JON CARDINELLI selects an overall 18-team Super Rugby log, based on performances and opposition faced after 15 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 (14-0)
Last ranking: 1
The Crusaders suffered their first defeat of the year – at the hands of the British & Irish Lions – during the June break. They remain undefeated in the Super Rugby tournament, though, and need one more win to finish first in the overall standings.
2. Lions (13-1)
Last ranking: 2
The Lions thumped the Sunwolves at Ellis Park this past Saturday to add another five log points to their tally. They will have a bye in round 16 before facing the Sharks in round 17.
3. Hurricanes (11-3)
Last ranking: 3
The Hurricanes will not feature again in the tournament until round 17. A win in that final regular-season clash against the Crusaders should ensure that they finish higher in the standings than the Chiefs, who at this stage trail the 2016 champions by a single log point.
4. Chiefs (11-1-2)
Last ranking: 5
The Chiefs will have another two weeks to prepare for their final conference clash against the Brumbies in Hamilton. The team that finishes fourth in the Australasian conference is likely to travel to Cape Town for the quarter-finals.
5. Highlanders (10-4)
Last ranking: 4
The Highlanders will be favourites to beat the Reds in Dunedin in round 17. That said, they cannot catch the Hurricanes and Chiefs from here, and appear destined to face either the Lions or Crusaders in the quarter-finals.
Last ranking: 6
7. Blues (7-1-6)
Last ranking: 8
The Blues will play their last game of the tournament against the Sunwolves in Tokyo in round 17. A win in that fixture could see the Blues (currently on 37) finishing the regular season with more log points than the Australia conference winners, the Brumbies (currently on 33).
8. Stormers (8-5)
Last ranking: 7
The Stormers have already booked their spot in the playoffs. They were made to fight for the result against the Cheetahs on Saturday, though. One would expect them to add another win to their tally when they host the Sunwolves in round 16.
9. Brumbies (6-7)
Last ranking: 9
The Brumbies will play the Reds away and the Chiefs away before hosting a quarter-final. At this stage, it looks as if they will face the Hurricanes or the Chiefs in that knockout game.
10 Jaguares (5-8)
Last ranking: 10
The Jaguares suffered their first-ever loss to the Kings on Saturday. They will play their final two matches in Australia, against the Waratahs and Rebels. Losses in those two games could see them finishing last in the Africa 2 conference.
11: Kings (5-8)
Last ranking: 11
The Kings scalped the Jaguares in round 15 and will fancy their chances against the Bulls and Cheetahs in the coming weeks. A narrow loss in Pretoria and a win in the subsequent clash in Port Elizabeth could see the Eastern Cape franchise finishing ahead of these more established teams in the final standings.
12. Waratahs (4-9)
Last ranking: 12
The Waratahs will be playing for pride when they host the Jaguares this week. Two wins in the remaining rounds will ensure that they finish higher than the Force.
13. Bulls (4-9)
Last ranking: 14
The Bulls hammered the Sharks in Durban this past Saturday. The pressure is still on the former Super Rugby champions, however, to avoid the South African wooden spoon.
14. Force (4-9)
Last ranking: 13
The Force should be determined to finish their campaign on a high. It's believed that the Western Australian franchise will be cut from the competition – along with the Cheetahs and Kings – at the end of this season.
15. Reds (3-10)
Last ranking: 15
The Reds could well slide down the rankings in the coming weeks. After facing the Brumbies, they will travel to Dunedin to tackle the Highlanders.
Last ranking: 16
17. Rebels (1-1-11)
Last ranking: 17
The Rebels look destined for the Australian conference wooden spoon. Unless they accumulate 10 log points across the remaining games against the Force and Jaguares, they will finish last in this division.
18. Sunwolves (1-12)
Last ranking: 18
The Sunwolves have managed just the one win – against the Bulls – this season. They were comprehensively outplayed in the recent clash against the Lions, and will be underdogs again when they face the Stormers and Blues in the coming weeks.
Photo: Anne Laing/HM Images