Sam Cane is the most productive Kiwi tackler in Super Rugby, while Richie McCaw and Julian Savea are slipping off tackles at position-worst rates according to the Herald Rugby Stats Centre with Opta.

Cane has made 133 tackles for the Chiefs so far this Super Rugby season - the most amongst New Zealand players and trailing only Waratahs flanker Michael Hooper (139) and Lions number 8 Warren Whiteley (a staggering 188).

Additionally, Cane's 97% success rate - having only missed four tackles all season - is the best amongst all Super Rugby players to have attempted 60 tackles or more.

On the opposite end of the scale, two surefire selections for the World Cup will have to step up defensively when they pull on the black jumper.

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Savea has been the worst Kiwi tackler in the competition to date, making just 56% of his tackles - well below his career rate of 73%. If he continues at his current percentage, it will be the third worst tackling season of any Super Rugby player since 2006, ahead of only Willie LeRoux's 2014 season (53.2%) and Phillip Burger in 2007 (50%).

Worst tackling percentages in Super Rugby (minimum 15 tackles attempted)

Meanwhile, McCaw's usually excellent tackling percentage has fallen from being consistently above 89% to a pedestrian 83%, a figure that is more concerning with context - the worst percentage held by a Kiwi loose forward or flanker this season.

Implementing a slightly arbitrary cut-off of seven games played to garner a solid sample size, statistics were scoured to reveal the best and worst Kiwi tacklers at their position, with several surprising results being uncovered.

Tackling In Super Rugby: The Elite and The Ordinary

Sam Cane has been the best Kiwi tackler in Super Rugby this season.

Prop

Elite:

Angus Ta'avao - 95.2%

Ordinary:

Charlie Faumuina - 78.7%

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The Blues have the impressive distinction of having the two best tacklers at the prop position as well as the worst. Ta'avao is joined by Ofa Tu'ungafasi (93.8%) in wrapping up their opponents at position-best rates, while Faumuina has the worst numbers amongst Kiwi props.

Hooker

Elite:

Liam Coltman - 93.2%

Ordinary:

Ash Dixon - 81.2%

The Highlanders go from having the best tackler at the hooker position to the worst when Coltman comes off the field, although Dixon leads all Kiwi hookers in lineout throw success rate at 92%.

Lock

Elite:

Josh Bekhuis - 95.3%

Ordinary:

Mark Reddish - 83.9%

Although the Chiefs duo of Matt Symons (95.6%) and Brodie Retallick (35/35) have been the most statistically sound tacklers thus far, they both are hit with my arbirtary ruling hand of power, with Retallick not having played enough games and Symons suffering from the ignominy of being English.

With that in mind, Bekhuis just beats out Patrick Tuipulotu, while Reddish is two percentage points worse than Crusaders lock Luke Romano.

Loose Forward Trio

Elite:

Akira Ioane - 97.9%

Elite:

Sam Cane - 97.1%

Elite:

Callum Gibbins - 96.9%

Ordinary: Gareth Evans - 82.6%
Ordinary: Richie McCaw - 82.8%
Ordinary: Jordan Taufua - 84.9%

Cane is joined by fellow no-nonsense flanker Gibbins in having extremely productive tackling campaigns, while Iaone has missed just one tackle in his 427 minutes of action. In fact, all of the John Kirwan's favoured loose forwards have been excellent tacklers, with Luke Braid (94.9%) and Brendan O'Connor (93.9%) coming in at fourth and fifth respectively.

TJ Perenara's tackling has improved markedly in 2015.

Halfback

Elite:

TJ Perenara - 94.2%

Ordinary:

Jimmy Cowan - 67.7%

Perenara's defensive work has been outstanding over his first 10 games in Hurricanes colours this season, being much improved on prior seasons, where he tracked below 80%.

On the opposite end, Jimmy Cowan's defensive skills have declined, with this campaign being the first season where he has been below a 78% tackling percentage. Aaron Smith's defence has also paled in comparison to Perenera, coming in at 68.3%.

First Five

Elite:

Damian McKenzie - 90.6%

Ordinary:

Ihaia West - 74.4%

Although McKenzie leads, Daniel Carter also has a strong case to be the best defensive number 10 in the country, tracking at 88.9% on a much bigger sample (81 attempted tackles to McKenzie's 32) despite spending significant time at second five-eighth.

Winger

Elite:

Cory Jane - 94.6%

Ordinary:

Julian Savea - 56.4%

Note to attack coaches gameplanning against the Hurricanes: Attack down Savea's wing.

Always a strong tackler, Jane is having another stellar defensive season, making Savea's inefficiencies even more glaring.

Centre

Elite:

Charlie Ngatai - 96%

Ordinary:

Francis Saili - 64.2%

Ngatai's case an All Blacks callup is becoming as strong as his defensive efforts this season, while Saili's downhill slide has resulted in him missing the most tackles out of any Kiwi this season, with 24.

Saili's midfield partner George Moala has been much more sound (91.5%), but Malaki Fekitoa's offensive performances are slightly negated with his below-par defensive season, succeeding on just 71.8% of tackle attempts.

Fullback

Elite:

Charles Piutau - 86.8%

Ordinary:

Tom Marshall - 77.1%

After struggling in his first two seasons, Piutau's last two campaigns have been impressive, whereas the versatile Marshall lags behind the positional average.

For all the latest Super Rugby stats go to: nzherald.co.nz/rugby/statscentre