Sunday, 1 July 2012

A Tale of Two Squads

Every week I compile these game stats and I look at them wondering what other tales they might tell. Certainly 2012 has already been a great year for the Chiefs ... but it’s been a Barry Crocker for the Blues. These two teams are the bookends of the New Zealand Conference.

One thing that I noticed doing my weekly game charts was that when I had to update the starting XVs for each game, the Blues always took me longer to do. They were constantly changing their starting line-up, not just in terms of completely swapping out players each week, but also the way the midfield, back three or loose trio was constantly being shuffled around. It made me ask “Does Pat Lam actually know what his best XV is?”.

I get the ‘horses for courses’ thing, how different opposition or game plans require changes ... and naturally some of these changes will be down to down to injuries, or players just not being available (e.g. Nonu being in Japan early on).

However, when you contrast the two teams through the 16 rounds so far, and you will notice the difference immediately. Those long lines of solid colour indicate the same player, playing the same position in the starting XV each week. The more names in each vertical coloumn shows how many players were being rotated in each game ... and Lam’s line-up for each kick-off almost looks random in places.

The Chiefs on the other hand had virtually constant combinations at lock and 10/12. The Blues? They’ve been operating a hop on/hop off system like a South London Routemaster bus.

How does an attack get to gain fluency and understanding with each other if they don’t get the chance to develop combinations? And how is a defence supposed to cope if you don’t recognise the bloke outside you?

This ain’t science. Its not exact by any means. I compiled similar tables (not yet finished) for the Hurricanes, Crusaders and Highlander, and they too show a lot more consistency in their starting Xvs, allowing players to bed down, and for experienced players to remain in teh line-up as newer players were blooded.

At the Blues, I don’t see this. It backfired, and I don’t think they stood a chance accordingly.

No comments: