Steven Kitshoff retains top spot in URC's top 100 player chart

Steven Kitshoff retains top spot in URC's top 100 player chart

Springbok loosehead prop Steven Kitshoff has clearly settled into life at Ulster as he currently leads the top 100 player chart in the United Rugby Championship (URC).

He retains the summit spot in the latest URC top 100 ? a ranking system that reflects performances across the URC, EPCR competitions, World Cup and international rugby - and is joined by three other Springbok stars.

Prop Kitshoff was named top of the pile back in September when the table was last published and he has held on to that position on the back of his contribution to the Springboks retaining the Rugby World Cup and his performances for Ulster.

The ex-Stormers forward is the latest Test star to lead the way in the top 100, following in the footsteps of fellow Springbok Eben Etzebeth and Leinster hooker Dan Sheehan.

The top five places are again all occupied by forwards, as was the case in September.

Young Benetton flanker Manuel Zuliani is in second spot, with Wales World Cup captain Jac Morgan having shot up from 39th to third.

The ever-consistent Sheehan lies fourth, with prop Ox Nche fifth, closely followed by his Sharks team-mate Etzebeth.

Bulls wing Canan Moodie is the highest-placed back in seventh, while the leading Scottish performer is new Six Nations co-captain Rory Darge.

The top 20 features seven South Africans, six Irish, three Scots, three Italians and one Welshman in Ospreys flanker Morgan. There are 16 forwards and just the four backs.

Powered by the StatMaster xP algorithm, the top 100 identifies the most valuable performers across the 16 URC teams by analysing every match they have appeared in during the last 12 months.

Then StatMaster applies an "expected points" (xP) algorithm to each event in those games. Like "expected points added" (EPA) in the NFL and "expected goals" (xG) in football, this revolutionary new stat measures the impact each player has on his side?s chance of scoring. It is based on the idea that rugby is a team game and while the player who slots the ball through the posts or touches it down deserves plenty of credit, so do the 14 others who helped create that opportunity.

For example, a player can gain points by doing things that increase his team?s probability of claiming the next score, such as crashing past defenders, nailing a 50/22 kick, earning a scrum penalty or even winning a crucial turnover on his own try-line.

On the other hand, if he makes a costly error, he can lose points. Crucially, the algorithm adjusts for lots of match factors, including a player?s position, his location on the field, the phase type, the time on the clock and the quality of his team-mates and opponents.

All this allows URC StatMaster to give the most accurate data-driven estimates of how much players are currently contributing to their teams.

The ratings can also be broken into skill types, so you can look at the best prop at scrummaging, the best flanker at defending, the best fly-half at goal kicking or the best wing at carrying.

All the ratings have been scaled so an average URC player scores 80, with the very best performers in the league reaching over 90. As an illustration, Kitshoff is on 96.2, with his nearest rival Zuliani on 95.8.

As the season progresses and players shuffle in and out of the top 100, StatMaster will analyse the biggest movers and shakers.

URC top 100 (top 10)

1 Steven Kitshoff (Ulster)

2 Manuel Zuliani (Benetton)

3 Jac Morgan (Ospreys)

4 Dan Sheehan (Leinster)

5 Ox Nche (Sharks)

6 Eben Etzebeth (Sharks)

7 Canan Moodie (Bulls)

8 Garry Ringrose (Leinster)

9 Finlay Bealham (Connacht)

10 Jack Conan (Leinster)

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