Rugby Thoughts – Is rucking so last year?

Last weekend I noticed that the Stormers had 100 rucks to the Chiefs 60 and it triggered something that I’d been thinking about for a while. Are the top New Zealand teams avoiding rucks and can we see that in the stats?

For years now we have heard commentators talking about using the offload to break through defences. The reason for this is that quick front-foot ball is the nirvana of attacking rugby & an offload is the ultimate quick ball. Also how do you solve the problem of a pilfering Pocock? Simple, don’t have a ruck for him to pilfer from.

So after the Stormers v Chiefs game ended with 100 rucks to 60, I reached out to my friends at the Front Row Podcast to get some stats.

Here is the data that they came back with:

Rucks

Runs

Runs/Ruck

Rank

Blues

1261

1634

77%

15

Chiefs

939

1411

67%

2

Crusaders

920

1421

65%

1

Highlanders

859

1289

67%

3

Hurricanes

1167

1596

73%

8

Brumbies

1231

1545

80%

17

Waratahs

1095

1524

72%

5

Rebels

1261

1561

81%

18

Reds

1137

1518

75%

11

Force

1223

1596

77%

14

Stormers

1103

1444

76%

13

Bulls

1019

1374

74%

9

Cheetahs

920

1340

69%

4

Sunwolves

1182

1526

77%

16

Lions

1187

1593

75%

10

Sharks

876

1202

73%

7

Jaguares

1074

1488

72%

6

Kings

958

1274

75%

12

The Crusaders, Chiefs and Highlanders are the sides that have the fewest rucks per run that they make. This is unsurprising due to the high octane rugby that they play looking to keep the ball alive. That the Cheetahs are the only other team to get under 70% was surprising.

That the Waratahs were ranked higher than the Jaguares who were trying crazy offloads at times well most of the time was another surprise. The Sharks came next but they were also the team that ran the ball the least which suggests they either never got hold of it or kicked the leather off it.

Our 2 finalists in the Hurricanes and Lions were middle of the pack in 8th and 10th. Does this mean that they have the best decision making or is it a style thing? The Canes were the top defensive side and so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that they are further down than the other New Zealand sides. The Lions might have a more Kiwi style than the other teams but they are still a South African side.

At the bottom end we shouldn’t be surprised to see the Brumbies who went into their shell as the season went on. They hardly ever spun the ball wide and when they did they lacked invention so running into contact is expected. I’m a bit surprised that the Rebels were the absolute bottom team. Their back play hasn’t been great but that they are below teams like the Kings and Force who were limited is poor.

This has just been a fun look at one stat and doesn’t tell us that much in isolation. Still as more teams look at the Kiwi sides as an example of how to play, I think that we are going to see the % of runs ending in rucks come down.

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