Super Rugby power rankings: Crusaders remain on top as knockout rounds begin

These final Super Rugby power rankings do not necessarily follow the final table, but rather reflect recent form. That's why the Brumbies are in this top eight.

Whetu Douglas makes a run against the Blues. Source: Photosport

1 Crusaders (First in NZC)
Down on key personnel, and with nothing to play for. Ripe conditions for a banana skin display? Not a bit of it. Up steps Jack Goodhue and George Bridge, inter alia. The ruthless manner in which they finished the romp over the Blues would suggest the Sharks will be the warmest of underdogs on Saturday night.

Chiefs first-five Damian McKenzie in action during a Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and Brumbies played at FMG Stadium in Hamilton. Source: Photosport

2 Chiefs (Third in NZC)
Were it not for Johnny Fa’auli's reckless tackle, the Chiefs might have been preparing for a home quarter-final against the Canes on Friday. But it doesn’t really matter, as they have all the momentum. Furthermore, they will have Charlie Ngatai, Sam Cane and Damian McKenzie back in the fold. Why wouldn’t they be confident?

3 Lions (First in SAC)
Malcolm Marx is back. So forget that the Lions’ recent form has been Hurricanes-like, or that Elton Jantjies is powderpuff on the tackle. The Boks hooker is back in tryscoring mode. The Lions finished all over the fast-starting Bulls. But they have lost to the Jaguares this season at Ellis Park. Time to Marx up.

Lima Sopoaga of the Highlanders in action during the Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Lions played at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin. Source: Photosport

4 Highlanders (Fourth in NZC)
The cards fell for the Highlanders. A trip across the Tasman Sea now looks rather better than the long haul to Joburg. So Aaron Mauger’s gamble to rest a clutch of his stars paid off, eventually, in the 43-37 victory in Dunedin. Tei Walden and Waisake Naholo were in especially good form. But they will need to tidy up their scrum and breakdown.

5 Waratahs (First in AC)
The good news for the Waratahs is that big wing Taqele Naiyaravoro ran in his 15th try of the season against the Brumbies, thus equalling the record mark set up Joe Roff and Rico Gear. The bad news is that they were far too loose and lost, at home no less, to the in-form Brumbies. Now they must beat the Highlanders – for the second time -- instead of the Jaguares, to advance in the playoffs.

6 Jaguares (Second in SAC)
Do not be too worried that the Jaguares lost 20-10 to the Sharks. At kickoff, they knew they could not overhaul the Lions for the SA conference title, the wet conditions were always going to favour the Sharks, and they rested some key men. They will not be overawed by facing the Lions in Joburg for their first playoffs game. Now they just need to get plenty of ball into the hands of potent finishers Bautista Delguy and Emiliano Boffelli.

Hurricanes second-five Ngani Laumape scores a try in the tackle of Blues' halfback Augustine Pulu. Source: Photosport

7 Hurricanes (Second in NZC)
Something is rotten in the state of the Hurricanes. When even both the Barrett boys are off their games, you know the outlook is grim. Yes, they fought back gamely against the Chiefs, but it was all academic. Now they could be without several more walking wounded for their home quarter-final. Who will carve them a path for the semifinals?

8 Brumbies (Third in AC)
They won four of their last five matches, so the Brumbies can justifiably claim to be the form Australian team. Beating the Waratahs 40-31 in Sydney is no mean feat, and how about that solo try to Kyle Godwin? How about David Pocock, fullstop? But alas, the Brumbies left their rails run far too late. They needed just three more competition points to reach the playoffs.