MONEYBALL STRATEGY: Best Bok XV
OPINION: @rugby365com contributor Ryan Grant thinks he has found the perfect formula to select the ultimate Springbok XV.
I will take you through my chosen line-up for the best Springbok XV in history, using the ‘Moneyball strategy’ to select the players in their individual positions.
For those of you that don’t know, or haven’t seen the movie, the Moneyball strategy comes from the 2011 movie based on Michael Lewis’ book, The Art of Winning an Unfair Game.
The book details the Oakland Athletics baseball team and their 2002 season managed by Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt). The team has one of the smallest budgets in the league, which prompts Beane to enlist a young Yale economics graduate to use data and analytics to pick a team that can win games.
Despite a successful season, the Oakland Athletics eventually lost on their way to the title.
However, the innovative decision making and newfound way of selecting players made the rest of the teams take notice.
Using the Moneyball strategy is an effective way to beat the system in terms of using statistics to see who the best players out there are for the value of their money.
These players with the best stats should do enough for your franchise to win it all. The Moneyball strategy doesn’t only look at the biggest names out there, but rewards those with brilliant stats that will do their team/franchise the job.
For our Moneyball strategy, we have used three statistical elements per position and from those three elements, we have selected what would in our opinion, be the best Springbok team in history.
The major limitation when applying the Moneyball strategy to the Best Springbok XV is the nature of statistics in South African Rugby.
There are more statistics readily available for modern players when compared to the legends from generations past.
Below you will see the three elements I have selected which I think are the most important elements for that specific position.
There are many different ways to select a team and many different stats that can be taken into account when making the selection but I have used what I believe are the most important stats to get a winning team. Let us know in the comments below what stats you think you’d include or what your team would be.
That’s the best part, you can decide what makes the best team, as long as you can back it up.
Below, I have listed what it is I am looking for that I believe would make the team enjoy the greatest success.
1. Matches won for SA (52)
2. Minutes played for SA (2726 minutes)
3. Played the full 80 minutes (13)
My tighthead prop needs to be a strong prop that leads from the front. My tight head must also be an exceptional scrummager, along with experience and can go the full distance. There is only one man that comes to mind.
My ultimate loosehead prop must be a powerful scrummager and would like him to be mobile on the field on and off the ball. This decision was one of my toughest picks but we went with the big man himself.
1. Most games started for SA (94)
2. Throw-in percentage rate (82 percent)
3. Win percentage as SA Captain (72 percent)
My hooker needs to be the powerhouse upfront, that has a deadly accurate throw-in at the line-outs. I would also want my hooker to be at most rucks contesting for the ball and just making it tougher for the opposing team. This was a tough call, but we had to go with one of our faithfuls.
1. Number of starts for SA (121)
2. Number of wins for SA (79)
3. Line-out steals per game (4)
My locks are a very important selection for my ultimate team as I believe a good lock can change the game at line-out time. A brilliant line-out winning and stealing percentage along with making tackles and being mobile for the time he is on the field. As all of you know, the Springboks have been blessed with some of the best locks ever but I had to go with these two legends according to stats and the Moneyball strategy. These two together would actually be scary for the opposing teams.
1. Average gain per carry (1.9 metres)
2. Successful tackle percentage (90 percent)
3. Number of successful offloads per game (7)
My flanks are the two players that I focus on immensely and is one of my first picks when selecting a team. Good flanks change the game in so many aspects from big hits to steals to just irritating that flyhalf (cough cough George Ford). Again, SA has been blessed with loose forwards but the two flanks with some of the best stats and my picks are these two legends. They will do the job for me and I know they will give their all.
1. Average gain per carry (2.7 metres)
2. Successful tackle rate (94 percent)
3. Defenders beaten per game (6)
As mentioned above, No.8 is obviously included in my loose forwards and this is a vital pick for me which took very long to decide as the Springboks have been blessed with some many great number 8’s. The two men I was seriously battling between is the Lion himself ‘Duane Vermeulen’ and the powerhouse ‘Gary Teichmann’. The man I went with is purely just based on the Moneyball strategy and what would fit best for the starting line-up.
1. Winning percentage (72 percent)
2. Number of tries (16)
3. Passing success rate (87 percent)
My scrumhalf needs to be the fittest person on the pitch mentally and physically. My ultimate No.9 must have a bullet pass both ways. This man must be able to lead his pack in front of him and then dictate the backline from the get-go. According to stats and my personal pick, this was a no brainer and that’s no offence to all the greats that we have had but the No.9 is the man himself bringing trophies home.
1. Most points scored in one game (31)
2. Fastest Springbok to reach 700 points (62)
3. Consecutive successful conversions (41)
My flyhalf is literally the first pick I make when selecting a starting XV. This position was a difficult one to fill as we have some incredible No.10s with some breathtaking stats. Our ‘Liefling’ is the man that has the best stats that crushes most flyhalves in the world. He is a point-scoring machine and will win you games and for a great flyhalf can win or lose you the game depending on how he plays as this is the general of the game. Tactical kicking and successful passes are also very important as the best 10 and this man deserves this jersey.
1. International Rugby Player Of The Year (2007)
2. Most tries scored in a World Cup (8)
3. Winning percentage rate (83 percent)
These two flying machines need to be powerful on their feet and need to have good defence out wide. My wings need to be explosive and have a good rugby brain to finish the tries off. SA has been blessed with some of the best wings in the world but according to the Moneyball strategy and my personal picks, I had to go with these two GOATS of the game. They were both just so successful for the Springboks and did our country proud.
1. Most capped Springbok centre (94)
2. Tries scored for SA (27)
3. Tries scored per game percentage rate (79 percent)
My centres need to be powerhouses in the mid-field whilst causing chaos for the opposing team. I also would want my ultimate centres to have insane vision and just play their hearts out with a clever rugby brain. The two men that will be selected here have some of the most incredible stats and the No.13 is probably the best we have ever seen some say. These two men together would be illegal as I don’t think opposing teams would be able to handle these two together.
1. Points scored for SA (115)
2. Number of tries scored (10)
3. Rugby World Cup-winning rate (100 percent)
My ultimate fullback must be the man that leads everything from the back. He needs to be reliable under the high ball and as a coach, you want your No.15 to have brilliant vision and kicking vision. My fullback also needs to understand the game of Rugby and have a high rugby IQ to know when to join the line or not. This was a particularly tough pick but because the way the team got picked, I did not need a kicker and went with one of the best ever fullbacks and this man even played a Test match with a broken hand at the back.
Now that you have a better understanding of how I will be selecting the best Springbok XV using the Moneyball strategy; Let’s get right into it!
MONEYBALL SPRINGBOK XV:
15. Andre Joubert
14. Carel Du Plessis
13. Danie Gerber
12. Jean De Villiers
11. Bryan Habana
10. Morné Steyn
9. Fourie Du Preez (vice-captain)
8. Duane Vermeulen
7. Pieter-Steph Du Toit
6. Andre Venter
5. Victor Matfield
4. Frik Du Preez
3. Jannie du Plessis
2. John Smit (captain)
1. Os Du Randt
This Springbok 23 man squad is just special and would bring many trophies home if they could play together. These are some of the best players that the Springboks have ever produced and their stats are here to prove it.
16. Uli Schmidt
17. Tendai Mtawarira
18. Mark Andrews
19. Schalk Burger
20. Joost van der Westhuizen
21. Naas Botha
22. Jaque Fourie
23. Percy Montgomery
This powerful bench that is so clinical in so many aspects just adds that much more spice to the squad. I wasn’t going to originally add in a bench but I found it difficult to choose between some of the legends so I had to create a bench so that you and everyone could see as these players deserve to be on this sheet as well.
Using the moneyball strategy was such an awesome task and I highly recommend all of you to do one. It is a lot of fun and for all us Rugby lovers out there, doing these type of researches is always interesting and picking such a powerhouse team is just inspirational to see as the Springboks have produced nothing but magic and special players!
In conclusion, the Moneyball strategy is by no means a foolproof way to win games and the eventual title, whether it is the elusive Webb Ellis Cup or a domestic league championship. What it does do is give you a different perspective on what makes a team successful if you have nothing but statistics to go on. With the world of live sport standing still for the most part, what better time than to look back at the greatest players in South African History.
This is the Moneyball Powerhouse that will be unstoppable in my opinion. I would love to hear your thoughts and what elements you would focus on to pick your ultimate Moneyball team? Feel free to make one and post it here. I love engaging with the Rugby brains out there.
By Ryan Grant
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