CRAIG LEWIS rates the 15 teams after 12 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 senior writer identifies the form teams as well as the bottom-feeders.
1. Crusaders (8-2-1) – last week’s ranking: 1
The Crusaders were held to a draw by the Sharks on Friday, and were in fact rather fortunate to walk away with a share of the spoils. However, they’re still well-placed at the top of the overall standings.
2. Hurricanes (8-1-2) – last week’s ranking: 2
The Canes have made a habit of winning ugly this season, and that was again the case on Saturday as they conceded 19 unanswered points against the Rebels after a rousing start. Nevertheless, they are now just five log points adrift of the Saders.
3. Sharks (5-1-5) – last week’s ranking: 3
The Sharks have actually done very well to hang on to this No 3 ranking. It was perhaps a bit generous for them to be ranked this high last week, but they backed up a good win over the Waratahs with a memorable draw against the Crusaders on Friday.
4. Vodacom Bulls (6-4) – last week’s ranking: 7
It’s time to start giving the Bulls some credit. Again, the Pretoria-based side produced a solid performance to down the Tahs at Loftus on Saturday, and they in fact now lie second in the official overall rankings.
5. Jaguares (6-5) – last week’s ranking: 8
Make no mistake, the Jaguares are on the hunt. Another win at home this past weekend has strengthened their position in the South African conference, and they are now just one point adrift of the Bulls and Sharks.
6. Highlanders (4-2-5) – last week’s ranking: 6
It’s difficult to know just what to expect from the Highlanders, and they will be disappointed to have allowed the Chiefs back in the game to claim a draw on Saturday.
7. Stormers (5-6) – last week’s ranking: 5
The Stormers were competitive against the Jaguares on Saturday, but ultimately didn’t have enough accuracy to claim what could have been a season-defining victory. They could lose more ground as they head into a bye this weekend.
8. Rebels (5-5) – last week’s ranking: 4
A promising season is all going a little pear-shaped for the Rebels, who desperately need to claim a bonus-point win over the Reds this Friday.
9. Brumbies (5-6) – last week’s ranking: 12
You have to give credit where it is due. The Australian side has now won three of their last four games, and have drawn level with the Rebels at the top of their local conference.
10. Blues (4-6) – last week’s ranking: 9
The Blues continue to lose ground as a result of inconsistency. They are now well out of the playoff running, and could slip further as a clash against the high-flying Hurricanes lies in wait this weekend.
11. Lions (5-5) – last week’s ranking: 10
The Lions are coming off a bye, and this Saturday’s battle against the Waratahs is a virtually must-win match if they hope to revive their playoff hopes.
12. Waratahs (4-6) – last week’s ranking: 11
The Tahs slip a place after succumbing to defeat against the Bulls in round 12. Although the Sydney-based side was competitive for large parts of the match, they have now suffered back-to-back defeats against the Sharks and Bulls to leave their season in disarray.
13. Chiefs (3-2-6) – last week’s ranking: 14
The Chiefs did well to battle back to claim a draw against the Highlanders last weekend, and it will be interesting to see how they contend with a confident Sharks side this Saturday.
14. Reds (5-5) – last week’s ranking: 13
The Reds battled their way past the Sunwolves in an ill-disciplined affair last Friday, but this inconsistent side should not be striking fear into any opponent.
15. Sunwolves (2-9) – last week’s ranking: 15
In round 11, the Sunwolves suffered a 52-0 hammering against the Highlanders, and they were at least more competitive against the Reds last weekend. However, they ultimately succumbed to a ninth loss of the season.
Photo: John Davidson/www.photosport.nz/BackpagPix