Waratahs well placed to end New Zealand drought
May 28, 2014
The Waratahs have crossed their opponents' line at will in recent weeks © Getty Images
New South Wales Waratahs have won just six of 23 matches in New Zealand and one of four away to the Chiefs since 2006, and they have not won across the Ditch since defeating the Chiefs at Waikato Stadium in 2010. But the Waratahs' gradual gathering of momentum this season has many supporters getting their hopes up that this could be the year when they launch a serious assault on the finals series.
Melbourne Rebels 19-41 Waratahs (Australia only)%]
The Chiefs, meanwhile, are smarting after their loss to the Hurrcianes last week that saw them slip to eighth in the overall standings and fourth in the New Zealand conference, but the two-time defending Super Rugby champions remain within touching distance of the summit of their local rankings.
With plenty riding on this game, we profile the form of these sides this season and their efforts in the latest five rounds of action over the past six weeks.
Comparing the attacking output of the sides over the course of the season, they are well matched when it comes to average gain per carry though the Tahs generally command more possession. Opta statistics show the Waratahs are perhaps also more penetrative having averaged almost four more defenders beaten and two clean breaks per match more than their opponents.
The game in New Plymouth features two of the top offloading sides in the competition, but the Chiefs are a lot more conservative when it comes to shifting the ball through the hands. The fact the Waratahs are a little more flamboyant with ball in hand explains their higher error rate.
The defences of these two sides are solid. The Chiefs' tackling success rate is the best in the competition this year, but the Waratahs have fared better when it comes to effecting turnovers. Add to this the fact the Chiefs have the worst discipline in the competition, with regards to penalties / free-kicks conceded, and it all makes pretty reading for the Tahs.
Opta statistics show both teams are good at keeping possession. The Waratahs have faced the fewest carries of any team this season, while the Chiefs have limited their opponents to the lowest average gain (just ahead of the Tahs).
Hurricanes 45-8 Chiefs (Australia only)%]
The data also indicates interesting trends that have emerged this season for each side. The Waratahs have produced fewer kicks from hand (17) per game than any other side, but they have also been the recipients of the fewest on average (18.9). This is perhaps a reflection of opponents' fears of kicking to Israel Folau and the evasive Waratahs backs. The Chiefs, meanwhile, have struggled with their own throw at the lineout this season, but they have also been the least disruptive side at the opposition set-piece. If the Waratahs do their homework properly, this could be something they should look to exploit.
The stats for the teams' past five outings also favour the Waratahs, who have enjoyed even more success than normal when it comes to their attack: their 54 clean breaks and 127 defenders beaten makes for frightening reading by opponents, who should be in no doubt why the Tahs have recorded back-to-back-to-back bonus-points wins. They have also maintained their consistency at the set-piece while tightened up their discipline to offset a slightly looser defence.
The Chiefs have been slightly less threatening than usual in recent weeks, with their average gain per carry down without showing any signs of improving their discipline. That cost them dear last week: they were thumped by the Hurricanes last week despite beating more defenders than the six-try victors, the number of penalties and turnovers they conceded ultimately costing them any chance of remaining competitive; they also lost a number of scrums and lineouts, too, and they may be left to kiss goodbye to the New Zealand conference if they do not improve their set-piece.
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.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd with Opta Sports
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