Lions win the stat battle

Date published: July 27 2016

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 12: Elton Jantjies of the Lions looks to pass during the round three Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Lions at Rugby Park on March 12, 2016 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by Rob Jefferies/Getty Images)

As the Lions and the Highlanders battle it out at Ellis Park this weekend for a spot in the final let’s take a look at each side’s statistics.

The Lions and the Highlanders each have their own unique set of strengths.

The Lions have been the best running team of the competition, setting the field ablaze every time Elton Jantjies sees signs of a slight opportunity to unleash his backline. The Lions rank first in defenders beaten and metres run in the competition statistics.

The Highlanders are no strangers to some electric running rugby but have made a strong kicking game their flagship strategy as they kicked the most from hand this season. With quick wingers and Lima Sopoaga’s educated boot, they have gained success through putting various sides’ under pressure and capitalising on their mistakes.

Attacking stats

The Lions are the clear winners when it comes to attacking, running rugby. When comparing their metres made, the men from Johannesburg have taken the 1813 metres as opposed to the Highlanders 1644 metres. The Pride of Jozi have beaten 434 defenders while the men from Dunedin have accomplished almost half that amount with 287, showing the latter are beating their defenders with kicks into space rather than the Lions’ fancy footwork.

Defensive stats

Their ‘D’ stats tell two very different stories as the Highlanders have missed 335 tackles this season compared to the Lions 261 but the Highlanders have made 1990 tackles compared to the Lions 1395, showing the Highlanders have based their success on playing without the ball and needed to defend more in general.

Key match-ups

Elton Jantjies v Lima Sopoaga

The battle of the fly-halves will take centre stage in the semi-finals. The kicking finesse of Sopoaga will come head-to-head with the attacking artistry of Jantjies. In terms of individual points scored, the Highlanders 10 edges Jantjies, but only just, as the former scored 171 points to Jantjies’s 165. Sopoaga scored four tries to just beat out Jantjies who scored two, while they have both landed two drop goals but Jantjies beats the Highlander with two-pointers with 40 conversions to Sopoaga’s 32.

Ruan Combrinck v Waisake Nahaolo

Even though Naholo has played less than half the minutes that Combrinck has due to re-injuring his leg, the Fijian born flyer has been just as potent a finisher as he scored seven tries, with Combrinck scoring eight. Combrinck has been elusive this year as he beat 48 defenders to Naholo’s 17 and has had 28 clean breaks to Naholo’s 15.

by Nicholas McGregor

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