CRAIG LEWIS rates the 15 teams after four 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 senior writer has identified the form teams as well as the stragglers.
1. Crusaders (4-0) – last week’s ranking: 1
The Crusaders carried on their merry way this past weekend as they claimed a fourth successive win of the season after thrashing the Chiefs 57-28. There is already a bit of daylight between the defending champs and the chasing pack at the top of the overall standings, and they certainly look to be the team to beat once again.
2. Vodacom Bulls (3-1) – last week’s ranking: 5
The Bulls leapfrog to second place in these standings after securing an emphatic win over the Sharks on Saturday. The Pretoria-based side has now beaten all three other local opponents, and look set to be this season’s surprise contenders.
3. Hurricanes (3-1) – last week’s ranking: 3
The Canes retain third position, but coach John Plumtree won’t be particularly chuffed with last Friday’s performance against the Highlanders. For large parts of the clash, the Hurricanes seemed about to suffer an unexpected defeat at home, before firing late to snatch an important victory.
4. Rebels (3-0) – last week’s ranking: 4
The Rebels once again demonstrated the fighting spirit that they possess after overturning a 16-point half-time deficit to defeat the Brumbies on Friday. It was a comeback win inspired by the influence of experienced halfbacks Will Genia and Quade Cooper, while ensuring that the Rebels remain top of the Australian conference.
5. Sharks (2-2) – last week’s ranking: 2
It’s all begun to unravel a bit for the Sharks over the past couple of weeks following losses to the Stormers and Bulls. Although the Durban-based side still remains handily placed in fifth place on the overall standings, they will go into a bye week knowing that there is a lot to work on.
6. Highlanders (2-2) – last week’s ranking: 6
The Highlanders will be kicking themselves after letting a position of ascendancy slip away against the Hurricanes in round four, and they are now set for another immense challenge against the Crusaders. The threat of a third successive loss will not sit comfortably.
7. Lions (2-2) – last week’s ranking: 9
The Lions claimed a much-needed win over the Jaguares on Saturday despite fielding an extremely youthful side, and move up two spots as a result. Last year’s runners-up will be miffed that they let a bonus point slip away after conceding a couple of late tries, but they will be pleased to have got their attack firing once again.
8. Jaguares (2-2) – last week’s ranking: 7
The Jaguares slip to seventh place after suffering back-to-back losses against the Lions this season, and they will now head to Cape Town to face the Stormers, knowing that a much-improved performance will be required to prevent their season from unravelling.
9. Stormers (2-1) – last week’s ranking: 8
The Stormers had a bye last weekend, and lose some ground as a result. The break came after important wins over the Lions and Sharks, and they will hope to keep this momentum going against the Jaguares.
10. Waratahs (2-1) – last week’s ranking: 11
The Waratahs claimed a hard-fought win over the Reds on Saturday, extending their winning streak over the Brisbane-based side to 10 matches. The Tahs do look like a mid-table team, but will have an opportunity to make another statement against local foes when they take on the Brumbies this Friday.
11. Blues (1-3) – last week’s ranking: 14
The Blues move up a few places after claiming their first win of the season on Saturday. Although the 28-20 victory over the Sunwolves was a far from a one-sided result, the Blues were worthy winners, with Sonny Bill Williams and Rieko Ioane, particularly, finding good form. It was an important result, as they now head into a bye.
12. Sunwolves (1-3) – last week’s ranking: 10
After recently claiming their first-ever away win in the competition, the Sunwolves were ultimately unable to back that up against the Blues. The Japan-based side falls a bit in these rankings as a result, but they were certainly competitive against the Blues, as they should also be at home against the Reds this Friday.
13. Brumbies (1-3) – last week’s ranking: 12
This ranking is perhaps a bit harsh on the Brumbies, but after blowing a big lead against the Rebels, they look to be a team that has reached the crossroads of its campaign. This weekend they will host the Waratahs, and it’s a must-win match for the former champs.
14. Reds (0-3) – last week’s ranking: 13
The Reds slipped to a third straight loss of the season as they were overpowered by the Waratahs on Saturday. It’s looking like another long season ahead for the Australian outfit, who now face a tricky trip to Tokyo.
15. Chiefs (0-4) – last week’s ranking: 15
It just goes from bad to worse for the Chiefs. Only four rounds into Super Rugby, they have already conceded more than 50 points in matches against the Crusaders and Brumbies, while suffering a shock loss to the Sunwolves. Another hammering could be on the cards as they are next set to face the formidable Hurricanes.
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