Brumbies must improve scrum and goal kicking
Ben Alexander and the Brumbies are doing little different in 2014 compared with 2013 © Getty Images
Much has been written this season about how Steve Larkham and Laurie Fisher have evolved the Jake White game plan that saw the Brumbies reach the Super Rugby grand final in 2013, and the team this year certainly feels like they have gone away from the South African's "territory-based" blueprint.
Jake White not Brumbies' focus%]
The Canberra-based outfit have been in prolific form, despite their heavy loss to the Crusaders in Christchurch last weekend. They have won their past four home games and they have the platform they need to win matches with Stephen Moore at the centre of the best lineout unit in the competition. Their below-par goal kicking rate (71%) and the weakest scrum in the tournament (75%) are serious causes for concern, though, if they are to mount a serious challenge for the title.
But the striking observation when comparing the Brumbies under Larkham and Fisher in 2014 with White's campaign in 2013 is that very little has changed.
The Brumbies have averaged virtually the same number of points per game, and they have almost the exact same success rates when it comes to goal kicking, tackling and the breakdown. When it comes to decision making, they have also maintained amazing consistencies: having averaged the same amount of time in possession per game, they have made an almost identical ratio of passes, carries and kicks from hand.
Having established their winning formula in 2013, they have stuck with the same brand of rugby, - the only obvious variation being their set-piece success rates, with their lineout improving and their scrum drastically worsening. It will certainly be interesting to see what tricks Larkham and Fisher have up their sleeve to negate Jake White's inside knowledge of the Brumbies in Canberra on Saturday.
White has returned to Canberra with his Sharks showing a more discernible change in play, the ladder leaders clearly having adopted White's territory-first blueprint. They have chosen to kick the ball in open play on average five more times per game compared with 2013. They are averaging fewer tries per game than in 2013, but they have knocked over a competition-high 4.9 penalties per game at 80%.
The stats show, however, that the Sharks' tackling, scrum and ruck success rates are all diminished in 2014 - proving there is still room for improvement, even at the top of the table.
© Opta Stats for ESPNscrum
Communication error please reload the page.
Jose Mourinho may have to rely on the veteran Didier Drogba after striker Loic Remy limped out of Tuesday night's 6-0 Champions League demolition of Maribor
Fourth-seeded Milos Raonic hit 12 aces and saved all five break points he faced as he beat Steve Johnson of the United States 7-6(4) 6-4 in the first round of the Swiss Indoors on Tuesday
Tommy Robredo advanced to the second round of the Valencia Open by beating fifth-seeded John Isner 7-6(3) 6-3 on Tuesday
Croatian Vido Loncar has been banned for life by his national federation after assaulting a referee following a bout at the European Youth Boxing Championships in Zagreb
Sunderland's shell-shocked players have offered to refund the cost of supporters' tickets for their 8-0 Premier League humiliation at Southampton