Super Rugby play-off no. 1
Super Rugby play-off no. 1
With the final round of the regular season behind us, we have the 6 remaining teams. The 4 teams heading into the play-offs are determined to make it to the semi's. Who has the best chance? What are the stats head-to-head? And what can history tell us about the results coming on Saturday?
When looking at the first match of the play-offs, we see the Bulls travelling to Christchurch. These 2 teams have 10 championships combined and are the most succesfull teams in the competition. During the years of Super Rugby, dating back to 1996, the Bulls made the play-offs 6 times in total. They met the Crusaders in 4 of those 6 seasons. These 2 teams have a huge play-off history between them. Will this affect the teams in the build-up towards this play-off? Let's see and find out.
This Saturday will be the 5th play-off match between the 2 teams, but only the second one being played in Christchurch. In 2006, the match in Christchurch was an easy victory for the hosts as they thrashed the Bulls 35-15, with 5 tries to 2. Some of the players who were playing in 2006 are still with the teams. The Bulls still have Wynand Olivier, Morne Steyn, Pierre Spies and Akona Ndungane, while the Crusaders still have Wyatt Crockett, Corey Flynn, Richie McCaw, Andy Ellis and Dan Carter in the team. The Crusaders went on to win the title a week later, defeating the Hurricanes at Jade Stadium.
The other play-off matches between the two were all played in South Africa, though not all were played at Loftus Versfeld, but I will get onto that in a minute. In 2007 the top 4 was made up of 2 South African sides and 2 New Zealand sides. Again, the Bulls and Crusaders played against each other, this time in Pretoria. 53,000 people showed up for the match, but it ended without a single try. 27-12 was the final score, with a drop-goal by Derick Hougaard being the only open play-score. The Bulls went on to win the title a week later, by a controversial last-minute try by Bryan Habana, a moment that all South Africans will remember for years to come. They beat the Sharks, in Durban and became the first South African side to win the title.
While the Bulls missed out on the play-offs a year later, they were back in 2009, and so were the Crusaders. The Crusaders have not missed the play-offs since 2001, when they ended 10th with only 4 victories. Back to 2009. The Crusaders again had to travel to South Africa. It was the year of NZ club rugby, with 3 NZ teams in the play-offs. The Crusaders played their hearts out, but again lost to the Bulls. This time 36-23 and with 5 tries overall, it was a lot more entertaining than 2 years earlier. The Bulls went on to win the title, for the first time at home, beating the Chiefs with 8 tries to 2.
The last time the 2 teams met in the play-offs was a year after that. The Bulls and Stormers were topping the log as numbers 1 and 2 and both had matches at home. The Bulls had to divert to Soweto, playing at Orlando Stadium. This was due to the fact that for the FIFA World Cup all stadiums used had to be handed over to the local organisers 15 days before the start of the competition. with 3 tries each, the Bulls had the better kicker in Morne Steyn, slotting 6 penalties to give the Bulls a 39-24 edge over the Crusaders. Again, the Crusaders fell short against the Bulls. The Bulls, yes, you've guessed this right, went on to win the title a week later against the Stormers.
So basically, if history repeats itself, the winner of this clash will win the Super Rugby championship. Will that happen again this time?
So what are the stats for both teams? Well, the Crusaders have a winning ratio of 75% when they reach the play-offs. In the 16 years of Super Rugby, the team has won 18 matches and only lost 6, 3 in the final, 3 in the semi's. Yes, the 3 in the semi's were all against the Bulls.
The Bulls have less experience with play-offs, but what is their ratio? The Bulls have won 6 and only lost 3 play-off matches in their rich history. This gives them a winning ratio of 66%. The 3 matches the Bulls have ever lost in the play-offs were against the Crusaders (2006), Waratahs (2005) and Blues (1996).
A lot will of course depend on the form of the day. In the match-up during the regular season there was an eye-gouching incident. Both Chiliboy Ralepelle and Flip van der Merwe claimed they were the victim of eye-gouching. Jaco Peyper, the referee, showed a white card but no player of the Crusaders was found guilty. However, it does bring that extra spark to the match-up.
Who will win on Saturday? Will the Crusaders beat the Bulls in the play-off for the first time since 2006, or will the Bulls finally manage to win a play-off match away from home?
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17-07-12 09:16 AM