JON CARDINELLI rates the 15 Super Rugby teams based on performances after 14 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 (10-1)
Last week’s ranking: 1
The Hurricanes weren’t at their best in the 38-34 win over the Reds in Wellington. The fact remains, though, that they have won 10 games on the bounce while they have played one game fewer than their rivals, the Crusaders, who they will face next in Christchurch.
2. Crusaders (10-2)
Last week’s ranking: 2
The Crusaders were too good for the Blues this past weekend, and did enough to maintain their position at the top of the overall standings. That may change, however, when they host the Hurricanes in the next round.
3. Lions (7-6)
Last week’s ranking: 5
The Lions move up two places following their 42-24 win over the Brumbies at Ellis Park. They will be favourites to beat the Stormers at Newlands next Saturday and will head into the June break at the top of the South African conference.
4. Highlanders (7-4)
Last week’s ranking: 3
The Highlanders went down to the Waratahs in Sydney this past weekend. Nevertheless, they remain on track for a playoff place, and should bounce back when they face the Reds in the next round.
5. Chiefs (7-4)
Last week’s ranking: 4
The Chiefs drop a place following a loss to the Sharks. Considering they were missing as many as 20 players due to injuries and a national camp staged in New Zealand, they did well to come away from the fixture in Durban with a bonus point.
6. Waratahs (6-1-4)
Last week’s ranking: 6
The Waratahs beat the Highlanders on Saturday to end Australia’s 40-game losing streak against New Zealand Super Rugby sides. They were helped by the fact that Highlanders winger Tevita Nabura was red-carded early in the contest, though. Questions regarding their quality persist.
7. Jaguares (7-5)
Last week’s ranking: 7
The Jaguares made another statement when they thrashed the Bulls 54-24 and picked up their fifth successive win. They remain well placed ahead of another home fixture against the Sharks.
8. Sharks (5-1-6)
Last week’s ranking: 10
The Sharks bounced back to claim a convincing win over a weakened Chiefs side in Durban. They may come to regret a late lapse that saw the Chiefs score and salvage a bonus point, though. The competition for playoff spots is heating up, and it seems likely that the top four New Zealand teams will qualify.
9. Rebels (5-6)
Last week’s ranking: 9
The Rebels remain in ninth spot despite enjoying a bye, due to the losses suffered by the Stormers and Bulls. They have to beat the Sunwolves in Melbourne in the next round to boost their playoff chances.
10. Bulls (5-7)
Last week’s ranking: 8
The Bulls plummet down the rankings after taking 54 points in Buenos Aires. They simply have to win – and probably with a bonus point – against the Brumbies in Pretoria next week to stay in the playoff race.
11. Reds (4-7)
Last week’s ranking: 12
The Reds went down fighting in a closely contested game in Wellington, and did enough to claim a losing bonus point. They will go into the next game against the Highlanders as underdogs. That said, they’ve beaten the likes of the Lions already this season, and have the ability to score an upset.
12. Stormers (5-8)
Last week’s ranking: 11
The Stormers slumped to a first-ever defeat to the Sunwolves this past Saturday. They finished the round at the foot of the South African conference as a result. The Lions may well put the Cape side out of its misery when they visit Newlands this Saturday.
13. Sunwolves (2-9)
Last week’s ranking: 15
Jamie Joseph’s Sunwolves shoot up two spots after scoring a historic win over the Stormers in Hong Kong. They head to Melbourne next, and will be eyeing a third successive win that will improve their chances of avoiding the tournament wooden spoon.
14. Blues (3-9)
Last week’s ranking: 13
For all of their endeavour, the Blues clearly don’t have what it takes to beat a fellow New Zealand team. A win for the Sunwolves over the Rebels could see the Japanese side closing the gap between themselves and the Blues in the standings, as the latter side will have a bye in round 15.
15. Brumbies (3-8)
Last week’s ranking: 14
The Lions didn’t play particularly well in their 42-24 win against the Brumbies at Ellis Park, and were helped by the visitors’ mistakes and transgressions. The Brumbies could slide further down the table in the coming weeks if they lose to the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld and to the Sunwolves in Canberra.
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