How our flyhalves shape up


DavidS takes some measurements, gets a headache… and a surprise!

Last night a discussion started about stats for our flyhalves. Let’s have a look.

Okay so I decided to have a look at the last three games of SA sides and wanted to compare ours against Cooper and Carter… I mean let’s be honest… neither NZ nor Aus have the talent depth we do so they are pretty much tied down to who they can select as flyhalf… it’ll be Cooper and and Carter.

Okay so the graph works as follows:

Player name – tackles made – tackles missed – carries – linebreaks – passes – gainline % – meters gained – kicks# – kicking meters gained

I have averaged them out to get a “per game” average over the last three rounds.

That pretty much should be it for a flyhalf…

Morne Steyn 8 – 3 – 1 – 0,3 – 17 – 44% – 67 – 2 – 9 – 290

Josias Ebersohn 12 – 1,3 – 2 – 1 – 15 – 100% – 64 – 8 – 257

Butch James 6 – 1 – 3 – 2 – 17 – 67% – 87 – 7 – 320*

Elton Jantjes 16 – 3 – 7 – 2 – 21 – 100% – 120 – 9 – 354**

Pat Lambie 8 – 3 – 5 – 0 – 20 – 89% – 82 – 6 – 222

Peter Grant 10 – 3 – 4 – 0 – 22 – 50% – 84 – 8 – 261

I left out Lionel Cronje and Burton Frances. Elton Jantjes based on games he played in full, as is Grant and Butch on the single game he played as a flyhalf.

So what have we learned?

Tackles: Elton Jantjes makes the mos tbut Sias Ebersohn misses the least. Ebersohn shades it.

Carries, linebreaks, passes, gainline crossed %: Elton Jantjes stands out above the rest. He attacked the gainline the most, put whoever was with him or if he went himself across the gainline 100% of the time, made the most passes and averaged the same numbers as most attacking the gainline.

Kicking: Again Jantjes leads…

Geez this is awkward…

Other things:

Grant’s “short foot” is definitely a myth. Ebersohn’s “poor tackling” is a myth. And I think we can safely say Morne Steyn is not the force he was in 2009 and early 2010. Oh and Pat Lambie doesn’t look like he’s got a boom boom boot like some Natalians claimed.

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  1. And honestly I have not rated Jantjes in any way this season… he has REALLY not coped with the step up in my view.. he has looked like a baby bunny in car’s headlights… just in case the Lions accusations start…

  2. Reply to DavidS the ashamed Lion @ 12:07 pm:

    Ja, maar jy kyk nie meer Boswell en Wilkie nie.
    Jantjies was ‘n doring in daai game wat hulle in Oz gewen het.
    Het jy die stats hierbo self gelees, of net gelaai?
    Laat die eenoog Kapenaar nou vir ‘n Vaalpens moet opkom.

  3. Thanks DavidS – although all of us when the stats do not suite our point of view want to say – lies, damned lies and the stats.

    This did make for interesting reading. interesting – such a dead give away word – eish . . .

    Thanks great arti – well done !! Fark I enjoyed it !!!
    Maybe because it will pissss soooo many of us off I bwahahahaaaa

  4. Thanks Ollie – enjoyed Mind arti.

    Hehehe just wanted to refer you to MS arti as well.

    Valuable for me is what Mindcoach writes – and do not write.

    Working with Cricket, Hockey and Rugby teams this year – it is saddening that Derrick Grobelaar’s (ex-Bulls and Pumas lock) view of rugby-players in 2004 is still prevalent today – and that not much if anything has changed

  5. From what I can see is that there are 3 young flyhalves that should be hitting their peaks age wise for the 2015 RWC. Lambie, Jantjes & Ebersohn will probably all be fighting for the spot. All 3 seem pretty talented and show promise of being good 10’s.

    Not sure if there are any Wilkinson’s or Carters amongst them but they won’t be far off.

  6. Reply to DavidS the ashamed Lion @ 3:25 pm:

    I reckon we will know during next years S15 if he can shape up to the task. A lot will depend on him getting some confidence from a good team though I reckon.

    He’s playing in a losing team at a young age, if it doesn’t break him it will make him strong.

  7. Its hard for me to divorce the kicking 10’s from those few who dont do kicking duties.

    Having a 10 who you can count on to make the kick surely adds a lot of value to that player?

    Thus we could take Butch as main 10 last WC because we had Percy.

    This time any deficiencies in his game that Steyn might have is offset by his kicking stat in big games?

    I like Jantjies- honestly do. But with 70% kick rate the kid should not be allowed to even smell a bok jersey – especially not in a team that relies heavily on 3 pointers.

  8. also 3 games in the context of a season is not nearly enough to assess whether a player is a long kicker or a successful passer etc.

    Stats that I would like to see for a 10:

    1)when he passes, how much metres does the receiving player make? In other words, is he picking out the right players? Calling the right moves?

    2)how many kicks over 30 metres land up in the oppositions hands? Here a player like Grant in my opinion fails big time. Most kicks go straight to hand. Does he lack vision? Does he signal to the 15/14/11 with his body language to clearly that he is attempting to kick for territory?

    3) are is successful tackles head on tackles defending the opposition set piece or is it tackles where he sweeps the line to ground the opposition player? Amd how about his misses? In other words, can you depend on him to cover his channel or not?

    More subjective stats yes, but ultimately ones that matter far more than how many meters you gained on your kick?

  9. Yep Brendon… far more difficult to quantify a 10’s performance on stats available…

    Other than their tackling, conversion rate, line-breaks, handling errors, to name but a few…

    Much easier with forwards and non-kicking backs…

  10. Seeing as the stat gurus are around, show me also why my favourite 2’s, namely Deon Fourie and Strauss are not rated at all and Bismarck, Smit and Chilly are?

  11. I for one have always liked the look of Jantjies. i like what he does with ball in hand and yes his kicking is not great but like Butch, you can get someone else to do it for him.

    When larkham was 10 for the Wallabies you had Burke and Mortlock doing the kicking.

    Elston’s no Larkham you say! Sure, but he does have the ability to take the ball forward better than most flyhalves in SA, and for me that’s amazing. His decision making will get better with time and his kicking with practice.

    I’d put money on him developing very nicely over the next couple of years.

    Along with Gary Van Aswegen, who I also rate very highly.

  12. Reply to the cheetahs are pumas! @ 4:29 pm:

    Strauss has ranked the best hooker on ruggastats in two of his few games back… cannot say I’ve seen Smit rank there yet… Bismark has twice been the ruggastats form hooker… and I’m sure although his stats have been woeful all year… Ralepelle would have had his best game all season ‘according to his stats’… best work-rate I have EVER seen from him…

    Ruggastats not working currently so I cannot confirm that on Ralepelle… but then I do watch his game (and other hookers and flankers) on exactly those principles… a

  13. Reply to Boertjie @ 4:44 pm: He’s young though so i’m prepared to cut him some slack. He’ll get better and better IMO.

    Larkham (not that I want to draw the comparison) was also a bit inconsistant at first.

  14. Lions flyhalf stats was definitely a surprise.
    I’ve enjoyed watching Ebersohn this year. I don’t mean to be provocative with this but Steyn’s play is like watching paint dry. I guess it works if your pack is dominating and the backs are firing on all cylinders but is he considered the shoe-in choice for the World Cup?

  15. Okey this is interesting but maybe not a true reflection of whats happening, naybe we should have a look at the whole season if its possible. I thought ebersohn would be at the top, and I think if we take the whole season that could well be the case.

  16. Another thing is that makes Ebersohn good is his pinpoint tactical kicking which I think is not too inferior to Steyn. Im looking forward to the weekends bulls vs cheetahs.

  17. Reply to gsp27 @ 7:48 pm:

    Ebersohn has only played the last 6 games. Prior to this they favored Olivier at the Cheetahs. In this time however I believe he kicked 34 kicks and missed 2.

    Problem is Goosen is considered the true wunderkind at the Cheetahs but they play him 15 to make space for Ebersohn as well as compensate for not having Viljoen.

  18. Reply to gsp27 @ 7:48 pm:

    Okay I’ll try but I think it may skew a bit because of the number of games the players have played. Jantjes and Ebersohn having played far fewer than Lambie and Steyn for example.

    As I said

    Give me an idea of the stats you want to see and I can see if I can worek it out… may take a day or two cos I have a day job but I’ll get to it eventually.


  19. Reply to DavidS the ashamed Lion @ 9:14 pm:

    yeh very skillful – his long distance kicks is only part of his game. Doutb he will leave Bloem soon. Sorry.

    By the way your lions bought a brilliant bethlehem kid (hofman maritz) who also played sevens this year for SA and managed to fuck him up into obscurity quicksmart.

    Very pissed off at you lot. Learn to manage and develop players before your shake the checkbooks idiots!

  20. Ps: dont think Goosen can, he signed a five year contract with the cheetahs, think hes got two years left. And I think that with the Cheetahs hes got the best chance to move forward, look at jacques louis potgieters progress in the two years at the cheetahs, he was pipped at being steyns backup at the WC. Now he is nowhere, Goosen should bide his time, maybe start at inside centre like Carter and then force his way into the flyhalf position. But SA has a lot of potential springbok flyhalves who are young now which is a very good sign for the future!

    Well we can make it the players should have played at least 6 games to be considered, but put in stats for the whole season. The same as you’ve already shown with conversion rate. Put in the stats of Carter, Cooper and James O’Connor in too please if you can.

  21. Last thing I see jantjies leads the kicking metres but the lions doesn’t score the amount of tries the Cheetahs,Sharks or bulls scores. So it can mean that he does kick more ball away. Then if we look at the amount off up and unders steyn and ebersohn kicks (tactical) it cant be too long. So metres gained doesnt really give a indication of how good the players kicking boot is. Maybe if we can see how many penalties or tries have been the result of a good kick? It will give an indication of who’s tactical kicking is the best.

    Haha but you really dont have too im just writing of what im thinking

  22. And to be fully honest we’re far shorter on decent 12’s and 13’s than flyhalves…

    I must say that at 12 we have a very threadbare cupboard (aside from Doppies La Grange whom nobody recognizes) and at 13 there is every reason to be very very very worried at the moment… no matter what people fantacize… there is Jacque Fourie… then a long space of daylight…. then the rest… and the rest are really not any good IMO…

  23. I’ll see what I can do on the stats issue…

    Let’s say

    O’ Connor

    Okay will have to wait cos it’s a laboirious operation… and I am working and writing three exams nexy week…

  24. Its fine. Will be an interesting read.

    The centres is a big worry, no one really excites me, Rob ebersohn has potential but lacks pace, Sadie looks good aswell, but theres no other young number 13s. At inside centre we have juan de jong. But as you said the centres is looking scarce except if we can lure frans steyn back

  25. Reply to DavidS the ashamed Lion @ 9:06 am:

    It all depends on the philosophy of the new coach. Do you use your backline as your main weapon to score tries or do you play a more 15 man game (as we have been doing since 2006).

    If we have say Heyneke as next coach, he will most likely not start Hougaard as 9, choosing instead someone more prudent, like Pienaar. From here everything changes.

  26. We have many talented 12’s and 13’s – we simply dont have many game plans to accommodate them.

    Hell even Corne Uys stands out at cheetahs due to them playing a game whereby the magic is expected to happen at the back, not among big ball carrying forwards.

  27. Reply to the cheetahs are pumas! @ 11:00 am:

    No shieldsie I have done a piece where I checked stats of the SA teams dating from readmission.

    I also included our “great” teams and the “not so great” ones.

    Remember that we showed that the 1937 / 1951 / 1980 / 1998 / 2009 Boks tended to score more or less an equal number of tries as a ratio between back and forwards whilst the most terrible lean years for us 1956 / 1966 / 1974 / 1997 / 2000 – 2003 showed a skewed ratio with the backs far oputscoring the forwards… but the Boks losing…


    That theory is dead as a doornail.

    No player is “just” for atacking or scoring tries.

    Every single player must be able to attack, defend and score tries.

    Then you have a potent Bok side…

  28. Reply to the cheetahs are pumas! @ 11:02 am:

    We have many talented 12′s and 13′s – we simply dont have many game plans to accommodate them.
    And too many forwards coming in their way –
    on the orders of the coach.
    Imagine guys like Spies and Schalk JOINING the line – in the way the blindside wing/fullback sometimes do.
    With half a gap they can create havoc.

  29. Reply to DavidS the ashamed Lion @ 11:27 am:

    Yes. The magic word is “tries”. They have to be scored. How many has NZ scored compared to us in the last 20 years? No matter how you score them, they need to be scored.

    bashing it up hoping for a mistake to then slot you a 3 pointer is not always going to work. As in 2010.

    Just going for tries without a reliable kicker also does not work.

    I still believe we play a game that is biased towards ball carrying forwards. Fair enough. But Digby Ione it seems makes so much more metres running close to the ruck looking for gaps. So too Aplon. Why dont we use this weapon more to create chances?

  30. Reply to Boertjie @ 11:38 am:

    dont the fat guys just love that 13 channel to loiter around in? Dont mind them being there, but cant they just be taught to stand back and act as sweepers in the move as opposed to trying to get their chubby hands on it?

    Maybe thats also why wings score so few tries nowadays. They receiove the ball from a slow poke with no skills.

  31. One guy that actually runs a lot is coenie oosthuizen, goose step or monster step he has it all! Maybe we should make him centre! Hahahaha

  32. Reply to the cheetahs are pumas! @ 12:17 pm:
    Dude this happesn to all teams on rapid close to the line attacks not just us… have a look a bit when you have a chance…

    E.g. the Crusaders lock and the Force lock who scored this past weekend were both “fatties” in the line close to 13.

    The problem is that as your attack swings left and right across the field players at the bottom of the initial ruck get left there and their only option is to stay in the line where they are because there is simply not enough time to run back and join the breakdown on the other side of the field 30 meters away before the ball comes out.

    The same especially applies to defenders who are often big hitting boys who are hen buried at the bottom of a ruck while it takes three seconds to “let the ball do the work” and move play 30 meters away across the field. If a turnover occurs this is where they are stuck…

    In fact training these days in coaching teaches these players HOW to utilize themselves best in this situation.

    E.g. at pace Coenie Oosthuizen vs Gio Aplon out wide…


    I don’t think we even need to complete that scenario and suggest a likely outcome…

  33. Reply to Boertjie @ 2:59 pm:


    Maybe the whole pack should be able to do just that- and thats maybe What CoachWhite reaLLy meant during the fetch the bEErs from th the fridge episode

    Interchangeable players with 80% similar skiLLset . Body type and 20 % aDDed skiLLs aLLows you to specialise and give reason for the number on your back.

    ea prop hOOker
    4 lock
    5 Lock

    BaRRing lineout jumping and throwing in- and some Skinstad like linking and pacey ruNNing like Kankofski- what skiLLs/ abilities does CoeNNie lack that is normaLLy aSSociated with the whole pack of forwards.

    Forwards are even more specialised than the backs- the backs requirements as a group should be even closer.

  34. Reply to DavidS the gloomy Lion @ 3:00 pm:

    no you are wrong. You need only a wing to tackle Coenie as his body mass on speed is likely to go downward.I bet at wing selfsame Aplon will be able to tackle Coenie without much fuss. maybe not from in front but certainly from the side – hell an ankle-tapp would suffice.

    Aplon on the other hand will run rings around Coenie everytime.

    Thats the part you dumb forwards dont seem to grasp…

  35. Look the reason why coenie is getting so much penalties is because he is everywhere, competes at the breakdowns, scrums, tackles etc he is like an extra loose forward

  36. Looks to me more like he’s being pinged come scrumtime…

    Not sure if that’s a good or bad thing…

    The top penalty conceders are all props though…

    Methinks those penalties are comin’ from refs who don’t know how to police three simple rules…

    I’m seeing an interview with Andre Watson coming up soon…

  37. Reply to DavidS the gloomy Lion @ 7:10 pm:

    He reminds me of the time I got chased by a white rhino.

    Sure he’s getting pinged at scrum time…..he’ll soon gain the necessary experience on how to make the ref believe it’s the other guys fault. laughawie: reffing at scrum time laughawie:

  38. Reply to DavidS the gloomy Lion @ 7:07 pm:

    Yep generally the most effective teama are those that have plenty of players able to turn ball over… the T5 their loosies, their centres and hopefully a wing or two (Habana is good at this)…

    The Bulls were a case in point last week…

    Jaco (3), WO (2), Basson (1), Ralepelle (1), Bakkies (1), Matfield (1), Flip (1)…

  39. This stat box you have David really cranks out cool conversations. I think flanks have been covered in months passed. I got to thinking about it from one of Bryce’s comments about Alberts and how he dominated with the crappy LIONS last year so it must be the coaching as to his decline this year ( comment was brought about by folks wondering if Alberts on recent performances was not ” all that ” ).

    I don’t have the facts / stats handy but as my handle name suggests – I wouldn’t let that formality ever get in the way of being passionately opinionated and certain that the real reason for Alberts showing less than expected at times this season is obvious….No TODD CLEVER.

    With that put to rest, thanks for the good article ! Can’t wait to see if Cheetahs can pull off a shocker this weekend !

  40. Reply to Americano @ 7:30 am:

    Ryan Kanko is every much the player Clever is and more… so I’m pretty sure one of the contributing factors is that the current loose-forward trio is not the correct balance… and that (although Sykes is a work-horse) with Hargreaves they are simply ineffective in the tight-loose and PARTICULARLY within Plumtree’s dour, one dimensional game-plan (and I won’t even get into the centre pairing issue)…

  41. I really think that the weekends game will be a close affair with the bulls being tipped because they are the bulls. If we look at the cheetahs results they havent done as bad as many thought they would. I dont think it will be a surprise if the win, they already schocked the tahs, the saders,brumbies, the rebels and the lions. So I think the word shock will not count this time.