JON CARDINELLI selects an overall 18-team Super Rugby log, based on performances and opposition faced after 12 rounds.
The confusing Super Rugby conference system makes it difficult to see just where teams stand in the competition, but SARugbymag.co.za's chief writer believes this is where they would rank in a 1-18 format.
1. Crusaders (11-0)
Last week’s ranking: 1
The Crusaders were physically dominant in the New Zealand derby against the Hurricanes. There's now good reason to believe that Scott Robertson's side will go through the regular season unbeaten.
2. Lions (10-1)
Last week’s ranking: 2
The Lions produced a gritty performance to down the Brumbies in Canberra and finish their Australian tour with three wins. Johan Ackermann's side is now four points behind the Crusaders on the overall table.
3. Chiefs (9-1)
Last week's ranking: 3
The Chiefs had a bye in round 12, yet remain in third place due to the Hurricanes' loss to the Crusaders in Christchurch. They would have used the time off to prepare for the next clash, a big one against the Crusaders. The Chiefs have beaten every other New Zealand side this season.
4. Hurricanes (8-2)
Last week's ranking: 4
The Hurricanes were manhandled by the Crusaders in Christchurch and failed to claim so much as a losing bonus point. A big win over the Cheetahs in round 13 will ensure that they make up some ground in the New Zealand conference, though.
5. Highlanders (8-3)
Last week’s ranking: 6
The Highlanders move up a place in the rankings, following their 17-10 win against the Bulls in Pretoria. While their overall performance was not of a high standard, the Highlanders managed to fire in the closing stages to claim another important victory in South Africa.
6. Sharks (7-1-3)
Last week’s ranking: 5
The Sharks drop down to sixth place, following their historic loss to the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth. They remain in a position to qualify for the playoffs, though, and should bounce back with a win when they face the Sunwolves in Singapore in round 13.
7. Blues (6-5)
Last week’s ranking: 7
The results and performances of the Blues, the lowest-ranked team in the Kiwi conference, have served to highlight the strength of New Zealand rugby. While the Blues are yet to win a derby, they are yet to lose to a foreign side. They thrashed the Cheetahs recently and will fancy their chances of claiming another South African scalp when they visit the Stormers in Cape Town.
8. Stormers (6-4)
Last week's ranking: 8
The Stormers had a bye following their disastrous three-game tour of New Zealand. They will be looking to end a four-game losing streak when they host the Blues in round 13.
9. Jaguares (5-6)
Last week’s ranking: 9
The Jaguares won four of their first five matches and then lost five of their next six. The blew a big opportunity to make up some ground on the Sharks in the South African group standings when they lost to the Force in round 12.
10: Kings (4-6)
Last week's ranking: 11
The Kings claimed their first Super Rugby win against South African opposition when they beat the Sharks in round 12. They've already beaten two Australian teams in 2017, and will fancy their chances of beating another when the Brumbies visit the Eastern Cape this coming week.
11. Brumbies (3-7)
Last week's ranking: 10
The Brumbies failed to capitalise on their scoring chances against the Lions last Friday. They will travel to South Africa in round 13, and there's a good chance that the Australian conference leaders will lose to the Kings in Port Elizabeth.
12. Reds (3-8)
Last week's ranking: 14
The Reds move up two places in the rankings following their narrow win over the Rebels in Melbourne. They're now only three log points behind the Australian conference leaders, the Brumbies. They've been poor this season, but – with the winner of each conference guaranteed a playoff place – they still have a chance of advancing to the next round.
13. Bulls (3-7)
Last week's ranking: 13
The Bulls blew a golden opportunity to beat the Highlanders in round 12. They could suffer further losses when they play the Lions and Hurricanes over the next two weeks.
14. Waratahs (3-7)
Last week's ranking: 13
The Waratahs have dropped two places in the rankings after having a bye in round 12. They remain within five points of the Australian conference leaders, though, and may close that gap with a big win against the Rebels in round 13.
15. Force (3-7)
Last week's ranking: 16
The Force scored a big win over the Jaguares in Buenos Aires this past Saturday. They have moved up a place in the rankings. It won't get any easier for them, though, when they travel back to Perth to face the Highlanders in round 13.
16. Cheetahs (2-9)
Last week's ranking: 15
The Cheetahs continue their slide towards the bottom of the overall table. They were hammered by the Blues in Auckland last Friday. They will face a fired-up Hurricanes side in Wellington in round 13. The Hurricanes may feel that they have a point to prove after losing to the Crusaders in round 12.
17. Rebels (1-1-8)
Last week's ranking: 17
The Rebels remain the worst team in Australasia. They pushed the Reds close in the recent derby in Melbourne, but failed to obtain the desired result.
18. Sunwolves (1-9)
Last week’s ranking: 18
The Sunwolves had a bye in round 12. They will face the Sharks in Singapore next, a side that will be hurting after a loss to the Kings.
Photo: Mark Graham/AFP Photo