Tracey Nelson 's Opinion

Stats guru Tracey Nelson crunches the numbers

The Stats Don't Lie: Can the Chiefs hold top spot?

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A bonus point win will see the Chiefs finish at the top of the Super 15. Photo / Getty Images
A bonus point win will see the Chiefs finish at the top of the Super 15. Photo / Getty Images

Tracey Nelson looks at the key statistics ahead of the final round of the Super 15 regular season.

HURRICANES V CHIEFS (Jonathan Kaplan)

There have been 19 matches between these two and it's a close cut thing, with the Hurricanes ahead just 10 wins to eight, with one draw. The last time these two sides met was in Round 10 when the Chiefs won 22-14 in Hamilton.

While the Chiefs already have the New Zealand conference title in the bag, their position at the top of the overall table is more precarious as they are only one point ahead of the Stormers. A bonus point win will see them take out the overall round robin, but a four point win means they could be overtaken if the Stormers have a bonus point win over the Rebels - although the Stormers are yet to score four tries in a game this season.

The Hurricanes require a bonus point win plus need some other results to go their way, but they are leading the competition for scoring four tries or more in a game having achieved that in eight of the 15 matches they have played.

The Hurricanes have scored 55 tries this season which is 11 more than the Chiefs, but the Chiefs have the better defence conceding just 22 points per game to the Hurricanes' 27.

The Chiefs' lineout fell to pieces against the Crusaders last week, winning just 50 percent of their own ball. The return of Craig Clarke will help, although it should be noted he was playing in Round 14 when the Chiefs had their worst lineout result of the season winning just 44 percent of their throws against the Bulls.

Set piece has been a little problematic for the Hurricanes with their lineout running at 74 percent on their own ball (worst equal with the Blues in the New Zealand conference), and they have conceded the most scrum penalties (23) of all the New Zealand teams.

Andre Taylor is still the leading try-scorer in the competition with ten, and has also made the most linebreaks with 16 to date. His teammates Conrad Smith and Julian Savea have both scored seven tries, with Savea having made nine linebreaks to date.

Brodie Retallick's stellar season has seen him make 25 pick and goes, win 50 lineouts, and make 198 tackles putting him sixth overall for most tackles made, and in second place behind Matt Todd for the New Zealand conference.

Sonny Bill Williams may be the top off-loader in the competition with thirty three, but don't discount Aaron Cruden's importance to the Chiefs' attack as he has made twenty one offloads (which places him third in the competition) and set up eight linebreaks for his team.

BRUMBIES v BLUES (Jonathon White)

The Blues have won 10 of the 17 matches played against the Brumbies, and won 39-34 the last time the two sides met in Auckland, 2010. While there is nothing but pride riding on this game for the Blues, a win for the Brumbies will see them take out the Australian conference and third place overall, while a loss with no bonus point could potentially see them miss out on the play-offs completely if the Reds get maximum points against the Waratahs.

The Brumbies' defence has been their hallmark this year, with the second best defensive record behind the Stormers. On average they have conceded 20 points and just under two tries per game this season, while the Blues are conceding 28 points and just over three tries per game.

Openside flanker Michael Hooper has been instrumental in that Brumbies' defensive effort, having made 206 tackles and winning 11 breakdown turnovers.

Luke Braid has been a shining light in a disappointing Blues' season, having made five linebreaks, broken 31 tackles, and scoring three tries. His defensive work has also stood out, making 148 tackles and winning eight breakdown turnovers in the thirteen games he's played.

Watch for Henry Speight on the Brumbies' right wing, he is their top try scorer with seven this season and has made eight linebreaks.

Ma'a Nonu has made the most running metres for the Blues this season with a total of 754, and has broken 33 tackles in doing so. He has made four linebreaks and scored two tries, and on defence has made 89 tackles.

Also watch for the kicking game from the Brumbies, halfback Nic White has made 91 kicks this season while fullback Jesse Mogg has made 74. In combination the pair have gained a total of 5908 metres for their team this season.

The Blues are averaging 10 turnovers in possession from handling errors per game this season, with 78 percent of their handling errors being knock-ons. Perhaps surprisingly, the Blues have made the least number of knock-ons of all the New Zealand teams except the Crusaders.

CRUSADERS v FORCE (Glen Jackson)

There have been six games played between these two and the Crusaders have won three, the Force one, and there have been two draws. The Crusaders won the last encounter 42-30 in Perth last year.

The Crusaders' destiny is entirely in their own hands, with a win ensuring they will take out fourth spot overall and have a home match for the first elimination round next weekend. Should they lose and also miss out on a losing bonus point, they risk falling out of the top six if the Bulls and Sharks win their games and either of the Hurricanes or Reds win with a bonus point.

Robbie Fruean is on the bench this week for the Crusaders, having started in 38 consecutive matches up until this game. It is likely he will appear at some stage in this match, his 13 linebreaks this season placing him second behind Andre Taylor in the competition. He has also made 17 offloads in the tackle and scored six tries.

Matt Todd and George Whitelock have been integral cogs in the Crusaders' defensive efforts this season, having made 204 and 166 tackles respectively. Todd is fourth highest tackler in the competition, two tackles behind the Force's David Pocock who is out with injury for this game.

Nathan Sharpe returns from a back injury to captain the Force in what will be his last Super Rugby game. This will be his 162nd Super match, a record number of games and also a record number (79) of matches as captain.

The Crusaders lineout has now overtaken the Chiefs' as the best of the New Zealand teams, winning 84 percent of their own throws. Sam Whitelock is their top jumper with 43 takes, while Luke Romano excelled stealing ball off the Chiefs' last week with a total of three steals.

Despite having only scored four bonus-point wins this season, the Crusaders have the second best attack in the competition (the Hurricanes are top) having scored 447 points including 43 tries. They also have third best defence, conceding an average of 21 points and two tries per 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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