The Stats Don't Lie

Stats guru Tracey Nelson crunches the numbers

The Stats Don't Lie: Blues at least have history on their side

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The Hurricanes are the leading try-scorers in the competition. Photo / Greg Bowker
The Hurricanes are the leading try-scorers in the competition. Photo / Greg Bowker

Tracey Nelson crunches the numbers ahead of the latest Super 15 round.

HURRICANES v BLUES (Referee Jaco Peyper)

18 games played between these two and the Blues are up 11 wins to six, with one draw. The Hurricanes won the first encounter this year in Round 5 by just one point, thanks to a last minute try to Conrad Smith and conversion by Beauden Barrett.

In that game the Blues conceded just three penalties, while the Hurricanes were penalised 11 times. The Hurricanes stole four throws off the Blues' lineout, and also made five linebreaks to one.

The Hurricanes have not won since Round 7 when they beat the Sharks in New Plymouth, and they are yet to win in Wellington this season having lost to the Highlanders, Cheetahs and Crusaders.

The Blues' only win of this season was in Round 3 when they beat the Sharks in Pretoria.

Their record in Wellington is historically good, having won four, drawn one and lost two - but the Hurricanes have won six of the last nine clashes between the two.

The Hurricanes are the leading try-scorers in the competition having now scored 29, and have scored a four-try bonus point on four occasions this season. Meanwhile the Blues have scored just 15 tries, without a single four-try bonus point.

Andre Taylor has made ten clean linebreaks so far, and scored a total of seven tries. He will be hoping to score again this week to take the outright lead as the competition's top try scorer, with the Chiefs' Sona Taumololo on the bench this round.

Ma'a Nonu scored his first and so far only try of the season in the Round 5 game, and along with Piri Weepu this will be their first game in the capital city since they left the Hurricanes at the end of last season.

CHIEFS v LIONS (Referee Ian Smith)

Of the six games played the Chiefs have won all but one, and beat the Lions 34-30 in Johannesburg last year.

This will be the first Super game played in Pukekohe since 2000. The Chiefs have played two games there, both against South African opponents, and have a 50 percent winning record at the ground.

While the Chiefs have only lost one game this year (in the opening round) the Lions' fortunes have been the complete opposite having started with a win in Round 1 and then losing all their subsequent matches.

It's hard to see how the Lions might penetrate the competition's second best defensive outfit when they have the worst attacking record of any side. They are averaging just 19 points per game, and have leaked a total of 226 points on defence.

Sonny Bill Williams and Richard Kahui have been key figures on defence for the Chiefs, making a combined total of 122 tackles to date - although their pack has been leading the way with Brodie Retallick (129), Tanerau Latimer (99), Sam Cane (89) and Craig Clarke (88) leading the tackle stats for their team.

Although Williams has scored just one try, his ability to break through tackles (30 so far this season) and offload (21 times) has been a key feature for the Chiefs in maintaining front foot ball on attack.

The Lions have a new lock on debut this week, and Ruan Botha is some tall timber standing at 2.04 metres. Will he and Franco van der Merwe (33 lineouts won this season) make any impact on a very good Chiefs' lineout (88 percent success rate) who are resting their star lock Brodie Retallick this week?

SHARKS v HIGHLANDERS (Referee Steve Walsh)

Of the 15 games played between the two the Sharks have won nine. They currently have a five match winning streak against the Highlanders, and won 30-16 in Dunedin in 2010 (they did not meet in 2011).

It's not been the best season so far for the Sharks, having only won four of their nine games. And although they have scored 22 tries, they have conceded 21 and currently sit in third place in the South African conference - ten points adrift of the Stormers and Bulls.

The Sharks' coach John Plumtree has already asked referee Steve Walsh to be vigilant with the Highlanders at the breakdown, accusing them of "flopping" at the tackle. To date the Highlanders have conceded 56 penalties at the breakdown, but only about a third (20) of those penalties have been for going off their feet or sealing off.

Adam Thomson is back in the starting lineup this week, and to date he has won 40 lineouts, made 95 tackles, five linebreaks, and scored three tries.

Sharks No 8 Keegan Daniel has been a livewire all season, having made six linebreaks, 15 offloads in the tackle and 580 running metres. He's no slouch on defence either, with a total of 72 tackles made.

Hosea Gear (9) and Ben Smith (6) are the leading linebreakers for the Highlanders, and it will be Smith's 50th game for the Highlanders.

CRUSADERS v REDS (Bryce Lawrence)

There have been 18 matches played between these two sides, and although the Crusaders have won 12 of them it will be fresh in everyone's minds that the Reds both matches last year (the pool game 17-16 and the final 18-13, both in Brisbane).

The Reds are also on a three match winning streak against the Crusaders, having beaten them 41-20 in Brisbane in 2010.

Robbie Fruean was in electric form last week, scoring two tries against the Waratahs. He also made three linebreaks to take his season tally to nine, made 11 offloads in the tackle, and is currently the Crusaders' top try scorer with six.

Watch for Israel Dagg (seven linebreaks and four tries) and Zac Guildford (six and three) up against Luke Morahan (seven and one) and Dom Shipperley (five and five).

It won't all be about running though, with both halfbacks high up in the kicking stats. Andy Ellis has made 55 this season, while Will Genia has made a staggering 61.

No shortage of good tacklers in this game either - Matt Todd leads the competition for tackles made with a total of 152, while James Horwill has made 110. Scott Higginbotham was a standout for the Reds last week, making 19 tackles.

The lineouts will be another battleground, with Higginbotham having won 29 lineouts this season while his opposite Kieran Read has won 25. James Horwill and Sam Whitelock have both won 22 each.

Tom Taylor needs just six more points to reach 100 for the season, while Michael Harris (who kicked three from six last week) is sitting on 66 points for the season.

- For more stats visit www.haka.co.nz

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