Rugby Stats: Tadhg Beirne is one of the Pro14's ironmen

Players who accumulate most Pro14 minutes tend not to be playing Test rugby

 Southern Kings’s Berton Klaasen (right) has played the  most minutes of any player in the Pro14 to date with a lung bursting, 1,410. Photograph: Inpho

Southern Kings’s Berton Klaasen (right) has played the most minutes of any player in the Pro14 to date with a lung bursting, 1,410. Photograph: Inpho

 

Berton Klaasen is a 28-year-old South Africa-born centre who plays for the Southern Kings rugby franchise in the Guinness Pro14. He is the alpha male when it comes to racking up the most minutes of any player in the tournament to date with a lung bursting, 1,410, the iron man amongst iron men across the 14 teams in the two conferences.

Klaasen played for the Kings against Munster last weekend in George, amongst his contributions “a clever kick in behind from Berton Klaasen was latched onto by (Michael) Makase and he offloaded to Andisa Ntsila to score”.

The South African has amassed 60-minutes more than the next player, Scarlets secondrow-cum-backrow Tadhg Beirne, who will join Munster in the summer. The 26-year-old from Eadestown in Kildare agonised about leaving a Welsh club that had opened its doors to him when those of the Irish provinces remained closed.

Munster-bound Tadhg Beirne in Pro14 action for Scarlets against Munster at Thomond Park, Limerick. Photograph: Inpho
Munster-bound Tadhg Beirne in Pro14 action for Scarlets against Munster at Thomond Park, Limerick. Photograph: Inpho

The attraction of playing for Ireland superseded all other considerations when he weighed up accepting a financially more lucrative contract to remain with the Scarlets or take up a two-year deal with Munster. In January Joe Schmidt invited Beirne to an Irish training camp in Carton House to acclimatise to the specifics of the national team environment.

Injury permitting he should go in Ireland’s three Test summer tour to Australia but before that there is the small matter of the Scarlets’ Champions Cup semi-final against Leinster at the Aviva stadium on Saturday week. Beirne knows what it’s like to win there, having done so in a Pro14 semi-final last season, a campaign that ultimately saw the Welsh side crowned champions.

Beirne’s time in the Leinster Academy was blighted by injury, denying him an opportunity to demonstrate the quality that was easily recognisable as a schoolboy in Clongowes, so to prove his physical resilience in the Pro14 by dint of the number of minutes (1,350) must give him additional satisfaction.

It’s not merely quantity as he’s made a massive impact on the pitch based on consistent excellence of his performances, perhaps the pinnacle of which from an individual perspective was his try against Bath, which included a gorgeous sidestep on the England fullback Anthony Watson. He received a special presentation from the club and the supporters along with other departing players after last weekend’s final home match at Parc y Scarlets.

Beirne leads the turnovers category in the Pro14 with a phenomenal 37, a country mile ahead of his closest pursuer. Robin Copeland (Munster, 15) and Jean Deysel (Ulster, 15) are the only Irish based players mapped in this category.

From a Munster perspective he won’t accumulate anything like the same minutes next season if he’s assimilated into the Ireland squad, thereby falling under the IRFU’s player management programme. Typically the players who accumulate the most minutes in the Pro14 as illustrated in the graphic are those who are not an integral part of their respective national squads.

There is a smattering of those who are non nationals when it comes to the clubs to whom they are affiliated. Leinster’s Wallaby international Scott Fardy, Cardiff duo Samoan Test player Rey Lee-Lo and New Zealander Willis Halaholo and fellow Kiwi Marty Banks (Benetton) are the most obvious examples of that cadre.

Of the 42 players listed, only six, played in the 2018 Six Nations Championship, four Scots in Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), Nick Grigg (Glasgow Warriors) and Lee Jones (Glasgow Warriors) as well as Italian duo Giulio Bisegni (Zebre) and Carlo Canna (Zebre).

Connacht captain, John Muldoon, who retires at the end of the season, has registered more minutes (1,233) in the Pro14 this season than any other player in an Irish province. There is an obvious correlation to a point, between those who play most regularly and leading exponents in a number of categories, illustrated by Connacht centre Tom Farrell.

He has carried more often (207) than anyone else in the tournament, has the most offloads (41) and is joint top of the defenders beaten (55) ranking, alongside Ulster fullback Charles Piutau. Matt Healy (21, clean breaks) features too, as does Ulster’s John Cooney.

The Dublin-born scrumhalf leads the total points category (141), try assists (10), most passes (1,287) and in fourth in the clean breaks (20) grouping having the second highest number of minutes for an Ulster player this season (1066) behind Stuart McCloskey (1070).

Billy Holland leads the way in Munster, followed by wing Alex Wootton and Jack O’Donoghue, while Rory O’Loughlin has seen most Pro14 game time in Leinster ahead of outhalf Ross Byrne and Fardy.

Muldoon (3 caps), O’Donoghue (2), McCloskey (2), Holland (1), Healy (1), O’Loughlin (1) and Cooney (1) have all played for Ireland, some with the prospect of more, but in terms of the graphic those that accumulate the most minutes in the Pro14, principally outside Scotland and Italy, tend not to be playing Test match rugby; so finishing top of the rankings for all but the tyros can be a bittersweet achievement. 

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