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South African kickers are tops!

Written by Richard Ferguson (Richard Ferguson)

Posted in :Original Content, Reader Submissions, Super Rugby on 2 Jun 2011 at 08:18
Tagged with : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The best kickers in Super15 are South African! This is according to our good friends at, who recently wrote an article specifically looking at the kicking at goal percentages in the Super Rugby season so far. Enjoy!

When a South African Super15 team runs out onto the playing field you can bet one thing, they have brought their kicking boots and have their radar going.

Earlier in the week I did a piece for an Australia website ( and it was evident that the South African kickers are the best in the competition, not only as a group but largely as individuals. It seemed only fair that I should craft up a piece that recognised that kicking prowess.

So for this piece I want to look at two things, difficult and form. I’ve have been tracking the kicking stats for all the kickers in the competition, have a kicking database of ten years with the spots they are taken from, including conditions, ground etc.

I also want to show any difference between conversions and penalties. There are not enough drop goals that have occurred to be able to have an useful analysis.

As I said in my roar piece difficulty certainly comes into it. There was a classical examples in the weekend that highlights this really well. Take Aaron Cruden (Hurricanes) and Elton Jantjies (Lions), both 100% from their six attempts in Round 15. Statistically, taking into account difficulty of each kick, Janties had the harder kicks as only 7% of the world’s professional rugby kickers could have repeated the same feat (My twitter follower would know this). On the other hand Cruden’s kicks were largely out in front so 23% of the world’s kickers would have got those. While both got 100%, incorporating difficulty, Jantjies, was the better of the two kickers. You would hope that if Cruden was planning to be back-up for Dan Carter he would be doing this every week.

Difficulty can also play a part in the confidence of the kicker. Also in the weekend and to my surprise there was such a case. Sias Ebersohn first penalty kick probability of success was 17%, but he was asked to take it instead of the Cheetahs risking their poor lineout security. I was questioned Smit at the time down the television screen but surprisingly got no response. Asking Ebersohn to take the kick was also puzzling as Riaan Viljoen tended to take the longer kicks at the start of the season.

Arguably Ebersohn missing that first penalty impacted on confidence and could have been behind his surprise second kick miss (which had a success probability of 95%, due to its proximity to the posts).

To look at form we need to only look at the regular or established kickers. Over a season you should get a good, possibly an even, distribution of kicks to analyse. I also want to compare conversion as well as penalties.

Looking at conversions first the South Africa conference lead conversions with 76% (122/160) well over New Zealand 68% (109/161) and Australia 65% (94/145). Again not surprise to see who the top three are competition conversion kickers are South African, Peter Grant 91% (10/11), Ebersohn 90% (27/30) and Patrick Lambie 85% (22/26).

The rest of the South African kickers are mixed in with kiwis, as the top six then goes Blues’ Luke McAlister 83% (20/24), Crusaders’ Dan Carter 82% (18/22) and Morne Steyn 80% (28/35). The best Australian is Waratahs’ Kurtley Beale 8th with 73% (19/26).

It’s a bit tighter when you look at penalties by conference as South Africa just leads with 74% (193/262) over Australia 73% (167/230) and New Zealand 68% (173/256).

What surprised me was that despite a lot of Australian forum criticism Matt Giteau is leading the competition when it comes to penalties at 88% (30/34). Cruden is tied for the 2nd spot with Peter Grant (Stormers) both on 84% (16/19 and 31/37 respectively). Cruden is a little mis-leading as in the middle of the competition he was coming off the bench and getting penalties towards the end of the game where teams tend to sticking to the middle of the field.

Rounding out the top ten is Jantjies 82% (23/28, but is 56% or 10/18 in conversion if you were wondering), Steyn 80% (36/45), Rebels’ Danny Cipriani 77% (20/26), Hurricanes’ Kirkpatrick 76% (19/25), Lambie 75% (30/40) Force’s O’Connor 75% (45/60) and Carter 74% (26/35).

One could argue the neither Cipriani or Kirkpatrick are likely to kick again in the competition so should be removed as I stated I was only counting regular kickers. Good argument so I’ll leave you to do the maths of what that means for the South African kickers. Ebersohn is in 12th with 73% (29/40).

Putting them together Grant leads with 85% (41/48), Steyn 80% (64/80), Ebersohn 80% (56/70), Lambie 79% (52/66), with Giteau rounding out the top 5 with 78% (46/59).

So good form might mean a kicker gets tougher kicks, which then impacts on form. Possibly that is what happened to Ebersohn, and certainly I think James O’Connor (Force) is asked to kick at the end of his range because he has been able to get the tougher ones.

By my analysis difficulty is game by game and form is over a competition. Looking at form the South African kickers have this and are able to mostly address the difficulty as well.

Should be an interesting last couple of rounds, tri-nations and some other tournament in September.


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