As the Reds approach their first Super Rugby final, there are a few areas of concern for Link and his coaching team.
The first area has to be the scrum. In the regular season in 2010 and 2011 the Reds managed to win 94 per cent of their own scrums. However, in both years when they played the Crusaders that fell to 83 and 8o per cent respectively. Granted, that doesn’t look like much of a drop, but it’s still one scrum against the feed per match, and with that sort of advantage the Crusaders could really sting the Reds.
Over their two games in the finals the Crusaders have won 100 per cent of their own scrum feeds and 27 per cent of the opposition’s. Last week their scrum destroyed the Stormers’ unit, so they’re in good form. The Reds and the Blues both won 100 per cent of their own feeds so at least the Reds held their own, but they face a much stronger challenge this week. In their 2010 game against the Crusaders the Reds fed only six scrums, and in the 2011 game that number was just five. The Reds will be looking to minimise that number again this week.
The next area of concern will be the lineout. In the regular season in 2010 and 2011 the Reds managed to win 75 and 87 per cent respectively of their own lineouts. That 2011 figure is actually above the Crusaders’ season average of 80 per cent and the competition average of 82 per cent. However, in both years when the Reds played the Crusaders that winning percentage fell to 57 and 83 respectively. By contrast, the Crusaders’ percentage won went up both times they played the Reds. In the 2011 game the Crusaders won all of their lineouts and three of the Reds’ throws.
So now we all know what the Reds forwards are working on this week — well you probably already knew — but here’s some game footage to remind you of the challenge posed by the Crusaders in these areas.
[youtube width=”600″ height=”450″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7dn9rBHvhI[/youtube]
The next area that needs to be managed by the Reds is their kicking in general play. For most of this season the Reds have been the team that’s kicked the most in the competition (they were overtaken in the last two rounds by the Waratahs). The Reds kicked on average 24 times per game and averaged 734 metres gained per game kicking (an average of 31 metres per kick). The Crusaders kick on average 20 times per game and averaged 701 metres gained per game kicking (an average of 35 metres per kick), so the two teams are quite similar according to the numbers.
However, it’s my impression that the Crusaders are probably more of a field position team when they kick, whereas the Reds aim more kicks in behind the line or across field trying to regain possession. Over their two finals games the Crusaders have kicked an average of 30 times per game for an average of 936 metres per game (an average of 31 metres per kick). That’s a 50 per cent increase in the amount of kicking and looks like a plan for finals rugby. Against the Blues the Reds kicked 28 times, a 17 per cent increase over their season average, with their metres gained at 797 (an average of 28 metres per kick).
Normally the Reds’ kicking is very good but in their last game against the Crusaders at Suncorp their kicking was quite poor, particularly in the second half when they gave a lot of easy possession back to the Crusaders. The kicking game against the Blues last week was quite good, so let’s hope that performance against the Crusaders was just a bad afternoon.
The last area of concern is Quade Cooper’s goal kicking. While the Reds have averaged a 72 per cent goal kicking success rate in 2011 compared to the Crusaders with 71 per cent, it’s a different story when you compare Quade Cooper with Dan Carter: Cooper’s average is below the 70 per cent mark while Carter averages in the mid-70s.
In the first two finals matches Carter has averaged 79 per cent, whereas Cooper only kicked 3 from 7 (43%) against the Blues last week. In the Reds’ 2010 game against the Crusaders at Suncorp, Cooper kicked 8 from 11 (73%) while Carter kicked 4 from 5 (80%). In the 2011 meeting, Cooper kicked 3 from 6 (50%) and Carter kicked 4 from 5 (80%).
Even more worrying is that in the 2011 game, Cooper missed one from nearly in front when it bounced off the upright —something he repeated last week against the Blues. I don’t know whether Cooper’s problem is Suncorp or nerves or playing in the big games, but the Reds need him to be on-song this week. The good news is that he kicked the one that mattered to win the last game against the Crusaders.
The following video shows you some of the footage of the kicking issues facing the Reds.
[youtube width=”600″ height=”450″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2Sy0GfplMk[/youtube]
Tomorrow I’ll have an analysis for you of the things that should make Link and all Reds fans smile, and then on Friday I’ll have my analysis of how each team will play the game. By then I should even be ready to make a prediction as to who will win the final.