Tracey Nelson 's Opinion

Stats guru Tracey Nelson crunches the numbers

The Stats Don't Lie: Highlanders desperate for first win

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Ma'a Nonu of the Highlanders. Photo / Getty Images.
Ma'a Nonu of the Highlanders. Photo / Getty Images.

Tracey Nelson crunches the numbers ahead of the key Super 15 match-ups this week.

HIGHLANDERS v REDS (Dunedin, Referee Jaco Peyper)

Of the 16 games played, the Highlanders have won 9 and the Reds 7. Last year the Reds won 19-13 in Brisbane.

The last time these two sides met in Dunedin was 2007, when the Highlanders won 33-17. The Reds have yet to win a Super game in Dunedin, having lost all 5 previous encounters - it has been 32 years since a Queensland side has won in Dunedin.

All eyes on the battle of the halfbacks, with Will Genia (playing just his third game after returning from knee surgery) up against Aaron Smith. Genia's running game has already been in evidence, averaging 4.8 metres per run to Smith's 2.4 metres. Genia is sniping more than Smith, averaging 6 carries per game while Smith is currently averaging just under 3.

The Reds' lineout has been operating well this season, having on 86 percent of their own ball while the Highlanders are sitting on 80 percent. But when it comes to stealing the opposition's throw the Reds are out in front having won 11, while the Highlanders have managed to contest and win just 4.

Reds blindside flanker Ed Quirk has made 80 tackles this season, making him the third highest tackler in the competition.

HURRICANES v SOUTHERN KINGS (Wellington, Referee Nick Briant)

This will be the first time the two sides have met. The Kings have won just one match so far, and that was their opening game against the Force. The Hurricanes have won 2 of their 4 games to date.

The Hurricanes are coming off the bye this week, but have a good record of winning after a break having won twice after byes in 2011, and once after a bye and also after the test-window break in 2012.

The Kings missed 18 tackles against the Crusaders last week, and will have learnt a lesson about being passive on defence.

One things the Kings do well is setting up rolling mauls from attacking lineouts, and scored against the Crusaders this way last week. The Hurricanes have conceded 3 penalties while defending against rolling mauls so far this season.

The Hurricanes are averaging 12 handling errors per game so far in 2013.

When it comes to building phases and maintaining possession, the Hurricanes have won 96 percent of their ruck ball while the Kings are slightly lower with 94 percent.

CHIEFS v BLUES (Mt Maunganui, Referee Jonathan Kaplan)

It's close here, of the 19 games played the Blues have won 10 while the Chiefs have won 9. There has never been a drawn match between these two sides.

Set piece could be hotly contested in this match, with both teams having shown some frailties at lineout in particular. The Chiefs have lost 14 percent of their own throws this season, but have stolen 9 throws off their opposition. Meanwhile the Blues have lost 8 percent of their throws, and stolen 4 throws off opposition lineouts.

The Chiefs have scored 19 tries this year, with 10 having come from set piece. They also tend to score most of their tries in the second half, with 12 tries of those 19 having been scored after half time.

Of the 14 tries the Blues have scored, 11 have come from their backs. Unlike the Chiefs the Blues have an even split of try scoring, with 7 of those tries scored in the first half and 7 in the second.

The Blues will be looking to tidy up their ball retention skills, having made 17 handling errors against the Waratahs last week.

Gareth Anscombe is the leading points scorer in the competition with 84, including one try. He has kicked 17 conversions and 15 penalties, and missed just 5 shots at goal for an 82 percent success rate.

STORMERS v CRUSADERS (Capetown, Referee Craig Joubert)

The Crusaders have had the wood over the Stormers having won 13 of the 17 matches played, and have won the last three encounters between the two sides.

The Crusaders have found Capetown a reasonably happy hunting ground in recent years too, having won twice there in 2011. They last lost in Capetown in 2010.

The Crusaders set piece has been going well for them so far in 2013 having yet to lose a scrum on their own feed, while their lineout is running at 90 percent.

While both teams have won just 2 games so far this season, the Crusaders have scored 17 tries while the Stormers have scored just 9.

Traditionally known for their almost impenetrable defence, the Stormers are averaging 20 missed tackles per game in 2013. But they have conceded just 6 tries and 93 points so far.

The Crusaders are averaging just 12 missed tackles per game, with flanker Matt Todd their top tackler having made 58 tackles. The Crusaders have conceded 10 tries and 102 points so far this Season.

This will be half back Willie Heinz' 50th game for the Crusaders.

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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