JON CARDINELLI rates the 15 Super Rugby teams based on performances after 17 rounds.
The Super Rugby conference system makes for confusing reading regarding the respective teams’ standings in the tournament. SARugbymag.co.za’s chief writer believes that this is where they should rank on current form.
1. Crusaders (12-2)
Last ranking: 1
The Crusaders enjoy a healthy lead at the top of the New Zealand and overall logs despite a bye in round 17. They will be favourites to beat the Highlanders and clinch the Kiwi conference title in Christchurch next week.
2. Hurricanes (10-4)
Last ranking: 2
The Hurricanes failed to obtain a single log point on their recent visit to Canberra. They were without several stars in that clash, though, and one would expect them to take one step towards a home playoff with a win against the Blues in round 18.
3. Chiefs (9-5)
Last ranking: 4
The Chiefs thumped the Highlanders in Suva on Saturday to move past their Dunedin counterparts on the New Zealand table. A big win against the Brumbies in the coming round will boost their chances of hosting a quarter-final.
4. Lions (8-7)
Last ranking: 3
The Lions have blown hot and cold this season. On Saturday, they suffered their first loss to a South African side since 2015. That result may well end up costing them the conference title.
5. Highlanders (9-5)
Last ranking: 5
The Highlanders were cut to shreds in the recent derby against the Chiefs. It won’t get any easier for Aaron Mauger’s side when they head to Christchurch this week. All that said, they remain on track for a playoff berth.
6. Jaguares (9-5)
Last ranking: 6
The Jaguares completed a clean sweep of the South African teams in Argentina with their recent win against the Stormers. That victory has boosted their overall points tally. The Jaguares could take the lead in the South African conference if they beat the Bulls in Pretoria next week (the Lions have a bye in round 18).
7. Waratahs (8-1-5)
Last ranking: 7
The Waratahs beat the Rebels on Friday to maintain a small yet important lead in the Australian conference title race. A big win against the Sunwolves in Sydney this week will improve their chances of finishing at the top of the Aussie pile.
8. Rebels (7-7)
Last ranking: 8
The Rebels may have blown their conference title chances with the recent loss to the Waratahs. A big win against the Reds in Brisbane this week, however, will keep them in the hunt for a playoff spot.
9. Sharks (6-1-7)
Last ranking: 9
The Sharks ended their long losing streak against the Lions this past Saturday. They will go into the next game against the Stormers in Cape Town with confidence and momentum. They will hope that the Reds do them a favour and beat the Rebels.
10. Brumbies (6-8)
Last ranking: 12
The Brumbies claimed an important win over the more-fancied Hurricanes in Canberra on Saturday. They will be hard-pressed to stop the rampant Chiefs in Hamilton this week, though.
11. Bulls (5-9)
Last ranking: 11
The Bulls sustained their second consecutive loss to the Sunwolves this past Saturday, as well as their first-ever defeat in Singapore. Their poor defence may be exposed once again when they host the white-hot Jaguares in round 18.
12. Stormers (5-10)
Last ranking: 13
The Stormers lost to the Jaguares on Saturday to record yet another away defeat in 2018. With only one game remaining, they may struggle to avoid the South African conference wooden spoon from here.
13. Blues (4-10)
Last ranking: 14
The Blues beat the Reds at Eden Park last Friday to ensure that Jerome Kaino’s last home match ended on a positive note. They will battle to replicate that result, however, when they travel to Wellington to face a Hurricanes side that may be hurting after a loss to the Brumbies.
14. Reds (4-10)
Last ranking: 10
The Reds drop further down the rankings following their heavy loss to the battling Blues in Auckland. They will be playing for pride – and a more respectable finish on the overall table – when they host the Rebels this week.
15. Sunwolves (3-11)
Last ranking: 15
The Sunwolves scored a big upset over the Bulls in Singapore on Saturday. They need to win their final two league games, and hope that the Reds lose theirs, in order to avoid the tournament wooden spoon.
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