CRAIG LEWIS rates the 15 teams after eight 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 (6-1-1) – last week’s ranking: 1
On and on the Crusaders go. Besides a solitary defeat against the Waratahs, the defending champs have generally looked a class apart, and now enjoy a six-point lead at the top of the official overall standings.
2. Rebels (5-2) – last week’s ranking: 3
One has to hand it to coach Dave Wessels and his team from Melbourne. They remain one of the most well-drilled sides in the competition, and were far too strong for the Sunwolves on Saturday.
3. Hurricanes (5-1-2) – last week’s ranking: 5
The Hurricanes seem to have mastered the art of finding ways to win this season. Once again on Friday, they looked to be in trouble against the Highlanders, but surged back to secure a thrilling victory.
4. Sharks (4-3) – last week’s ranking: 8
The Sharks make a significant jump this week, but who can argue with that after producing one of the most memorable performances of the season on Friday. The Durban-based side fired in virtually every department to claim a stunning 42-5 win over the Lions at Ellis Park.
5. Blues (4-3) – last week’s ranking: 6
Look out for the Blues. It wasn’t that long ago that they were dwelling near the bottom of these rankings, but they have enjoyed a real revival in recent weeks. An important win over the Waratahs on Saturday was their fourth in a row.
6. Vodacom Bulls (4-3) – last week’s ranking: 4
The Bulls fall a couple of places in these rankings, but it’s rather tricky to know how much to read into their defeat against the Jaguares on Saturday. A weakened team controlled much of the game, but certain frailties were again exposed at the death.
7. Lions (4-3) – last week’s ranking: 2
The Lions plunge to seventh in these rankings after suffering a humbling loss to the Sharks. It may seem harsh, but the fact remains that they are now heading off on a challenging overseas tour that may well see them settle in around the mid-table mark.
8. Highlanders (2-1-4) – last week’s ranking: 7
The Highlanders will be absolutely gutted by their defeat to the Canes on Friday. They looked well in control of the match at the hour mark, but then conceded two tries out of nowhere. It’s been the story story of their season to date.
9. Reds (3-4) – last week’s ranking: 13
The Reds benefit from the struggles of the teams around them. They didn’t produce anything particularly special against the Stormers, but still claimed an important win that keeps them in playoff contention.
10. Waratahs (3-4) – last week’s ranking: 10
The Waratahs continue to flirt with mediocrity, with their sixth round win over the Crusaders appearing to be an anomaly. On Saturday, they slumped to a third defeat from four matches.
11. Stormers (3-4) – last week’s ranking: 9
The Stormers continue to fall. Last Friday’s disappointing loss to the Reds was once of their worst performances of the season. An upcoming match against the Rebels looks certain to condemn the Cape-based side to another winless overseas tour.
12. Chiefs (2-1-4) – last week’s ranking: 12
The Chiefs enjoyed a bye in round eight, and hold firm in 12th place in these rankings, with a challenging fixture against the Blues coming up this weekend.
13. Jaguares (3-4) – last week’s ranking: 15
The Jaguares rise a couple of places after an important comeback win over the Bulls on Saturday. It was far from their best performance of the season, but it will have served as a much-needed confidence booster.
14. Brumbies (2-5) – last week’s ranking: 14
Sadly, the Brumbies are a shadow of the team they once were, and remain stuck in 14th spot after falling to a 36-14 defeat against the Crusaders on Saturday.
15. Sunwolves (2-6) – last week’s ranking: 11
The Sunwolves came crashing back down to earth on Saturday as they suffered a heavy defeat to the Rebels, while they will now have a bye.
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