With the help of Oval Insights, Ross Hamilton looks at key areas for South Africa and New Zealand
On the day of the game you may be wondering where World Cup final analysis might take us. A rivalry like no other, the biggest prize in rugby – how can you possibly prepare for New Zealand versus South Africa?
Well according to analyst Ross Hamilton – with the help of rugby data specialists Oval Insights, you start with the semi-finals.
Against England, the South Africans had to deal with a World Cup high of possessions kicked – a whopping 93%. The English, you’ll see, made up three of the top five for kicks in play for games in the tournament (not including last night’s third-place play-off).
But England also made zero line-breaks against South Africa. The Boks ensured that England had a terrible ‘red-zone efficiency’. This was the first time a team in this World Cup had made zero breaks.
Then, of course, we get some scrum context.
England only conceded three scrum penalties all tournament – and then in the last 23 minutes of the semi-final against Ox Nche and South Africa, they conceded four, bang, bang, bang.
Only France had forced more scrum pens until the Bomb Squad hit the semi-final.
Where World Cup final could take off
If you look at the two teams meeting and where World Cup final key clashes are, it’s a case of looking at red-zone efficiency in attack and defence.
The All Blacks are the best at this World Cup, statistically, for defending in their own 22. But by the tiniest margin compared to South Africa. In short, “They’re just as good as each other there,” says Hamilton.
“However, offensively, New Zealand have been on a different planet.
“So that could be the difference. Have South Africa faced a team that are going to be as clinical as New Zealand?”
New Zealand throw things at you all game, Hamilton explains. After two emotional, draining, savage knock-out rounds, the Springboks will need every ounce of energy they can muster.
But Hamilton adds: “South Africa are typically not great at half-time. They were down against Ireland, and lost. Down against France, won by a point, down against England, won by a point. So just scraping by.”
New Zealand, as you’ll see above, accelerate through the second-half too. And factor in the ball-in-play times. So in the two knockouts, the Kiwis were happy to rack. up phases either side of the ball. Think of their 37-phase defensive stand against Ireland.
As Hamilton asks, will South Africa be able to live with the onslaught the All Blacks bring? It’s a hell of an ask, when players like Mark Tele’a are beating 11 French defenders and the team are happy to have 40+ minutes of ball-in-play.
But then this is South Africa. If any team knows how to grit their teeth and grind, it’s them. The question Hamilton poses is: Will that be enough?