Hidden in the numbers: Who tops the charts?
South Africa tops the standings after two rounds of the Rugby Championship tournament – having won both their matches against Argentina.
However, that tells only part – and indeed a very small part – of the story.
South Africa’s success and the ongoing dominance of world rugby can be found in the parts that make up the Springbok engine room.
Yes, Handre Pollard kicked 19 points (five penalties and two conversions) in the 29-10 win over Los Pumas in Port Elizabeth at the weekend. Makazole Mapimpi and Malcolm Marx scored the tries.
In the first round, Elton Jantjies kicked 17 points (five penalties and a conversion) in a 32-12 win. Tries went to Aphelele Fassi, Cobus Reinach and Jaden Hendrikse (on debut).
Those scorers grabbed the headlines.
However, it is in the pack where the real stars were.
Rookie No.8 Jasper Wiese, who made his Test debut against Georgia last month and has only five caps to his name, is, without doubt, one of the unsung heroes of the convincing victories over the South Americans.
Ask the uninformed couch critics and they will readily tell he was ‘too quiet’ and ‘not physical enough’.
In short, he is not worthy of tying Duane Vermeulen’s shoelaces.
However, Wiese has made the most carries of all the players in the opening rounds, beat the most defenders and achieved the most metres carried.
Wiese, 25, started at No.8 in both Tests against Los Pumas – played 63 minutes in the first round and 51 minutes in Round Two this past weekend – 133 minutes.
He made 23 carries for 119 metres, with eight defenders beaten.
Wiese beat off the challenge of three Argentineans in carries – Santiago Carreras (17 in two matches), Guido Petti (16 in two matches) and Pablo Matera (15 in two).
His Bok teammate Lodewyk de Jager (14 in two) is in fifth place.
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And speaking of De Jager. The lock, who played his 50th Test this past weekend, topped two other key aspects of the game – line-outs won and tackles made.
De Jager, who played 80 minutes in the first Rugby Championship outing in PE and 63 in the second, won 11 line-outs on the Bok throw and stole two from the opposition.
He beat teammate Franco Mostert – seven line-outs from his 80 minutes in the second Test – into second place. Mostert did not play in the first Test.
De Jager made 27 tackles in his 143 minutes – beating off Los Pumas hooker Julian Montoya, 23 in 145 minutes, and Bok teammate Albertus Smith, 22 in 97 minutes.
Smith made 17 of those tackles in the first round.
It is in those numbers that you find the answer to the question: ‘Why are the Boks still winning with their 2019 recipe and doing so convincingly?’
It is the work ethic of the forwards – especially the loose forwards so many people write off as having ‘disappeared’.
In conclusion, it is worth having a glance at the stats of captain Siya Kolisi.
He made four carries, two in each match, made 15 tackles and won one turnover – a lot less seagulling on the wing and a lot more work in the close exchanges.