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Bok still the #GOAT of URC

STAT ATTACK: Steven Kitshoff’s arrival at Ulster has grabbed the headlines and the World Cup-winning Springbok is certainly making his mark.

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The new Ulster prop remains at No.1 in the updated URC Top 100 – the ranking system which reflects performances across the URC, EPCR competitions, World Cup and international rugby.

He was top of the pile back in September when the table was last published and he’s held on to that position on the back of his contribution to South Africa retaining the World Cup and his performances for Ulster.

The former Stormers loosehead is the latest Test star to lead the way in the Top 100, following in the footsteps of fellow Springbok Eben Etzebeth and Leinster hooker Dan Sheehan.

The top five positions are once again all occupied by forwards, as was the case in September.

Young Benetton flank Manuel Zuliani is in the second spot, with Wales World Cup captain Jac Morgan having shot up from 39th to third.

The ever-consistent Sheehan lies fourth, with prop Ox Nche fifth, closely followed by his Sharks pack pal Etzebeth.

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Bulls wing Canan Moodie is the highest-placed back in seventh, while the leading Scottish performer is new Six Nations co-captain Rory Darge.

The top 20 features seven South Africans, six Irish, three Scots, three Italians and one Welshman in Ospreys flank Morgan. There are 16 forwards and just four backs.

What is the StatMaster xP?

Powered by the StatMaster xP algorithm, the Top 100 identifies the most valuable performers across the 16 URC teams by analysing every match they have appeared in during the last 12 months.

Then StatMaster applies an “expected points” (xP) algorithm to each event in those games. Like “expected points added” (EPA) in the NFL and “expected goals” (xG) in football, this revolutionary new stat measures the impact each player has on his side’s chance of scoring. It is based on the idea that rugby is a team game and while the player who slots the ball through the posts or touches it down deserves plenty of credit, so do the 14 others who helped create that opportunity.

For example, a player can gain points by doing things that increase his team’s probability of claiming the next score, such as crashing past defenders, nailing a 50/22 kick, earning a scrum penalty or even winning a crucial turnover on his own try-line.

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On the other hand, if he makes a costly error, he can lose points. Crucially, the algorithm adjusts for lots of match factors, including a player’s position, his location on the field, the phase type, the time on the clock and the quality of his teammates and opponents.

All this allows URC StatMaster to give the most accurate data-driven estimates of how much players are currently contributing to their teams.

The ratings can also be broken into skill types, so you can look at the best prop at scrummaging, the best flank at defending, the best flyhalf at goal kicking or the best wing at carrying.

All the ratings have been scaled so an average URC player scores 80, with the very best performers in the league reaching over 90. As an illustration, Kitshoff is on 96.2, with his nearest rival Zuliani on 95.8.

As the season progresses and players shuffle in and out of the Top 100, StatMaster will be on hand to analyse the biggest movers and shakers.

Bok still the #GOAT of URC

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