JON CARDINELLI rates the 15 teams after 15 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 (10-3-1) – last week’s ranking: 1
The Crusaders bounced back after their draw with the Stormers to beat the Blues in Christchurch on Saturday. The Hurricanes are the only team that can stop the Crusaders from finishing the conference stage in pole position.
2. Hurricanes (9-1-3) – last week’s ranking: 2
The Hurricanes are sitting pretty in second place – despite enjoying a bye in round 15. A couple of wins on their coming tour to South Africa will earn them a home quarter-final.
3. Jaguares (8-5) – last week’s ranking: 4
The Jaguares claimed a convincing win against the Waratahs to move to the top of the South African standings. They are well placed to win the conference title, with two of their last three games at home in Buenos Aires.
4. Brumbies (7-6) – last week’s ranking: 8
The Brumbies scored a crucial bonus-point win against the Bulls in Canberra to take control at the top of the Australian conference. They should be looking to bank another five log points when they visit the Sunwolves in round 16.
5. Sharks (6-1-6) – last week’s ranking: 5
The Sharks beat the Lions 27-17 in Durban to move up to second place in the South African conference. They should be going all out to beat the Hurricanes in the next round.
6. Rebels (7-6) – last week’s ranking: 9
The Rebels picked up a much-needed bonus-point win against the Sunwolves in Tokyo. The result sees them just one log point behind the Brumbies in the Aussie conference.
7. Vodacom Bulls (7-6) – last week’s ranking: 3
The Bulls’ trend of burning white-hot one week and blowing ice-cold the next continues. The Pretoria-based franchise relinquished their position at the top of the South African conference when they failed to claim so much as bonus point from their outing against the Brumbies in Canberra.
8. Stormers (6-1-6) – last week’s ranking: 10
The Stormers scored an important win against the Highlanders at Newlands. They may come to regret missing out on the bonus point, though.
9. Lions (7-6) – last week’s ranking: 6
The Lions have to beat the Stormers in the next fixture to stay in touch with front-runners for the South African conference title. It won’t get any easier when they face the Hurricanes in round 17.
10. Highlanders (5-2-7) – last week’s ranking: 7
The Highlanders were outplayed by the Stormers at Newlands. They leave South Africa with two losses, and will be under pressure to win their last two fixtures.
11. Chiefs (5-2-7) – last week’s ranking: 13
The Chiefs denied the Reds on Friday to score an important win in the context of the playoff race. If they keep winning, and if a few other results go their way, they may sneak into the knockouts.
12. Blues (5-8) – last week’s ranking: 11
The Blues are still in the playoff hunt, thanks to the Highlanders’ loss at Newlands. They will host the Bulls before travelling to the Reds and Hurricanes in the coming weeks.
13. Waratahs (5-8) – last week’s ranking: 12
The Waratahs conceded a late penalty against the Jaguares on Saturday to miss out on a losing bonus point. They’re now eight log points behind the Aussie conference leaders and in danger of missing the playoffs.
14. Reds (5-8) – last week’s ranking: 14
While the Reds have been competitive at times this season, they have failed to translate any dominance into points and wins. They will be playing for pride when they face the Jaguares, Blues and Brumbies in the last three rounds.
15. Sunwolves (2-11) – last week’s ranking: 15
The Sunwolves’ downward spiral continues. The loss to the Rebels on Saturday marked their sixth straight defeat.
Photo: EPA/CRAIG GOLDING