JON CARDINELLI rates the 15 teams after 17 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 (11-3-2) – last week’s ranking: 1
The Crusaders thrashed the Rebels 66-0 in Christchurch to take an unassailable lead at the top of the overall log. They will enjoy a break next week before hosting a quarter-final. A third-successive title appears to be on the cards.
2. Hurricanes (11-1-3) – last week’s ranking: 2
The Hurricanes scored five tries in a convincing 37-17 win against the Lions at Ellis Park. They will head back to New Zealand to face the Blues before hosting a quarter-final.
3. Jaguares (10-5) – last week’s ranking: 3
The Jaguares beat the Sharks in Buenos Aires on Saturday night to win the South African conference for the first time. They will be favourites to beat the Sunwolves in Argentina and secure a second-place finish in the overall standings.
4. Brumbies (9-6) – last week’s ranking: 4
The Brumbies thumped the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday to clinch the Aussie conference. They will host a playoff, regardless of what transpires in the coming match against the Reds.
5. Vodacom Bulls (7-2-6) – last week’s ranking: 8
The Bulls drew with the Highlanders in Dunedin to finish their Australasian tour with a haul of eight log points. Their playoff destiny remains in their own hands.
6. Stormers (7-1-7) – last week’s ranking: 9
A depleted Stormers side beat the Sunwolves in Cape Town on Saturday, but failed to claim a bonus point. Another win against the Sharks – who they beat earlier this season – may be enough to earn them a ticket to the playoffs.
7. Lions (8-7) – last week’s ranking: 5
The Lions missed an opportunity to climb the rankings and strengthen their playoff position on Saturday. Their chances of advancing to the next round may depend on the result of the derby at Loftus Versfeld.
8. Rebels (7-8) – last week’s ranking: 7
Talk about letting it slip. The Rebels conceded 66 points and scored 0 in the recent ‘contest’ against the Crusaders. Their chances of qualifying for the playoffs have taken a hit as a result.
9. Sharks (6-1-8) – last week’s ranking: 6
The Sharks failed to claim any log points on their recent visit to Buenos Aires. They will have to win their final regular season game against the Stormers at Newlands to advance to the playoffs.
10. Chiefs (6-2-7) – last week’s ranking: 10
The Bulls did the Chiefs a big favour by holding the Highlanders to a draw. Despite having a bye in round 17, the Chiefs are still in the playoff picture, and could clinch their spot with a big win against the Rebels in Melbourne.
11. Highlanders (5-3-7) – last week’s ranking: 11
The Highlanders’ poor run of form continues. The recent draw with the Bulls sees them needing one or two favours, as well as a big win against the Waratahs to qualify for the playoffs.
12. Blues (5-1-9) – last week’s ranking: 12
The Blues conceded a late try to suffer a damaging loss to the Reds. Despite a few bright moments, they look set to finish the season at the bottom of the New Zealand conference again.
13. Waratahs (6-9) – last week’s ranking: 13
The Waratahs’ nightmare season looks set to end on a low note. The loss to the Brumbies has all but scuppered their playoff hopes. They will head into the next game against the Highlanders in Dunedin as underdogs.
14. Reds (6-9) – last week’s ranking: 14
The Reds scored a morale-boosting win against the Blues in Brisbane last Friday. They will have nothing but pride to play for, however, when they front the Brumbies in round 18.
15. Sunwolves (2-13) – last week’s ranking: 15
The Sunwolves suffered yet another loss on the road when they went down to the Stormers in Cape Town. It won’t get any easier for Super Rugby’s stragglers when they face the Jaguares in Buenos Aires.
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