Tracey Nelson 's Opinion

Stats guru Tracey Nelson crunches the numbers

The Stats Don't Lie: Highlanders look to continue first round run

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The Highlanders are the best of all the New Zealand teams having won 10 of their 17 season openers. Photo / Getty Images
The Highlanders are the best of all the New Zealand teams having won 10 of their 17 season openers. Photo / Getty Images

Rugby stats guru Tracey Nelson breaks down the numbers ahead of the first round of the Super 15.

HIGHLANDERS v CHIEFS (Dunedin)

The Chiefs have won 12 of the 19 matches played between these two sides, and they also won the last encounter played in Dunedin in June last year (27-21).

When it comes to first round success, the Highlanders are the best of all the New Zealand teams having won 10 of their 17 season openers, last losing a first round game in 2010. They beat the Chiefs in last year's opening round, and also won the only other first round encounter between the two sides back in 2003.

The Chiefs are not renowned for starting the Super competition well, having only won five of their 17 first round games with the the last opening win coming in 2010. That win broke a first round losing streak that stretched back to 2004.

Highlanders winger Hosea Gear topped the chart for metres gained with the ball last season, with a total of 1287 metres. He was also third in the competition for ball carries (179), while teammate No 8 Nasi Manu was the best ball carrier overall with 208 carries.

The Chiefs averaged 10 clean breaks per match last season and while they have lost the competition's best line breaker in Sonny Bill Williams, they still have Aaron Cruden and Tawera Kerr-Barlow who between them made 43 line breaks in 2012.

Last season the Highlanders and Chiefs conceded 69 percent of their penalties at the breakdown. For the Highlanders almost a third of those breakdown penalties were against the tackler, while for the Chiefs the tackler was only the cause 20 percent of the time.

Referee Steve Walsh wasn't shy at pulling cards from his pocket last season, and with three yellow cards dished out by Aussie ref Angus Gardner in last week's competition opener in the Rebels v Force match don't be surprised to see one on Friday night.

HURRICANES v BLUES (Wellington)

The Hurricanes and Blues have met 19 times, and the Blues are ahead with 11 wins. There has been one draw between them which came in 2004, with the Blues having won every match prior to that.

Since that draw in 2004 they have met a further 12 times, with the Hurricanes winning seven of those matches. The Hurricanes won both their matches against the Blues last year, with the Blues' last win coming in 2011.

When looking at success in the first game of the season, the Blues have the better overall record having won nine of their 17 first round games to the five the Hurricanes have managed. But when looking at them head to head, the Hurricanes and Blues have played each other four times in the opening round of the compeition with two wins each.

When it comes to beating the opposition defensive line, look no further than Julian Savea who beat 46 defenders and made 17 clean linebreaks last year.

It doesn't get any easier for the Hurricanes' opposition when Savea has Andre Taylor alongside him. Taylor made 21 linebreaks and beat 37 opposition defenders in 2012, and was top equal try scorer with 10 at the end of round robin play.

Piri Weepu will achieve his 100th Super cap in this game, having made 15 appearances for the Blues last season since departing the Hurricanes.

Rene Ranger will playing his 50th Super game, having made all his appearances for the Blues. His 19 tries for the Blues sees him sitting just one try short of 100 points for the franchise going into this game.

Tracey Nelson

Stats guru Tracey Nelson crunches the numbers

Tracey Nelson is a rugby statistician who looks closely at the numbers of every Super 15 and All Blacks test to give a concise answer to which players and teams are leading the way on the field.

Read more by Tracey Nelson

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