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Waratahs-Hurricanes may be game of the season
Richard Kelly
May 1, 2014
TJ Perenara and the Hurricanes are on a four-match winning streak © Getty Images

Greg Growden and Russ Barwick preview Super Rugby round 12

The Hurricanes have surged to the top of the New Zealand conference, but the question on the lips of many is whether they have the credentials to go all the way this season; now we're near the halfway point of the campaign, all the stats would support the notion that they can.

The Hurricanes are the No.1 side when it comes to points and tries scored, but look a little deeper than the top line and the manner that they have scored those points shows just how formidable an opponent they are. They have dominated games by denying their opponents possession. Their average of 17m 29s with the ball per game is more than any other side. Not only do they control the ball, but they are effective with it as well: they top the team rankings for average metres (519), clean breaks (8.6) and defenders beaten (25.6) this season, and this demonstrates just how dangerous they are.

These two sides have averaged 161.9 passes per game this season, a Super Rugby joint-high.

That said, they do not come without their faults and there will be opportunities for the Waratahs to expose some of these weaknesses.

The Canes' tackling success rate is 85% this season, the joint-lowest in the competition, and with this loose tackling comes their propensity to ship points; on average, they have let in 25.3 points per game this season. This will make good reading for the Waratahs, who statistically have the second-strongest defence in the competition with an average of 18.4 points conceded per match.

Another telling stat which could be vital to success for the Waratahs in this game comes at the scrum. So far, the Hurricanes have been the least threatening side when it comes to scrums without the put in. Their opponents have won 92% of scrums on their own feed this season, and every other side has forced more turnovers/penalties at the opposition put-in.

The nature of the Waratahs makes this both an attractive match for the neutral and one that could be grabbed by the scruff of the neck by either side. These two sides have averaged 161.9 passes per game this season, a Super Rugby joint-high. The Tahs have averaged more carries (128.1) than any other side, and they rank second for metres (500) behind the Hurricanes. They also rank top for average offloads (13.4) and turnovers won (9.3). However, this aggressive nature has seen them concede more penalties (13.2) and the second-most turnovers (18) in Super Rugby this year; these are habits they have to lose if they are to get a result in this match.

Waratahs flanker Michael Hooper attacks the Bulls' line, New South Wales Waratahs v Bulls, Super Rugby, Allianz Stadium, Sydney, April 19, 2014
Michael Hooper ranks highly for turnovers © Getty Images

While this match features two sides that are top of a number of key stat categories, it also features individuals who are the top men in these areas.

Kurtley Beale is joint-top of the carries chart with 120, while Israel Folau leads the offloads and clean breaks lists with 22 and 15 respectively. Of course, the Wallabies fullback also has three more tries than any other player (9) despite playing just six games.

Hurricanes players Alapati Leiua and rank second and third behind Folau for clean breaks this season, with 14 and 12 respectively, while the pair rank first and second for defenders beaten with 35 and 32 respectively. Jack Lam is joint-second for turnovers won with 15. Also among the top 10 for turnovers won are Will Skelton and Michael Hooper.

Follow @OptaJonny, the official Twitter page for Opta's coverage of rugby union and rugby league, and @OptaJason, the official Twitter page for Opta Sports' coverage of sport in Australia and New Zealand.

© Opta Stats for ESPNscrum

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