Onus on winning, not bonus points
Bonus points stack up for the Reds. Photo: Getty Images
There has been plenty of commentary this week about bonus points and the impact they are having on the Reds. It's a good discussion topic because there are some fundamental understandings that need to be considered, as the logic of going out and scoring four tries is not as easy as some people may think.
If it was, why don't teams go out there and score eight tries every game? It happens occasionally, but you can bet your house on it that the ploy was not part of the game plan.
The reality is that tries are scored as a result of systematic pressure, good execution, better tactics, sometimes a bit of luck and perhaps a yellow card or injury across the 80 minutes. This doesn't change whether you are targeting one, four or 10 tries.
The logic is this: a win is worth four points while four tries is worth only one. You must win first. How many teams go out there chasing four tries only to lose? The Highlanders did just that against us and lost.
It's a delicate balance, where in the process of winning, you create pressure on your opposition. Pressure comes from many things but the best place is on the scoreboard.
The stats also back up this theory. There have been 121 games played in Super Rugby this year to this point with a further seven to go. Of those games, teams have scored bonus points on 62 occasions for losing by seven points or fewer.
It becomes more complex with securing the four-try bonus point. Theoretically, each team can secure one in each game, and therefore there have been 242 bonus point opportunities on offer through 17 rounds. The number of four-try bonus points scored this year is 53, which is a strike-rate of just over 20 per cent.
When you look at the competition thus far, the best team at getting attacking bonuses has been the Hurricanes - they have eight four-try bonus points with the Sharks next best at six. The ladder position for the Hurricanes is eighth and the Sharks is sixth. Securing the attack bonus points has helped them no doubt, but consistency in the winning and losing would have them much better placed.
By comparison, running second in the competition by only one point are the Stormers. They have recorded only two bonus points with both for losing by fewer than seven. They are yet to score four tries but have been the most consistent and miserly.
I highlight the above examples as my point is that bonus points mean different things to different teams. My main contention is that if you focus on the winning element consistently, you generally will achieve better results.
The Reds this season have secured five bonus points with a game-in-hand and it will probably surprise many that last year, when we finished first and won the competition, we only secured six.
If we are capable of playing well enough on Saturday through consistently applying 80 minutes of pressure to score four tries, we would equal last year's tally.
Our problem this year hasn't been a lack of bonuses but that we have won two fewer games as compared to our previous season.
So what is the best mindset? Well, the concentration of the team has to be about the process of winning. If we start with what we want the scoreboard to end up as, and then work backwards, we will probably come up empty. Given you can't control the opposition or the referee, concentrating on the scoreboard must be an end product.
We must concentrate on the process of winning, and in the context of Saturday, winning well. To get the process right, you need to avoid the distraction of focusing on the end point and look at the building blocks.
Many things can happen in the seven games this weekend and five of those games have a direct bearing on our final ladder position. We can only control our portion.
Any talk of ''desperation'' and ''throwing caution to the wind'' is misplaced as these are emotional responses to an outcome. We will get an outcome by controlling our emotions and ensuring our decision making and technical execution is of the highest standard across every minute.
We need to build a performance which will probably need to be our finest of the season. That's a worthy target for us because we don't think we have played our best 80 minutes of rugby yet … it's still ahead of us.
The combination of our home ground, an outstanding week of training so far, a proven resolve, numerous tactical opportunities, and an opponent under pressure on and off the field gives us great scope to be good.