The Toyota Cheetahs are averaging a massive 50 points per game at home thanks to a rousing unbeaten start to this season’s PRO14 Rugby Championship that sees them topping the competition stats in several categories.
And while South Africa’s other franchise in the PRO14, the Isuzu Southern Kings, may not have tasted victory just yet, a statistical analysis reveals that they aren’t far off the pace, and surprisingly have the best lineout in the competition.
The three wins from three in Bloemfontein has seen the Cheetahs emerge as the early pacesetters in their conference but there are some question-marks ahead as they leave Tuesday to take up their next challenge of three games in the European autumn season, and very different conditions to their games thus far.
Their attacking mantra has seen the Cheetahs score a plethora of tries during their campaign so far, with fullback Rhyno Smith topping the try-scoring charts after three rounds with five tries, one ahead of team-mate and hooker Joseph Dweba. Winger Anthony Volminck’s three tries also feature on the chart with flanker Junior Pokomela grabbing a mention with two.
Understandably so many points also see veteran captain Ruan Pienaar top the point-scoring table with 38, while another South African – Edinburgh’s Jaco van der Walt is third with 29. The Kings’ general Demetri Catrakilis isn’t far behind with 27 points after three games.
Smith (267) and Volminck (262) are second and third in the metres gained respectively behind Dragons’ Jordan Williams with Cheetahs duo both at the top of the clean break table with nine breaks each.
The carries stat looks like a who’s who of South African talent with former Cheetahs and current Scarletts flanker Uzair Cassiem topping the table with 42 carries while Smith is just behind on 38 alongside his team-mate Tienie Burger. Munster flanker Arno Botha has 34 ahead of the Cheetah midfielder Benhard Janse van Rensburg and the Kings’ JT Jackson (both on 32).
Edinburgh’s Duhan van der Merwe, the winger-brother of Springbok Akker van der Merwe tops the defenders beaten chart with 19, followed by Williams and Smith (16) and Volminck on 15. Cheetahs flyhalf Tian Schoeman has eight offloads, three more than any other player in Pro14.
When it comes to the setpiece, the Southern Kings reign supreme, with Robbie Kempson’s side taking 96.15% of their lineouts and losing just 0.7% of their lineouts per game. The Kings’ may be struggling a bit to close games out, but their setpiece is one of their assets this season.
The Kings are also the team that infringes the least in the competition, averaging just seven penalties per game, with Cardiff Blues the worst at almost 13 per game. The Kings also have the most possession of any team, averaging 19 minutes of ball in play per game, more than any other side in the competition and underlining Kempson’s view that the team is improving, but need to find a way to turn possession into points.
And while statistics will look a lot more realistic once the two South African teams return from their three weeks in Europe, the two sides are certainly holding their own, and excelling in certain quarters, against the rest of the PRO14 field, which is good news for their respective coaching teams.