Waratahs-Hurricanes may be game of the season
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.
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.
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
Communication error please reload the page.
Chris Wyles and Chris Ashton grabbed two tries apiece as Saracens earned a bonus-point victory over Harlequins 42-14 in front of a record crowd for a domestic rugby match at Wembley
London Irish clung on to defeat Newcastle Falcons 22-21 and claim only their third home victory this season
Stade Francais ended a run of three defeats in their past four matches with a stunning victory against second-placed Clermont Auvergne, running in five tries to win 40-26 and consolidate third place in the Top 14
England reached the quarter finals of the Cathay Pacific-HSBC Hong Kong Sevens after qualifying second from Pool D following an entertaining 21-21 draw with USA
Felipe Massa says Williams is still "too slow" in the wet after he could only qualify seventh in Malaysia
Miroslav Klose scored goals in the World Cup final tournaments of 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014. Has anyone else scored World Cup goals 12 years apart?
Mudslinging and an agreement on something that will never happen, it's all in a day's work for a Formula One boss, as Maurice Hamilton explains...
Who has driven in the most GPs before taking pole position?
Fallout continues from the NSW-Brumbies derby, with one Tahs forward - not Potgieter - surprised by other unsavoury comments during the game, Greg Growden reports
Greg Growden previews Super Rugby round 7. We've also got key stats, team news and all the line-ups to inform your ESPN Footytips Super Rugby picks
Kevin De Bruyne would consider a move back to Chelsea despite barely featuring in his time at Stamford Bridge, sources told ESPN
Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge fears an extended spell out of action after tearing a hip muscle, England manager Roy Hodgson has revealed
Manchester United are determined to keep Angel Di Maria at Old Trafford, club sources have told ESPN, despite recent uncertainty over his future
Barcelona forward Luis Suarez has said he was treated "worse than if I were a hooligan" when FIFA banned him for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup
Andy Murray has expressed fears that his game will regress without full-time coaching in a candid exchange with a fellow Twitter user as he prepares to add former world No.4 Jonas Bjorkman to his coaching team
Everton defender Phil Jagielka is to have surgery on a badly gashed ankle, manager David Moyes has confirmed
Unbeaten heavyweight Dillian Whyte, 28, (14-0, 11 KOs) tells ESPN where his rivalry with Anthony Joshua stems from and outlines the plan for his career this year after returning from a doping ban in November
Who has driven in the most GPs before taking pole position?
Some of the best fighters to ever glove up have plied their trade in the Octagon - now ESPN list the 10 best who have fought under the UFC banner
Who was the first Briton to win the British Grand Prix?