JON CARDINELLI rates the 15 teams after five rounds of the Vodacom Super Rugby tournament.
The Super Rugby conference system makes for confusing reading regarding the respective team standings in the tournament.
While it’s still early days in the 2019 competition, SARugbymag.co.za’s chief writer has identified the form teams as well as the stragglers.
1. Crusaders (4-1-1) – last week’s ranking: 1
Sanzaar cancelled the derby between the Highlanders and Crusaders in response to the terrorist attacks in Christchurch. While the Crusaders picked up two log points instead of the expected four or five, they remain at the top of the standings.
2. Hurricanes (3-1-1) – last week’s ranking: 3
The Hurricanes drew with the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday. While John Plumtree’s charges may have expected a better return against a struggling Chiefs side, they are still only four log points shy of the Crusaders.
3. Vodacom Bulls (3-1) – last week’s ranking: 2
The Bulls drop a place in these rankings due to their bye in round five. They are still well placed, though, and could strengthen their position with a win against the Chiefs at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
4. Stormers (3-1) – last week’s ranking: 9
The Stormers shoot up to fourth place following their bonus-point win against the Jaguares at Newlands. The Cape side may drop in the coming weeks, though, as their next four fixtures will be in Australasia, and they have not travelled well in recent years.
5. Rebels (3-1) – last week’s ranking: 4
The Rebels blew a golden opportunity to score a rare win on the highveld last Saturday. That said, they still managed to claim a bonus point from their visit to Ellis Park. They’re still in control at the top of the Australian conference.
6. Lions (3-2) – last week’s ranking: 7
The Lions hit back in the second half to overturn a big deficit and beat a good Rebels side. They have to beat the Sunwolves in Tokyo this Saturday to keep the pressure on the other teams in the South African division.
7. Highlanders (2-1-2) – last week’s ranking: 6
The Highlanders had an unexpected bye last week due to the attacks in Christchurch. They will be targeting their next fixture against the Blues as a chance to climb the Kiwi conference ladder.
8. Sharks (2-2) – last week’s ranking: 5
The Sharks have lost some momentum. After scoring bonus-point wins against the Sunwolves and Blues, they slumped to disappointing losses against the Stormers and Bulls. The bye in round five sees them dropping down these rankings. They could make a big statement with a win over the Rebels at Kings Park on Saturday.
9. Brumbies (2-3) – last week’s ranking: 13
The Brumbies delivered under pressure to beat the Waratahs in Canberra last week. Their next fixture against the Reds in Brisbane is another must-win.
10. Waratahs (2-2) – last week’s ranking: 10
The Waratahs maintain their position despite their loss to the Brumbies. This is due to the Jaguares’ big drop down the rankings. It won’t get any easier for Daryl Gibson’s side when they host the Crusaders this week. While the Waratahs have a lot of big names, they can’t seem to produce big performances on a consistent basis.
11. Jaguares (2-3) – last week’s ranking: 8
The Jaguares leave South Africa on the back of two heavy beatings at the hands of the Lions and Stormers. They leaked 49 points in the first fixture and 35 in the second. The worst-placed side in the South African conference will have much to ponder during their bye week.
12. Blues (1-3) – last week’s ranking: 11
The Blues will have q lot to prove after their break in round five. If they lose to the Highlanders in Auckland – and if the Chiefs upset the Bulls in Pretoria – they may well finish the weekend at the bottom of the New Zealand standings.
13. Reds (1-3) – last week’s ranking: 14
The Reds fought hard to claim a narrow victory in Tokyo last week. The next fixture against the Brumbies should reveal how much they have learned and progressed. One gets the feeling that they won’t challenge for a playoff spot this year, though.
14. Sunwolves (1-4) – last week’s ranking: 12
The Sunwolves led 21-5 at half-time in their recent clash against the Reds. Poor game management – and a wobbly scrum – saw them losing that fixture and recording their fourth defeat of the season.
15. Chiefs (0-1-4) – last week’s ranking: 15
The Chiefs are still searching for their first win in the 2019 tournament. While they managed to hold the Hurricanes to a draw last Friday, they should be disappointed that they did not build on a seven-point lead after half-time. They will travel all the way to Pretoria for their next game against the Bulls – a side that has enjoyed more than a week to rest and prepare for this fixture.
Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix