If history is anything to go by, the South African challenge for the new Super 15 trophy will be a 3-horse race.
‘Tell me something I don’t know,’ I hear you say, but upon looking at the new format, I realised that South African results achieved in South Africa will become hugely important in this year’s competition.
By now I guess we all have a basic understanding of the format of the competition – if not, let me give you a quick overview.
In total all teams will play 16 games in the round robin stages, from a South African perspective, 12 of those 16 games will be played in South Africa. Of those 12, 8 will be played at each franchises home ground.
For example, the Sharks will play 12 games within South African borders this year. Eight (8) of those games will be played in Durban (each SA franchises once and 4 games against NZ/OZ teams). The remaining 4 will be played in Cape Town (Stormers), Bloemfontein (Cheetahs), Johannesburg (Lions) and Pretoria (Bulls).
That means a total of 75% of games they (and any other SA franchise) will play, will be in South Africa!
This prompted me to look back in history a bit, and look at each team’s record against every other SA franchise, home and away, and their overall record of home games played.
For the purpose of the exercise, I did not go back more than 4 years in the local derbies, as that would have meant totally different teams and players almost, but as for overall home records against all teams, I took their entire history into consideration.
The local derby records are somewhat predictable as you would imagine, with the Bulls leading the pack by some margin. Their home and away records against all SA franchises in the past 4 years reads 88% win records home and away, with their only away loss coming last year when their second string outfit lost in Cape Town, and their only home loss coming in 2008 with the Sharks beating them in Pretoria.
The Sharks follow the reigning Super rugby champions with a home record of 63% of games won against other SA teams where losses in Durban in the last 4 years coming against the Bulls (twice) and Cheetahs. Amazingly, they have a better record at other venues in SA with a record of 75% of games won elsewhere in South Africa, only losing in Pretoria and Bloemfontein once in the last 4 years.
The bridesmaids, or Stormers, stumbles into 3rd position, winning 63% of their home games against other SA teams but only managing to win 38% of their away games against other SA franchises. A frightening statistic if you are a Stormers fan is that they have not managed to win in Durban or Pretoria in the last 4 years and only managed to beat the Cheetahs once in Bloemfontein.
As for the Lions… Well let’s just say that their only success against other SA teams in the last 4 years was when they hosted, or travelled to the home of the Cheetahs, with the latter also coming in well under the 50% margin success rates on both counts.
Respectively, with overall (home and away) records against other SA franchises the Bulls (88%) and Sharks (69%) stands head and shoulders above the rest. The Stormers with 51% might upset the applecart to knock one of those two teams off the top 2 spots in the conference, but that is only going to happen if the Cheetahs repeat recent results and upset the boys from Durban.
Another influencing factor will also be how each SA franchise does against the 4 NZ and OZ teams they will face at their home grounds.
When it comes to overall home ground success percentages, the race is surprisingly closer between SA franchises. The Sharks and Bulls are again leading but amazingly, they are inseparable with both teams winning a total of 60% of their matches at home since the start of the Super rugby competition.
The Stormers are not far behind with an overall home record of 56%. So in view of that, who these three franchises will face on tour and when NZ/OZ teams tour South Africa, might make a massive difference in the overall standings of the local conference log.
As with the local derby records, the Lions (34%) and Cheetahs (39%) is not really worth mentioning other than the possibility that they might help one of the top 3 franchises.
So if you are a betting man, history shows the smart money is on the Bulls and Sharks to make it through to the 6-team play-off stages. But then, when it comes to South African derbies, which will make up 50% of matches played, history means very little…