referee’s thought processes in the right direction.

"Off your feet, playing the ball on their side of the ruck!" spat Bryce, in an officious and suspiciously metallic tone of voice.

At this the English forward (name omitted to protect the guilty) looks dumbstruck, then turns around and walks back to his mates with an expression of incredulity plastered across his gormless visage "that referee is an alien that’s taken over a human body" he whispers to them, and they nod in somber unison. "Probably a victim of a pod last night, I’ve seen it on’t telly.. it can happen" he adds. His team-mates look embarrassed. The "pods" are obviously a ridiculous notion.

Everywhere you look you can see panic rippling under the surface of the English players’ faces. They are in a nightmare situation. The Argentine forwards are much too strong for them to rumble the ball up-field for Jonny to droppie them out of trouble, they can’t win with penalties because they are the ones conceding most of them, and the ones they do get (horror of HORRORS), Jonny misses!

Yes folks, that nightmare of English rugby is upon them – the only way to win this game is to move the ball wide. Dear God.

Martin Johnson, doing an accurate impression of a mad bison with an angry wasp up its bottom, disappears in a storm of papers and body-parts as he thrashes about like a loony in his cubicle. Never one able to conceal his emotions, the sentence "I am going to rip the arms off everyone in the squad if they don’t win" is writ large across his face. Actually it was writ large in dripping red letters on the inside of his cubicle window, but I digress.

Back on the pitch the Argentinian team was self-destructing. Players were launching themselves into rucks and tackles as if they had spare bodies in pods, waiting for them back in their hotel rooms. Unfortunately this meant that the current bodies were being carted off the paddock in large numbers and eventually this allowed the English, on about their second visit all game into the Argie 22m, to score a try.

So the Poms won, against all the alien forces (referee, the Other Team, Laws of the game) that were arrayed against them.

But well done Argentina – you played all of the rugby!

Paul Waite

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29 Aug

Battered in Brisbane – What Now?
by Paul Waite
29 Aug 2011

After the All Blacks ‘thumped’ the Wallabies at Eden Park I said that the score flattered them, and that but for a poor start and missed kicks it would have been very tight. The test in Brisbane proves that was correct, and our foe over the ditch are our biggest threat in this coming World Cup.

This test loss has been a wake-up call for the Men In Black, of that there is no doubt. They were bested up front by a country mile in the first half and despite a second half rally failed to reverse the situation. The parallels with RWC 2007 are all too painful to draw.

As it transpired this test was a fabulous example of what the All Blacks
will face at the sharp end of the World Cup, and was exactly the kind of
test which has been their downfall in past World Cups. The way they
were shocked into mistakes by a hungry and passionate opponent that had worked them out and
then, forced into playing catch-up rugby, failed to reverse the scoreboard was a
classic and all too familiar example.

Graham Henry couldn’t have provided a better build-up for his men if he’d had Robbie Deans on the NZRU’s payroll.

In previous World Cup years the All Blacks have sailed along garnering a series of easy wins, lulling themselves into a nice warm fuzzy state of superiority, and then run aground on exactly these rocks.

But the question on our lips now is "how will the All Blacks react?".

If I was writing this in the so-called ‘amateur’ era, I would be 100% confident that the All Blacks would, as one, silently take the loss to heart, work out what went wrong and then, in the return test visit a fury of power rugby on their hapless opponents, taking it to a much higher level of clinical rugby, and emphatically cleansing themselves of the loss.

Sadly we are in the professional era, and we have no such cast iron guarantees. Some players are in exactly the same mold as those of yesteryear, an example being All Black skipper Richie McCaw. But the squad also contains a newer type of player, as concerned about the latest playing contract negotiations by their managers, as they are about the old-school All Black ethos and traditions. So as a whole the reaction of the team, although it will definitely be close to the old style, will probably not be quite the same.

That said there is undoubtedly still a lot of mileage left in All Black tradition, and we can assume that they will be hurting enough as a group to come together, sort out with the coaches what went wrong out there, and bring the memories of that loss to a possible World Cup re-match against Australia.

That’s on the plus side. On the negative side the Aussies, as if they of all teams needed any fillip for their confidence levels, will now know (or think they know) that they can best the All Black forwards and shock us into stupidity with rush-umbrella defence. That means the rematch, if it occurs, will probably turn on what happens in the first 20 minutes, where the All Black forwards must deliver a lesson in hard rugby to their opposites. Nothing else will work.

So what of the details? Unfortunately the All Blacks also had injuries in this test. The good news is that Kieran Read’s ankle knock does not seem to be serious, and that is the crucial one. Slightly less crucial, but still important is the potential loss of Adam Thomson who was our fill-in No.6 and 7. His arm/elbow injury does seem to be serious which leaves us short in the loose-forwards before the World Cup starts.

Finally I would just like to mention the Australian defensive approach in this test. In a surprise tactic Deans had them operate a system often used to great effect on us by South Africa whereby they cut down the space quickly close in (rush defence) and had the outside backs come around infield in an umbrella formation further cutting down space.

This is effective against the All Blacks because they tend to operate their ruck ball in a fairly predictable way, getting the backs moving through midfield. Pressure the first-five and cut down the space out wider, and you cause hurried plays and mistakes which we saw on Saturday in abundance.

So there are two issues for The Three Wise Men to deal with here. The first and most important is to play with more variety from the ruck. It is simplistic but true, that if the opposition is unsure of how you are going to play from there, then they will be unsure of how to defend as well. This will force them to back off, or risk coming up too quickly and creating the opportunity for a line-break.

The variations are all well documented and no big secret. The halfback probing and kicking (with support runners to pressure the kicks), and well-drilled forward drives either striaght from the ruck or one or two out. Similarly kicking from first-five and (if you have a 12 who can kick) second-five to vary the point of attack. We have become too predictable.

Of course Ted might have us running the ball predictably just to stop his opposing coaches developing counter-measures, but I have tried this as a working theory for previous World Cups and found it wanting.

Generally the All Blacks play in World Cups as they are playing in the tests leading up to it and, apart from the odd worked backline move, that’s the way it stays.

So, having had any possible remnant of over-confidence smashed out of them in the humbling loss to a better team in Brisbane, the All Blacks had better do some serious work back at the drawing board in the last two weeks before it all kicks off.

Good luck boys.

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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10 Jul

New kid on the block
by Tracey Nelson
10 Jul 2011

EnglandThere was just one new cap when the first All Blacks squad of 2011 was named today, and that was Taranaki’s Jarrad Hoeata. So did he deserve his place in the squad? Check out his Super stats against the other All Black locks.

here.

With Anthony Boric out with injury until after the conclusion of the Tri-Nations the All Black selectors looked for another lock to go with their trust trio of Brad Thorn, Ali Williams (back from a 32 month absence with injuries) and Sam Whitelock. Here is how Hoeata stacked up against the other All Black locks over the round robin stages of the 2011 Super competition.

Lineouts Percent won on throw Steals off opp
Brad Thorn 90% 3
Ali Williams 78% 8
Sam Whitelock 94% 0
Anthony Boric 88% 5
Jarrad Hoeata 87% 3

Ball carries Average per game Av metres gained
Brad Thorn 5.18 24.82m
Ali Williams 5.30 25.00m
Sam Whitelock 5.00 32.57m
Anthony Boric 5.62 21.54m
Jarrad Hoeata 5.63 26.88

Tackles made Average per game Tackle success
Brad Thorn 7.91 85%
Ali Williams 8.30 87%
Sam Whitelock 9.29 98%
Anthony Boric 10.85 95%
Jarrad Hoeata 13.5 88%

Penalties conceded per game
Brad Thorn 0.36
Ali Williams 1.00
Sam Whitelock 0.43
Anthony Boric 0.63
Jarrad Hoeata 0.94

24 Jun

Super 15 – Quarterfinals
by WAJ
24 Jun 2011

I love this time of year. Cut throat finals with everything on the line, always complicated by injuries and travel. What an advantage finishing in the top 4 is. And then there is all the speculation about the national teams – train on squads, injuries again. Gotta love it. If the Crusaders win their next 2 games where will the final be held – surely not Nelson or Timaru?

Blues v Waratahs
I think this game comes down to 2 things. Can the Blues continue to play the way they have been over the last fortnight? And have the huge number of injuries suffered by the Waratahs cruelled their chances? Burgess, Hanga’s, Barnes, Horne, Mitchell – not a bad lineup and all injured and out of the play offs! On top of Kepu, Palu, Baxter, Mowenand the Flying Affro that is a lot of fire power unavailable. And 7 of those would be definite WC Wallabies. So can they overcome those losses, and the Eden Park hoodoo? They have been very resiliant of late having won their last 2 games in convincing fashion, and the likes of Beale,Dennis and Timani have really stepped up, but this is looking a step too far now with the The Flying Affro and Burgo both banged up and out. The Blues look to have overcome their late season malaise finally, and showed a good well rounded game to beat the Highlanders convincingly. Still concerns in the backs where the defence will always be in question and the overall pace has dropped. But if they keep using McAllister as they have – where he doesn’t have to think too much about it and just kick and run – and Brett and Payne keep up their attacking thrust then we should be too strong in the end. But oh wouldn’t it be great to see both teams at full strength.
Blues 1 – 12

Crusaders v Sharrrrks
The seemingly toothless Sharks wallow about for a few weeks, looking anything but good, then head up to Boer Central and put it all together in a great performance against all the odds. Unfortunately they have an even higher mountain to climb this week. Not only do they have to contend with the travel, and you have to question why they are leaving it so late, but they get 36 hours less to recover. But they have nothing to lose, and the likes of Lambie, Peterson and Michalak gives plenty of options in attack, Peterson especially is in rare form and will need to be watched. The Crusaders – well they keep winning, not as convincingly as they were in the first half of the season, actually not by as much as they were at the beginning of the season is probably the better way of putting it, because they are awfully hard to beat. A couple of guns in Maitland and SBW returning will make a world of difference, especially the former whose pace has been seriously missed. I expect a dominant performance from the pack, all who should be match fit and ready for a big one, scrum dominance for sure, with the halves banging away at the corners, where they can pressure the Sharks into mistakes, and thus points. Might not be the prettiest game, but will be awfully effective.
Crusaders 13+

Regards Waj

5 Jun

Battle for the Back-up Role – All Black 1st 5
by Tracey Nelson
5 Jun 2011

Who is likely to be Dan Carter’s back up in the All Black squad this year? Check out the lead contenders’ stats here.

I have looked at the players most likely to be in contention for the back up role of 1st 5 for the All Blacks. Colin Slade has not been included due to his lack of game time this season. Luke McAlister’s stats are only for the games where he has started at 1st 5 (two up to the end of Round 15) other than his goal kicking, where he has been first choice kicker for the Blues this season. All tables start with the top player for that category. Another point to note is that my definition of a ‘line break’ is a clean break where the gain line is not only breached but the player makes it into clear space behind the defensive line without being held in a tackle. So in other words, the player runs into open space by at least 2 metres and the entire defensive line has to turn to chase.

Number of starts at 1st 5 up to and including Round 15
Stephen Brett 11
Stephen Donald 9
Dan Carter 8
Aaron Cruden 7
Luke McAlister 2

Points scored Average per game Kicking percentage
Dan Carter 15.87 76%
Luke McAlister 12.11 75%
Stephen Donald 10.44 76%
Aaron Cruden 10.23 75%
Stephen Brett 10.75 52%

Linebreaks Total Average per game
Luke McAlister 2 1.0
Stephen Brett 8 0.73
Aaron Cruden 5 0.71
Dan Carter 4 0.50
Stephen Donald 4 0.44

Average number of offloads per game
Aaron Cruden 2.71
Dan Carter 2.13
Luke McAlister 1.50
Stephen Donald 1.33
Stephen Brett 0.73

Percentage of tackles successfully made
Dan Carter 83%
Luke McAlister 79%
Aaron Cruden 78%
Stephen Donald 63%
Stephen Brett 52%

19 May

Loose change – count em up
by Tracey Nelson
19 May 2011

Crusaders_006How are the loose forwards looking now we are three quarters of the way through the Super competition? Check out their stats here.

I have included Jarrad Hoeata in this group as he is potentially playing for a spot as blindside/lock cover in the All Blacks squad. Daniel Braid is omitted due to the very few games he has started in this year. Richie McCaw is included because despite only three starts he is undoubtedly the bench mark. All tables start with the top player for that category.

Tackles Average per game Games played
Alado Soakai 16.1 9
Luke Braid 15.9 9
Matt Todd 14.3 11
Richie McCaw 14.0 3
Adam Thomson 13.9 10
Jarrad Hoeata 13.0 11
Liam Messam 12.9 12
Scott Waldrom 12.8 9
Victor Vito 12.2 12
Fritz Lee 11.2 10
Tanerau Latimer 10.4 9
Jerome Kaino 10.3 10
Peter saili 7.3 9
Kieran Read 6.7 9

Total percentage of tackles made
Richie McCaw 97.6
Luke Braid 97.2
Adam Thomson 95.7
Victor Vito 95.2
Tanerau Latimer 95.2
Liam Messam 94.2
Matt Todd 93.7
Alando Soakai 93.1
Scott Waldrom 92.2
Jarrad Hoeata 90.2
Jerome Kaino 87.4
Fritz Lee 88.1
Kieran Read 86.7
Peter Saili 84.8

Average number ball carries per game
Liam Messam 10.9
Fritz Lee 10.8
Victor Vito 10.5
Luke Braid 9.0
Kieran Read 8.9
Peter Saili 8.6
Adam Thomson 8.2
Richie McCaw 7.0
Jerome Kaino 7.0
Alando Soakai 5.7
Scott Waldrom 5.8
Matt Todd 5.4
Jarred Hoeata 5.1
Tanerau Latimer 4.8

Average metres made per game
Fritz Lee 70.3
Liam Messam 69.2
Adam Thomson 66.8
Kieran Read 60.4
Victor Vito 58.0
Peter Saili 56.7
Luke Braid 44.0
Matt Todd 42.3
Richie McCaw 38.7
Jerome Kaino 35.2
Alando Soakai 28.9
Scott Waldrom 28.4
Jarrad Hoeata 26.7
Tanerau Latimer 19.9

Turnovers won Total Average per game
Matt Todd 13 1.2
Adam Thomson 10 1.0
Luke Braid 8 0.9
Victor Vito 9 0.8
Jarrad Hoeata 7 0.6
Scott Waldrom 5 0.6
Jerome Kaino 5 0.5
Kieran Read 4 0.4
Liam Messam 3 0.3
Alado Soakai 2 0.2

Coming soon: see how the midfielders have been going