Scoring drought? Super Rugby teams must keep try-ing

CAPE TOWN – Why are we seeing fewer tries being scored in Super Rugby?

Following round 8, stats on stuff.co.nz showed that not only has there been a dip in tries scored, but also a decline in stats like clean breaks and defenders beaten.

The 2019 stats are roughly the same as in 2016 – the season after the last World Cup. In a World Cup year we’re seeing the same trend.

About a third of the way through the current season, teams have scored 294 tries, averaging 6.39 five-pointers per game…the lowest average in the last four years.

Could this be because franchises have shifted their focus to more Test-style rugby (or at least some of those franchises, like the South Africans) ahead of the Japan spectacle?

Could the absence of some individual stars thanks to workload management be a factor

Does the fact that the number of teams have been reduced play a role (as in there are fewer mismatches or fewer easier games)?

In theory, it could. But last year, when the competition went from 18 participants to 15, the tries kept going up (ending at 7.28 per game, that’s a 12.23 percent drop in tries from last year to the current mark).

Or, have better-organised defences played a role?

B19CWSS46B - Scoring drought? Super Rugby teams must keep try-ing
Solomon Alaimalo of the Chiefs in action in the match against the Bulls in March. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Linespeed has moved closer to becoming the focal point in recent years. Teams have invested more in the tactic and we’ve seen how it can be used as a weapon to not only halt opposition attacks by cutting down space and reaction time, but also to go from offence to defence when that pressure forces the opposition into making mistakes.

The growing application of the defensive tactic has also seen attacking kicks being used more, more dinks into space.

Will that ultimately mean a drastic decrease in ball-in-hand time as teams will opt to boot the ball over the defensive line more regularly? Perhaps. But the game is ever-evolving, and there will always be new ways to deal with it.

Teams also fan out into the defensive line quicker after a breakdown, with some committing fewer numbers at ruck time and instead rushing into the defensive wall. Through that, those unexpected early-phase tries will probably also be seen less, and teams will struggle to gain front-foot ball with linespeed waiting to get involved.

It’s unlikely that matters in the try-scoring department will pick up from here. Fatigue will set in, and a lot of teams will in all likelihood take on a more conservative approach when the business end of the competition approaches. So maybe those try-scoring stats will keep on dropping. Hopefully it doesn’t.

One of the things that makes Super Rugby so super are some of the logic-defying and often anti-Test rugby tries. And if it’s courtesy of the evolution of linespeed, that’s great.

But tries are where it’s at. So here’s to teams coming up with inventive ways of making sure they celebrate on the other side of that solid defensive line. World Cup year or not.


@WynonaLouw


Cape Argus

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