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Key defence numbers indicate who is SA's best

SPOTLIGHT: As the United Rugby Championship heads into its seventh round, it is the sixth team on the log that is currently rated as the top defensive team in the competition.


The Glasgow Warriors moved to the top of the URC table claiming their fifth win from six over the weekend.

However, they occupy the fourth spot defensively with 1000 tackles made, 74 turnovers lost and have won 45 turnovers.

Leinster recorded five wins and are second on the table with a point behind Glasgow on 25 log points following the victory over Munster, while the third-placed Bulls are a further four points back after a big win over Connacht.

The Bulls are the top performing South African team on the defence ratings. They have won 61 turnovers and conceded only the least among the top four (32).

Benetton edged to victory at Edinburgh and are one of five teams on 18 log points alongside the Scottish side, Connacht, Munster and Ulster.

What also sets these top four teams apart from the rest is their defensive abilities. Defence in rugby is a dynamic and critical aspect of the game, often determining the success of a team.


When looking at rugby from a statistical perspective, various metrics and data points can provide insights into the game.

It is interesting that the best defensive team in the URC at the moment is Benetton. While the Italians occupy the sixth position on the log with a total of 18 points, compared to Glasgow’s 24, they have only managed to score 10 tries to date and have conceded 15.

The team that have conceded the least amount of tries is Glasgow, while they have scored the second most tries (27). The most tries have been scored by the Bulls (31), currently third on the log with 20 points.



Key defence numbers indicate who is SA's best

Benetton haven’t made the most tackles (952) but they have won the most turnovers (50) which swings the defensive stat in their favour. Calum MacRae, former Edinburgh defence coach, is in charge of Benetton’s defence.


Key defence numbers indicate who is SA's best

Ulster, fourth on the overall log of points, has a success rate of 90 percent tackles with their 1103 but have only won 34 turnovers and lost 68.

Effective defensive tactics are not only about preventing the opposition from scoring but also about creating opportunities for turnovers and counter-attacks. A well-organised and disciplined defence is often a hallmark of successful rugby teams.

The other three South African teams have had a more torrid time defence-wise.

The Sharks, who recorded their first victory in the competition over the weekend when they beat the Dragons convincingly (69-14) after welcoming back their Springboks, are the worst off on the URC official stats page in terms of their defence, rated 14th out of the 16 teams.

The Lions are rated 13th while the Stormers are 12th. These two teams have both conceded 16 tries while the Lions have scored 21 and the Capetonians 18.

Great defenders have the ability to read the game, anticipate the opposition’s moves, and react quickly. This involves understanding the opponent’s patterns, recognising attacking cues, and making split-second decisions.

The best defenders in the world possess a combination of natural talent, experience, and a commitment to continuous improvement.

Currently, Cardiff’s Alex Mann is the top tackler in the competition with 81 tackles made. The Sharks’ James Venter is combined second with Ulsters’ David McCann on 77.

Interestingly the top five players with a 100 percent tackle rate are all Glasgow Warriors players.

Key defence numbers indicate who is SA's best

While a strong defence is crucial in rugby, it is not the sole determinant of a team’s success.

A poor defence can make it challenging for a team to secure victories consistently, but other factors such as attacking prowess, set-piece dominance, and strategic kicking can compensate to some extent.

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