JON CARDINELLI rates the 15 teams after 11 rounds of the Vodacom Super Rugby tournament.
The Super Rugby conference system makes for confusing reading regarding the respective team standings in the tournament.
SARugbymag.co.za’s chief writer identifies the form teams as well as the bottom-feeders.
1. Crusaders (8-1-1) – last week’s ranking: 1
The Crusaders hammered the Lions at the collisions to set up a convincing 36-10 bonus-point win in Christchurch. They should extend their impressive home run, and strengthen their position at the top of the log when they face the Sharks in round 12.
2. Hurricanes (7-1-2) – last week’s ranking: 2
The Barrett brothers spearheaded a much-improved performance by the Hurricanes in their 47-19 win over the Chiefs. Despite a few misfires in the initial rounds, the Hurricanes remain on track for a home quarter-final.
3. Sharks (5-5) – last week’s ranking: 9
The Sharks bounced back in Sydney on Saturday to claim a morale-boosting win against the Waratahs. They will now head to Christchurch for the most difficult fixture on the calendar: an away game against the Crusaders.
4. Rebels (5-4) – last week’s ranking: 4
The Sharks did the Rebels a favour by beating the Waratahs this past Saturday. Dave Wessels’ team remain at the top of the Aussie conference despite enjoying a bye.
5. Stormers (5-5) – last week’s ranking: 8
The Stormers dominated for much of the clash against the Bulls at Newlands, and deserved to come away with the win. They will travel to Argentina in the next round to face the Jaguares.
6. Highlanders (4-1-5) – last week’s ranking: 10
The Highlanders will take heart from their resounding 52-0 win over the Sunwolves. They still have a lot to do, however, if they’re going to catch the Crusaders and Hurricanes at the top of the New Zealand conference.
7. Vodacom Bulls (5-4) – last week’s ranking: 3
The Bulls went down at Newlands and blew the chance to finish the round at the top of the South African conference. They will be under pressure to bounce back against the Waratahs at Loftus Versfeld.
8. Jaguares (5-4) – last week’s ranking: 12
The Jaguares downed the Brumbies in Buenos Aires on Saturday. They could finish the next round at the top of the South African conference if they beat the Stormers, and a few other results go their way.
9. Blues (4-5) – last week’s ranking: 5
The Blues drop down the New Zealand rankings due to their bye, as well as the Highlanders’ big win against the Sunwolves. Their next fixture against the Brumbies is a big one in the context of their season.
10. Lions (5-5) – last week’s ranking: 6
The Lions slide down the South African conference standings, and down these rankings, in the wake of a loss to the Crusaders. The coming bye will give them a chance to recover from a few injuries and address some off-field issues.
11. Waratahs (4-5) – last week’s ranking: 7
The Waratahs’ recent loss to the Sharks at home sees their overall win-record dropping below 50%. They will travel to Pretoria next week with a point to prove.
12. Brumbies (4-6) – last week’s ranking: 11
The Brumbies need to bounce back in their next game against the Blues. While they are still in the hunt for the Aussie conference title, they’ve played one game more than the Rebels and Waratahs.
13. Reds (4-5) – last week’s ranking: 13
The Reds have some ground to make up after their bye in round 11. They should be targeting a bonus-point win when they host the Sunwolves next Friday.
14. Chiefs (3-1-6) – last week’s ranking: 14
The Chiefs were outclassed by the Hurricanes in the recent New Zealand derby at the Cake Tin. Their next fixture against the Highlanders is a must-win.
15. Sunwolves (2-8) – last week’s ranking: 15
‘We were lucky to get zero,’ chirped Sunwolves coach Tony Brown in the wake of the Japanese franchise’s 52-0 loss to the Highlanders. The Sunwolves will have a point to prove when they face fellow stragglers the Reds in the next round.
Photo: EPA/Joel Carrett