Super Rugby Power Rankings: Crusaders cement their spot at the top, Aussie conference just got tighter

Note down the Crusaders for pole position all the way to the August 4 final. The Australian conference just got tighter, and the Lions will not give up the South African conference lead without a fight.

1 Crusaders (First in NZC)

That was some victory over the Hurricanes. Everything went against the home side with injuries, but they hung tough, played the conditions, and lent on men such as Scott Barrett and Richie Mo'unga to call the tune. Imagine what they could do at full strength.

2 Jaguares (Second in SAC)

They should make the playoffs from here after their sixth win on the bounce. The 29-13 home win over the Sharks was notable for clinching the bonus point and wing Ramiro Moyano notching a treble. We will see if the Pumas can replicate this form in the June window.

3 Hurricanes (Second in NZC)

Not good enough, really. The Hurricanes have been winning ugly, but now they have lost ugly. Beauden Barrett is not the scapegoat, but his passing and kicking games were off the mark in Christchurch. Ben Lam was underemployed, but the pack took a beating. Drawing board time.

4 Lions (First in SAC)

Karl Tu’Inukuafe of the Chiefs drives forward
Karl Tu’Inukuafe of the Chiefs drives forward Source: Photosport

The Lions drew deep on their well of resolve to edge the Stormers 26-23 in Cape Town, always a tough place to claim the points. They were helped by a Raymond Rhule red card in a clash full of yellow cards. That man Madosh Tambwe crossed for the match-winner to seal a telling comeback.

5 Chiefs (Third in NZC)

There was so much to like about the Chiefs' 39-27 win over the Waratahs. Less than five days off the plane from South Africa, they relied on the senior pros Charlie Ngatai, Brodie Retallick and Damian McKenzie, who chalked up 19 points, to see them through a fast Waratahs start. With Nick White clearly doing good things with the scrum, the Chiefs will enjoy the challenge of the Crusaders coming to town.

6 Waratahs (First in AC)

It is fair to say the Waratahs will play much worse and win. After the defeat to the Chiefs, they have opened the door to the Rebels, who now trail by just one in the Aussie conference. But they uncorked some sweet backline moves to trouble the Chiefs early, and that Beale-Folau combination can cut some serious capers.

Smith said his Highlanders teammate has an amazing set of skills which he already knows how to use.
Source: 1 NEWS

7 Highlanders (Fourth in NZC)

Captain Ash Dixon was grumpy after the 18-15 win over the Reds in Suncorp. It was far from vintage Highlanders' rugby, but those four competition points are like gold in the run to the playoffs. Liam Squire was back with a bang, and other front-liners return after the requisite rest. They are right in the thick of this competition.

8 Rebels (Second in AC)

Big jump for the Rebels. They took full advantage of the Sunwolves' decision to rest some key personnel and, helped by five tries between Marika Koroibete and Jack Maddocks, dispatched the Japanese franchise 40-13. What they would give to now take down the Blues at Eden Park.

9 Brumbies (Third in AC)

Who saw that result in Pretoria coming? Down a man and on the scoreboard, they engineered a 38-28 win over the Bulls. But realistically, they are still well out of the playoffs picture.

10 Reds (Fourth in AC)

The Reds will be gutted, because they scrummed and tackled their hearts out in the narrow loss to the Highlanders. Taniela Tupou is looking more and more like a man realising his potential, especially in the set-piece, where he has never been weak, despite what some may say. They should give the Waratahs some serious trouble this weekend.

11 Sharks (Third in SAC)

A moment of madness from Ruan Botha cost the Sharks dearly in BA. They struggle with sides outside of New Zealand. Get the psychologist in.

12 Bulls (Fifth in SAC)

John Mitchell has no hair to tear out, so we are unsure what he will do after the Bulls imploded in the second stanza at Loftus against the Brumbies. They too look out of the playoffs race. Start planning for 2019.

13 Stormers (Fourth in SAC)

Jordan Taufua against the Blues
Jordan Taufua against the Blues Source: Photosport

Season over for the Stormers, who promise much but deliver little. They have two remaining games, and are no guarantees to win either of those.

14 Blues (Fifth in NZC)

A quiet bye week as they reflect on a prime chance to win their first home game of 2018, against the Rebels on Saturday.

15 Sunwolves (Fifth in AC)

The Sunwolves could not maintain the momentum, falling heavily in Melbourne, so they must be throwing all their ammo at the Brumbies on Sunday.

The Hurricanes and Crusaders meet this Friday, but there's no tension amongst the All Blacks.
Source: 1 NEWS


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Opinion: There's more to life and rugby than money, Lima

Before I dive in, I just want to say I understand where Lima Sopoaga is coming from.

For guys from a "low socio-economic background" as he put it in his interview with the Guardian, huge offers from overseas can be tempting and one that All Blacks have started taking more often in recent years.

Whether it’s for family, the future or simply the fortune, there’s no denying Kiwi rugby talent is becoming harder to keep on our shores.

But there's a couple minor details Lima didn't mention when he sent this warning to the All Blacks about the changing times.

One, the guys that are going aren't the go-to stars.

It’s harsh, I know, but let’s be honest. When you look at the list of former All Blacks who have left our shores in recent years for the UK, none of them jump out as the 'one who got away' do they?

Charlies Piutau, Malakai Fekitoa, Aaron Cruden, Steven Luatua and Julian Savea are just a few to leave since the 2015 World Cup but they were fringe players at best.

But, once again, hats off to them. They've gone and secured a future for themselves and their families that some can only dream of and it’s respectable that they adjusted their dreams of being an All Black or a world champion or whatever else for their families. There's no arguing that is a commendable act.

Other guys like Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith left to get a handsome paycheck before they hung up the boots after spending most of their careers adding to the legacy of the black jersey, so there’s not much to argue about there either.

The Chiefs coach said he's focused on the team's quarter-final, not speculation regarding Nonu.
Source: 1 NEWS

But that brings me to the next point.

Money doesn’t last forever but legacies do. For the guys who spend the larger part of their careers chasing and earning the black jersey, it’s almost like their names get woven into its fabric.

Richie McCaw, Keven Mealamu – even Tony Woodcock after that stunning 2011 try. World class players at their position who will go down as some of the game’s best and if you look up a picture of them, it’ll be in a black jersey.

They could’ve gone overseas. They could’ve taken the big money. But as McCaw said in his film, he always set out on being a "G.A.B".

What kid doesn’t want that? Fame and riches are well and good but if you are considered one of the best in the world at your position, why would you ever want to leave arguably the best sports team on the planet when you can add to its history?

Sopoaga is right in saying the game has become a business and the "riches of Europe" are going to appeal more and more to "young guys" but going as far as saying "things are starting to change" in relation to the All Blacks is pushing it.

I can’t speak for the likes of the current youthful stars of the All Blacks but it’s fair to say there haven’t been many rumours of them being tempted off-shore by European clubs.

Again, this isn’t a dig at Sopoaga’s choice or anyone else’s for that matter but just a gentle reminder you can’t put a value on the black jersey.

And if you ever need a reminder of that, look up Karl Tu’inukuafe’s debut from earlier this year against France – I think everyone can agree a teary-eyed moment like that is truly priceless.

COVENTRY, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 08:  Lima Sopoaga of Wasps offloads the ball during a Premiership Rugby match between Wasps and Exeter Chiefs at Ricoh Arena on September 8, 2018 in Coventry, United Kingdom.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Lima Sopoaga of Wasps offloads the ball during a Premiership Rugby match between Wasps and Exeter Chiefs at Ricoh Arena in Coventry, United Kingdom. Source: Getty


Watch: NZ Sevens stars surprise AIMS Games athletes with trophies from successful World Cup campaigns

Three New Zealand Sevens players have surprised thousands of students in Tauranga with both the men's and women's Sevens Rugby World Cup trophies.

Scott Curry, Ruby Tui and Risaleaana Pouri-Lane visited the AIMS Games at Blake Park today, signing autographs and more importantly taking selfies with the students.

Curry told 1 NEWS "the cup is New Zealand's cup" and to see the reaction from those lining up for a photo is why the teams work so hard.

He added it's "pretty cool for kids to be involved in sevens" and hopes he can inspire others to the join the game.

Black Fern Ruby Tui says it's "amazing" to see women's rugby growing in popularity.

She says people are "getting onboard" understanding the women's results and competitions.

"The Prime Minister know what's going on in our season," she says.

Meanwhile, Curry says the team hopes to qualify for the Olympics by winning the next World Series starting in Dubai at the end of the year.

The All Blacks Sevens finished third in the last series behind the Flying Fijians and Blitzbokke.

"I think it's maybe been nine years since we've won Dubai, so it's definitely a motivating factor for us heading there.

"I don't why we haven’t won that tournament for so long," Curry says.

Scott Curry said showing kids the silverware will hopefully inspire the next generation of world champions. Source: 1 NEWS

Sonny Bill Williams in doubt for Saturday's All Blacks-Test with Springboks

The All Blacks' policy around not training is under the microscope after Sonny Bill Williams went down with illness ahead of their Test against the Springboks.

New Zealand are desperate to get first-choice inside centre Williams on the park in what has been a season dogged by injury.

He looked set to return for Saturday's Rugby Championship Test in Wellington after scans showed he had overcome a 10-week shoulder injury.

However, he missed yesterday's practice session with an ailment and is in doubt to be included in what should be close to New Zealand's strongest team for their final home Test of the year.

The All Blacks have previously said their strong preference is for players to train all week if they are to be considered for match duty.

Williams' last game was the third Test against France on June 23 - his only international appearance of 2018.

The 33-year-old's availability this week would be timely as Ngani Laumape is ruled out with knee damage suffered in Saturday's 46-24 win over Argentina in Nelson.

The All Blacks want to restore their preferred midfield combination of Williams and Ryan Crotty, who has been out for a month following a head knock.

Star winger Rieko Ioane's hamstring is healed and is likely to return, along with match-winning five-eighth Beauden Barrett.

Sam Cane and Liam Squire should be restored as flankers despite some muscular efforts from fringe candidates Ardie Savea and Shannon Frizell against the Pumas.

The tight five may be the only area below full strength for the world champions.

Lock Brodie Retallick (shoulder) and prop Joe Moody (thumb) are poised to miss the rest of the Rugby Championship.

World class hooker Dane Coles is near the end of a nine-month recovery from a knee injury.

Assistant coach Ian Foster said Coles is targeting a provincial return this month and could yet figure in the final Rugby Championship Test against South Africa in Pretoria on October 7.

"Every week he's getting closer and closer," Foster said.

"It's exciting and he's starting to believe that too I think. He's got that glint in his eye."

All Blacks' Sonny Bill Williams during an All Blacks training session ahead of the third and final All Blacks v France test match at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand. 21 June 2018. Copyright Image: Derek Morrison /
Sonny Bill Williams. Source: Photosport