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How the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific finalists stack up statistically

By Ned Lester
Marcel Renata of the Blues. Photo by MICHAEL BRADLEY/AFP via Getty Images

The Chiefs and Blues have returned to Super Rugby Pacific’s big dance, and yet more history awaits on the famed field of Eden Park.

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It’s a grand stage only they and the Crusaders have shared since the competition’s expansion into the Pacific, and both teams take those respective final experiences, in all their sourness and growth-inspiring beauty, into a mammoth showdown on Saturday night.

The first title of a new era in Super Rugby will be witnessed by a sold-out crowd at Eden Park, no doubt with plenty of Chiefs fans making the drive north to lend their voice to the sweet Super Rugby Pacific final soundtrack.

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Here are four areas of analysis to know ahead of the final:

Points per game: 34.9 and 34.9

Yes, just two total points separated the Blues (488) and the Chiefs (486) in their regular season tallies, despite the Blues claiming three more wins over that period, including one contest between these two heavyweights to end the regular season.

The Blues got their points by leading the competition in carries (135.3 per game), keeping the ball in hand to score the most tries (5.1 per game) this season.

Mark Tele’a was second only to Brumbies bull Rob Valetini in carries throughout the 2024 campaign (158) and Hoskins Sotutu currently shares the most tries title with Sevu Reece (12). The No. 8 also boasts the third-most try assists this year with eight.

The Chiefs, thanks to their kicking ace Damian McKenzie, made their mark off the tee, where they took the second-most penalty attempts (1.5 per game) with the third-best accuracy in the competition (79.2%).

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Head-to-Head

Last 5 Meetings

Wins
4
Draws
0
Wins
1
Average Points scored
27
14
First try wins
80%
Home team wins
80%

Defence wins championships

The Chiefs learnt a valuable lesson in 2023 en route to a final loss at the hands of Scott Robertson’s Crusaders, that being a regular season-best defence doesn’t necessarily translate to a playoffs-best defence.

The Blues’ defence has been infamous in 2024. The Aucklanders held their opponents to 16.6 points per game throughout the regular season.

The game that preceded this season’s effort was a semi-final elimination where the Aucklanders let in 52 points to the eventual champions. So far in the playoffs, they’ve conceded just 25 points in total.

For the Chiefs, their defence hasn’t been on the same level as the Blues, but one must keep in mind the 40 points they have conceded in the playoffs to date have come against two more potent attacks. Just half a per cent separates the pair’s tackle success rate this season.

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Dalton Papali’i leads the way for the Blues with 200 tackles on the season heading into these playoffs and just 12 misses, also boasting 12 dominant tackles.

Papali’i’s Counterpart Luke Jacobson has had the most impact on defence for the Chiefs, with 186 tackles, 14 of which were dominant and with 18 misses. Fellow flanker Samipeni Finau also has 14 dominant hits to his name – a number of which have famously been worn by opposing first fives.

What may separate the two is Papali’i conceding less than half the number of penalties that Jacobson has, while playing a very similar amount of minutes. Jacobson is the second-most penalised player in the competition this season.

Situational strengths and weaknesses

The Chiefs have found the most success attacking off turnovers, while the Blues are most lethal off counter-attacks. The Blues’ defensive strengths appear to be better suited to their opposition in this regard.

The Blues are as likely to score after seven phases as they are on their first, while the Chiefs become incrementally less likely to score as the phases progress, scoring 40 per cent of their points on the first phase.

The Chiefs follow a similar pattern defensively, with fewer tries scored against them when higher in the phase count. The Blues show consistency on that side of the ball.

Both teams are very consistent when it comes to scoring throughout the game, showing a mild preference for the first and third quarters.

Defensively, again the Blues appear to have the upper hand in that regard, with their record on the season proving they are more capable of repelling efforts in the Chiefs’ most favoured time blocks.

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Game breakers galore

The impressive aforementioned carry statistics from Mark Tele’a only paint so much of the picture when grasping what the Blues attack has produced in 2024.

1,380 carry metres have come from those 158 carries, with 17 linebreaks and 58 defenders beaten. Those stats fall short of the man on the other wing for the Blues, Caleb Clarke.

Clarke’s offseason work was summarised by a headline-grabbing weight loss, projecting more pace from an already explosive athlete. In 2024, the All Black has lived up to that expectation.

While playing fewer minutes than Tele’a and with fewer ball carries, Clarke has managed to contribute 19 linebreaks for a total of 1,441 carry metres. And yet the 16 tries between them only marginally edges the remarkable tally of the resurgent Sotutu.

That’s because this forward pack is moving as a powerful organism, swallowing defenders in tight around the ruck with rapid pick-and-go’s courtesy of physicality and execution when recycling the ball – a 97 per cent ruck success rate testifies to that.

As the team have found a rhythm and confidence in this system, the opportunities to halt this tsunami of All Black muscle have been all but squashed, along with many, many opposing forwards.

However, the Chiefs have been here before.

While two tries in the opening five minutes of the semi-final gave the impression the Hurricanes were caught off guard, the team had specifically identified how the opposing loose forward trio for that game looked very different to the one they played in round 14 and posed a significant, new threat.

So, even with that emphasis in the scouting report, Samipeni Finau, Luke Jacobson and Wallace Sititi were able to inflict their will in the capital.

The strength and work rate of the trio stressed what had been a Hurricanes back row without peer for much of the earlier rounds of this season, and the challenge for the pack gets no easier this time around.

In the outsides, one mustn’t look far to find international quality, with Damian McKenzie leading the competition in total points (172) in fewer minutes played than anyone else in the top five, thanks to a competition-best individual success rate off the tee (86.4%). McKeznie has also had by far the most kicks in play this season (153).

Etene Nanai-Seturo is second only to Tom Wright this season in metres carried, boasting 1,593, while Wallace Sititi averages the most meters per 80 minutes with 120. Nanai-Seturo and super sub Quinn Tupaea join the No. 8 in the top five there. Sititi also leads the competition for the average number of carries per game with 16.2.

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1 Comment
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swivel 20 days ago

Game played pretty much exactly as described

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