This week the stats select a Team of the Week based on the best individual performances by position in the last five years... and it is some team!
The fact that New Zealand has seven players in the team is indicative of their form in recent years including winning the last five Super Rugby titles. South Africa has five players including, two Lions who were part of the three-in-a-row Finals sequence [2016-2018], while Australia has two representatives and Argentina one.
Nearly every player scored at least one try in his best performance. Several players scored a brace of tries including Force fullback Dane Haylett-Petty, Highlanders wing Waisake Naholo, Chiefs scrum-half Augustine Pulu, Highlanders prop Aki Seiuli, Jaguares hooker Agustin Creevy, Chiefs lock Brodie Retallick and Lions flanker Kwagga Smith. Hurricanes all-action centre Ngani Laumape scored three tries in a superlative performance in 2019 against the Brumbies in Round 3. Laumape also beat six defenders, made three clean breaks and gained 162 metres from his 18 carries on the day.
Top try scorers in this category are Blues wing Rieko Ioane who scored four against the Sunwolves in Round 4 of 2019 and Stormers centre Huw Jones who also scored four tries. Jones scored his against the Kings in Round 17 of 2016 the most by an outside centre in a Super Rugby game in the last 10 years; Jones also made six clean breaks, two offloads, beat seven defenders and gained 118 metres from just 10 carries in what is statistically the best match performance in the last six seasons. These impressive stats make him the Player of the Week of this team.
Some other standout statistics include those of Pieter-Steph du Toit who won 13 lineouts (incl. 2 steals) against the Sunwolves in Round 12, 2016 to go along with his 10 tackles, three offloads, 17 carries, one try scored and the five defenders he beat on the day. Kwagga Smith gained 135 metres from his 12 carries against the Kings in Round 14, 2017 - only one flanker has made more in a Super Rugby game in the last decade; produced a try assist, beat seven defenders and made 18 tackles.
Not to be outdone Waratahs prop Sekope Kepu produced two try assists against the Sunwolves in Round 18, 2018 - only one other prop has achieved the feat in a Super Rugby game since 2015; Kepu also scored a try of his own, made seven carries for 31 metres gained, a clean break and six tackles in just 53 minutes on the field.
It is no surprise that Hurricanes and All Black Beauden Barrett [pictured above] features at fly-half. No New Zealand fly-half has made more carries in Super Rugby game in the last 10 years than Barrett's 21 against the NSW Waratahs in Round 10, 2015; he gained 176 metres in the process, scoring a try, beating eight defenders, making four clean breaks, kicking two conversions and not missing a single tackle attempt (9/9).
Opta Index: How does it work
The Opta Index allows genuine opportunities to compare and contrast both player and team strengths and weaknesses across Super Rugby, providing real insights pre-game as follows:
After every match Opta completes a video analysis of every touch of the ball. Each action in the match is awarded a points value depending on the relative importance of the action. So for example, a try scores more points than a tackle, but a player loses points for a missed tackle.
The points are then weighted against the score at the time when the action took place (higher points if the score is closer), the time in the match (higher points at the start of the match) and the position on the pitch where it took place (higher points for actions closer to the goal line).
The player is then given a score for the match by adding up all his actions while he was on the field. The total match score is then weighted to take account of the strength of the opposition so that performances across many matches can be judged fairly.