JON CARDINELLI rates the 15 Super Rugby teams based on performances after 12 rounds.
The Super Rugby conference system makes for confusing reading regarding the respective teams’ standings in the tournament. SARugbymag.co.za’s chief writer believes that this is where they should rank on current form.
1. Hurricanes (8-1)
Last week’s ranking: 1
The Hurricanes made another statement when they beat the Lions – the top-ranked side in the South African conference – by nine points in Wellington. They currently trail the Crusaders by two points in the New Zealand standings, though they boast a superior win-record and have a game in hand.
2. Crusaders (8-2)
Last week’s ranking: 2
The Crusaders put eight tries past the Rebels in their recent outing to Melbourne. Expect them to add to their log tally when they host the wobbling Waratahs in round 13.
3. Highlanders (6-3)
Last week’s ranking: 4
Believe it or not, the Highlanders have actually moved up a place in these rankings following their heavy loss to the Sharks in Durban. This is due to the fact that the Lions and Chiefs both suffered big defeats this past weekend. The Highlanders are better off as far as wins and log points are concerned.
4. Lions (6-5)
Last week’s ranking: 3
The Lions drop another place in the wake of their defeat to the Hurricanes, and find themselves in a difficult position ahead of their final tour match against the Highlanders now that their star player Malcolm Marx has been ruled out with an injury. Another loss will see their win-record dropping to 50%.
5. Chiefs (6-3)
Last week’s ranking: 5
The Chiefs may come to regret the recent loss to the Jaguares at home. At this point, they are in a position to qualify for the playoffs. That may change, though, if they lose their next two games – against the Stormers and Sharks – in South Africa.
6. Waratahs (5-1-3)
Last week’s ranking: 6
The Waratahs became another statistic when they lost to the Blues in Sydney this past Saturday. New Zealand teams have now stretched their winning streak against Australian opposition to 37 games. It speaks volumes that the Australian conference leaders lost to the worst-placed Kiwi side in the previous round.
7. Jaguares (6-5)
Last week’s ranking: 9
Vamos Argentina! The Jaguares scored their fourth successive win in Australasia when they thumped the Chiefs in Rotorua. They now find themselves well placed at second in the South African conference, and could cause more problems for the likes of the Bulls and Sharks when they host those sides in later rounds.
8. Sharks (4-1-5)
Last week’s ranking: 10
So much for a bye compromising a team’s momentum. The Sharks claimed a 38-12 bonus-point win over the Highlanders this past weekend. As a result, they have rocketed up to third in the South African standings and currently sit in that qualification spot.
9. Stormers (5-6)
Last week’s ranking: 11
The Stormers jump two places in the rankings after their 29-17 thumping of the Bulls at Newlands. They may fancy their chances against a Chiefs side that has to travel in round 13, and will be buoyed by the fact that they haven’t lost at Newlands in 2018. Until they win a match away from home, however, they cannot be taken seriously as semi-final contenders.
10. Rebels (4-6)
Last week’s ranking: 8
The Rebels sustained their fourth straight defeat when they copped a 55-10 hiding at the hands of the Crusaders in Melbourne. It’s crazy to think that despite their recent struggles, the Rebels are just four log points behind the Australian log leaders, and thus four points away from a playoff qualifying berth.
11. Bulls (4-6)
Last week’s ranking: 7
There’s been a notable improvement in the Bulls’ approach in 2018. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been reflected in the results. The Bulls’ most recent loss to the Stormers saw them slumping to last place in the South African conference standings. The next clash against the Sharks is a do or die game for John Mitchell’s men.
12. Reds (4-5)
Last week’s ranking: 12
The Reds retain their ranking despite having a bye in round 12. One would expect them to build on their most recent success – a victory over the Lions – when they battle the Sunwolves next.
13. Blues (3-7)
Last week’s ranking: 14
The Blues finally have something to cheer about in the wake of their win against the Waratahs. They’re still 10 points behind the next-best side in the New Zealand conference, though, and appear destined to finish the season at the bottom of that table.
14. Brumbies (3-6)
Last week’s ranking: 13
The Brumbies had a bye this past weekend. The Blues’ win in Sydney sees them sliding down the rankings. They have to beat the Rebels in Canberra this coming weekend to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
15. Sunwolves (0-9)
Last week’s ranking: 15
The good news is that the Sunwolves didn’t lose in round 12. The bad news is that they didn’t play a match. In all seriousness, the Sunwolves look set to finish the season without a single win.
Photo: Marty Melville.photosport.co.nz