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Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Super 14: Spears on the right track

Most people will agree that a 48 – 0 drubbing is quite significant in rugby and that you probably only had one team on the field, but then, that is most people.

If we take a look at the match statistics from last Saturday’s game between the Spears and the Cheetahs, it paints a slightly different picture though and one that might make some people think twice before they condemn this team.

There seems to be a feeling that these warm up games against the Spears are nothing more than big unions pulverizing the Spears to confirm what most people advocate, they are not good enough.

I agree, they are not good enough, yet.

The Spears and Pieter de Villiers are using these games for exactly the same reason the other teams are, to see where they are, and to see what they need to work on.

The following stats will reveal what I believe Pieter and his team need to concentrate on in the next couple of months, and believe it or not, it is not much judging on these figures!

Pieter also has a full year to work on these areas, Rassie, and the other teams, has less than a month to sort their problems out, and believe me, there are some.

The most pleasing fact about last week-ends game was the penalty count. In all, 17 penalties were conceded and surprisingly enough, the most were conceded by Rassie’s men.

For me it is not only the fact that you concede penalties that should worry you, how you concede them is as important if not more important.

An area which the Spears were expected to suffer was also the area they conceded the most penalties in, the ruck and maul situation. Now we have to remember these youngsters, who got together only a month ago, were up against one of the best packs in the country. The same pack that not only contained the Blue Bulls in the Currie Cup final, but also dominated them at stages.

The Cheetahs have been together for a while, and you would expect them to dominate almost any team in South Africa in the tight phases of the game and in broken play.

For any team to dominate or even just be competitive in tight phases like scrums and line outs, you need two things, some old heads in the tight 5 with loads of experience, and a structure or game plan that you are well drilled in. This the Cheetah boys had and it showed. They stole 50% of the Spears’ ball at line out time and won two scrums on the Spears’ ball.

For a team to be effective in the tight loose, you need ‘streetwise’ loosies who are quick around the park. This the cheetahs definitely have with guys like Juan, Ryno, Kabamba and the likes.

Unfortunately for the Spears, this is the area they suffered in most and also conceded the most penalties, eight to be exact. Since most teams look to use these areas as bases for attack, it is easy to see why the Cheetahs enjoyed the majority of possession.

A feather in the cap for the Spears though is that this is the only area where they conceded penalties, the Cheetahs however conceded one at scrum time and 4 in general play, so adding the four they conceded at the ruck and maul situation, they conceded one more penalty than the Spears (9). What must be worrying to Rassie is that they conceded four in general play - something they can ill afford against Super 14 opposition.

Another highlight for Pieter and his team, even though it meant their downfall, is that turnovers were also only conceded in these areas of play. I say highlight because I believe it is not that difficult to fix. However, with the Cheetahs relinquishing 66.7% of their ball in general play is concerning.

Conceding turnovers and penalties in tight phases comes down to experience in my view. Pieter and his team now know that this is an area they are seriously lacking, and should obviously work hard on getting this right. A couple of signings into crucial positions in the tight 5 will change the complexion of this team completely.

The Spears conceded possession 16 times in line-outs, scrums and tackle ball situations. If they half that statistic before the start of the Currie Cup they will do well.

The turn over statistic shows a lot of promise for the Spears ability to play the game. In general play they only conceded 7 turnovers, to the staggering and worrying figure of 14 by the Cheetahs. As with the penalty count in this area of the game, Rassie must seriously address this issue before they take on Super 14 teams.

Pieter de Villiers and Spears fans will be heartened by the guts and determination the young guys showed. With a staggering tackle count of a 158 tackles made by the Spears to the mere 62 by the Cheetahs, shows you Pieter has already instilled a 'never say die' attitude within his team.

Looking at the difference in tackles however will teach us nothing new, we know that because of their forward dominance the Cheetahs will do all the running and the Spears most of the tackling, but two things are very important to take out of this.

Firstly, the Spears’ success rate on tackles are brilliant. To tackle for most of the game and walk away with an 86.3% success rate is one hell of an achievement. It is in fact higher than the Cheetahs success rate of 84.9%.

Secondly, the fact that the Cheetahs conceded the most turnovers and penalties in general play, tells me the Spears not only stopped most things that came their way, they did so effectively and transferred the pressure right back onto the Cheetahs team.

Taking into account that the Cheetahs also conceded 4 penalties (almost 50% of their penalties) on defense, shows you that there is not much wrong with the Spears’ attacking capabilities as well.

In conclusion before I present you with some match statistics, I believe Pieter de Villiers and the Spears boys should not look at the score and think they are out of their depth. Yes they have a long road ahead of them but it will take small adjustments to see huge improvements.

It is very simple to conclude the Spears need to secure more possession in order for them to dominate more. It is not nice tackling for 80 minutes of a game and it should be the management and administrators priority to strengthen their forward resources.

As mentioned earlier, a few hard men with experience in the tight 5 could make all the difference. This would put both their loosies and backs on the front foot to attack more and also be more competitive at the tackled ball and ruck situation.

Rassie will need to look at a couple of areas himself if he wants to push a competitive team into the Super 14.

With all the domination they enjoyed up front, 9 penalties of which 4 was in general play is not good enough. Even worse is the fact that they conceded possession 14 times in this area of play too, and it will be of great concern to the Cheetahs’ magician, but I am sure he has already started working on this.

Some interesting game stats:



• Apart from the halfback (which is to be expected) combination Bevan Fortuin passed the ball the most out of all the Cheetahs – 9 times

• Willem de Waal was the stand out player in meters gained (130) and just lost out to Ronny Cook on crossing the gain line (Cook 6 De Waal 5) and Barry Goods in breaking tackles (Goodes 3 De Waal 2).

• Cook was the second most successful player in meters gained – 94 with Fortuin on 81.

• As we would expect, Juan Smith lead the way in the forwards with 94 meters gained, 2 tackle breaks and crossing the advantage line successfully 3 times. Hat-trick hero Kabamba Floors was very impressive with 74 meters gained, 1 tackle break and crossing the advantage line an impressive 7 times.


• McBean was by far the leading Spears backline player having a crack at the opposition 8 times and gaining 96 meters in the game.
• The exciting captain and loose forward of the Spears, Ashley Johnson, had a crack at the opposition 11 times and gained an impressive 84 meters during the game for his team.

Dollie kicked the ball 7 times in play to the 13 of Willem de Waal.



• Nell just pipped Juan Smith and Kabamba Floors in the tackle count by making 8 tackles in the game to the other two’s 7.
• However, Nell, with De Wall also missed the most tackles but luckily for the Cheetahs it was only 2 each. Floors and Smith had 100% records.


• The lock forward Combrink, held the tight 5’s name high by making and impressive 17 tackles in the game and only missing one.
• As expected a lot of players have a tackle count of more than 10 with Combrink, Wakeling (15), Raubenheimer (13) and Reid (12) leading the way.
• The biggest culprit in the Spears team was Dollie with missing 5 tackles. An area I am sure De Villiers will spend a lot of time on since it is an important channel.

Line Outs


• The Cheetahs was awarded 12 line outs of which they lost only 2.
• They also managed to poach 6 of the Spears’ line out balls.


• The Spears also being awarded 12 line outs lost 50% of their ball on their own throw to the Cheetahs but managed to steal 2.


• There were 48 scrums awarded 24 to each team. The Cheetahs won all their own ball and managed to get a heel against the head 4 times.

Total tackles during the game

220 (158 made by Spears 62 by the Cheetahs)

Missed tackles

36 (25 missed by Spears and 11 by Cheetahs)

Penalties conceded while on defense

Cheetahs – 4
Spears – 7

Restart success rate was a 100% by both teams.

Total turnovers in the game

43 (23 won by the Cheetahs and 20 won by the Spears)

Total penalties in the game

17 (9 conceded by the Cheetahs and 8 by the Spears)

A special thanks to Mr. Tony McKeever, CEO of the Spears & TWM Tolbos for providing the statistics of the game.

Well this definately puts the game in perspective. The Spears doesn't look that bad and the Cheetahs to take a serious wake up call from these. They are actually in teh same boat as the Spears when it comes to the S14. Although they have a few old heads in the T5.

Must say now I am looking forward to the stats after the Cats and Stormers games. Still got the feeling that the Spears might surprise someone.
Where's OO

I actually think that if this was the CU in top gear then Rassie might as well concede now and give the Spears chance to prepare for next year.

The Cheetahs missed tackle count is 17%. Try play with a stat like that against the Brumbies and see what happens to you!

Concede 20 turnovers against the Crusaders and see where you get too!


I disagree about CU

If this was their top gear then Rassie is not sleeping well at the moment.

As for the Spears.

Well done. Just a bit of fine tuning and people will be eating their words with a healthy dose of humility.
And CU mustn't think that Ryno and Kabamba are going to have as easy a time as what they did against the Bulls against the speedsters in the antipodeans at turning over at the ruck/maul. The other issue being that the antipodeans offload in the tackle.


Very worrisome.

The Spears may just need a bit of a steadying influence in the lock / prop departments to come right in the forwards. Once they have a steadying old head they may just amaze all and sundry. I wonder if Old Cobus Visagie is available. Or Selborne Boome

It would be brilliant if they could get Cobus in a Mendez type of role involved this year during the CC.
That's why I mentioned it donner.  
no i agree davids,

by no means could this be the cheetahs in top gear.

but the fact is we are now only weeks away, not months, for rassie to sort these problems out.

14 turnovers in general play!!! the rockoko's and howletts will eat you alive.

also their missed tackle count as you pointed out, is not good. remember this is a team that has been together for only a month and for them to find any gaps against our CC champs should be of concern.
the centers and de waal's breaks and meters gained is a good sign though.

pieter will need to work on dollie's defense though.

I think Dollie will get to grips with his defence.
Shit still wanted to add.

I would rather take a flyhalf that is a bit suspect in defense, but absolutely brilliant in attack and tactical play.
I think you're all being a bit kind about the Spears. I'm sorry but the "yes we got problems, but so have the others and they are going to be found out in a month's time whereas we have a year to put it right" doesn't hold much water.

Fact is that the Cheetahs have a number of experienced and talented players who have proved themselves at various levels. Their past achievements suggest that they can get it right in a couple of months, whereas there is little evidence that the Spears have that ability, even over a year.

As Thomas Bacon said: "Hope makes a good breakfast but a poor dinner."

This is a excellent site with great potential; let's try not to turn it into a Spears cheerleading site. It could get ugly.
I am sorry but I fail to see the hype about the Spears. They are going to embarrass SA Rugby in the S14 like the Bulls did a few moons ago. The only difference is that the Bulls always had potential with the history of NT rugby, but the Spears has nothing. Sorry Kandas, I have been following your comments on Keo as well since last year, but I am afraid to say that they are going to make your name Kiepie. I am not excited about them at all. Stats Schmats. Like Boy Low used to say "Just looks at the scoreboard.  
il postino

I agree with you totally and coming from me that might be a surprise. However, there is a lot going on at this stage with regards to the Spears and the whole relegation issue.

We are currently busy establishing links with influential people from the other Unions / Franchises as well. If only they were so open in also giving us info and stats like we are receiving from the Spears at this stage.

Furthermore, there really are a lot of people wanting this region to succeed.

Watch this space though. A lot will be forthcoming from the other Unions as well as Clubs / Unions from all over the World.
il postino,

i agree, the spears have nothing to suggest they will survive in next years S14 let alone be better than the current crop.

like kandas mentioned, we get alot of info form these guys hence we publish it, next week we will hopefully have another major union from up doing exactly what tony and the spears are giving us.


tell rassie stats smatch!

the purpose of this article was to illustrate the spears, although very little at this stage and with no depth in crucial positions, are not as bad as everyone suspects or expects.

it also highlights what we believe areas rassie needs to have a serious look at.
meant to read "another union from up north"  
Howzit all

Who was the video tiffy at Spears?

just joking

PA so I take it that you did not see the game at all?

It would be interesting to see the full states wrt turnovers- was it a general problem ea seven key players each knocking the dall twice of 3 main culprits

I do not know- as not even the SABC wanted to touch the game

Stats have this tendency to be manipulated, so Cheetahs if you were as bad as these stats and the interpretation dictates- well 10 feb is not an eternity- but then you only 80 minutes of commitment to make a name for yourself.

I woulf really love to see footage of this game myself- but then by Saturday it is not as important and by Super 14 time- it may be irrelevant

Grom saam Go Cheetahs Go S14

I am sending you the stats for your own interpretation. Although we all know that PA's analysis is correct. :)


It's not to challenge you but I think OO will see your point.
Evening OO,

Been quiet this week hey.

I don't think is is doom and gloom, but just interesting stats.
Yip, het 'n tiff met 'n niersteen gehad

Ek laaik dit as almal die Cheetahs afskryf- pas ons goed-
Dan drink jy definitief te min.  
Sal maar werk daaraan moet nou eers die manne laat slaap


jy lees my arti verkeerd man.

die cheetah boys was by verre die beste span op die dag.

maar as jy dinge in konteks lees (as jy n cheetah of spears supporter was) is daar n paar dinge waarna beide Rassie en Pieter moet kyk.

die Spears se gap is in hulle voories, en veral die tight voories.

Rassie het n moer goed voorspeler groep, maar die feit dat hulle meeste besit en strafskoppe in die ope spel afgestaan het moet die area wees wat Rassie na moet kyk.

persoonlik dink ek die game teen die Force die naweek sal ons n baie goeie idee gee van waar Rassie en die manne is.
Any indication of what the possession stats was? For argument sake and just to prove how useful stats sometimes are, I worked on the number of tackles as an indication of the possession, based on that the Cheetahs had +/-70 of the possession.

That equates to 56 minutes with the ball in hand if we for this argument take it as only 80 minutes.

Now the interesting bit, in total that means a turnover every 2.8 minutes in the case of the Cheetahs and every minute for the Spears. If we take the ‘worrying’ turnovers in general play it looks like this, every 4 minutes for the Cheetahs to 3.4 for the Spears.

I would suggest a much more worrying aspect is losing 50% of your lineouts and 4 heels against the head in the scrums!

A potential problem for the Cheetahs may well be the number of penalties conceded but do we know if there were any specific instructions to the ref? Now before all scream foul, it has always been the norm for the ref to be extra harsh during these warm-up games in the past so Rassie and co could well have asked him to be very strict on them…nothing lost if not a learning experience.

One last point, the Stormers/WP have been struggling to get a decent pack on the pitch for the last 5 years!!! Should I believe the Spears will be able to do it in one…personally I am not holding my breath.

If I was Tony and you Kandas I would not so easily pi** on the other franchises. You mat well need them in future.

good points and the way you explained the stats it is very worrying.

i know the penalties is a situation we should not read to much into and some coaches did instruct referees in the past (which is stupid in my view).

on the tight five issues of the Spears, as with any union, you need guys to buy into your business. the Spears needs money and they need a sponsor that will give that to them. with money, they can easily approach overseas based players and offer them contracts, the likes of sowerby, boome, visagie, hallstead, etc. experience like this will be crucial for them if they want to succeed, but it all comes down to money.
Morning everyone

Yesterday I trapped on Stormers toes.

Toady I select......

OO's Cheetahs
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