There is life yet in those Blues, while the Bulls were the big loser in what is turning out to be a decent scrap in the South African conference. The trans-Tasman hoodoo remains and it is hard to see when that might be broken.
1 Hurricanes (Second in NZC)
The Hurricanes keep winning and the May 25 clash with the Crusaders may be instructive as to who clinches the NZ conference. The 28-19 victory over the Lions was highlighted by the sterling displays of Ben Lam and Ardie Savea, but the team as a whole looked far from its best.
2 Crusaders (First in NZC)
The brace from hooker Andrew Makalio against the Rebels sums up the Crusaders. When they are under the knuckle, someone, anyone, will step up. Richie Mo'unga made a solid return and other big names are filtering back. The competition is on notice.
3 Jaguares (Second in SAC)
They said they couldn’t win away from home. They said they couldn’t beat Kiwi teams. They were wrong. Now the Jaguares have emerged from a 4-0 road trip and head to the bye, having hauled themselves from last to second on the SA conference table. We know they love mauling and they gave plenty of lessons against the depleted Chiefs.
4 Lions (First in SAC)
We know they are very competitive, but losing Malcolm Marx so early against the Hurricanes robbed them of their edge in the pack. They will need some of their late play against the Canes to grab the points in Dunedin. If not, their lead in the SA conference is on very shaky ground.
5 Stormers (Fourth in SAC)
Are the Stormers primed for a rails run home? After lowering the Bulls 29-17 off the pack off a dominant pack display, they are in a position to make an impact on the SA conference and start heaping pressure on the Lions and Jaguares.
6 Chiefs (Fourth in NZC)
We wondered how the Chiefs would go if you removed Sam Cane from the line-up. What we didn’t count on is that they would pass so poorly in the backline during the loss in Rotorua to the Jaguares. Now they are under severe pressure to win in the Republic, given their All Blacks will only be available for one of the two matches.
7 Highlanders (Third in NZC)
Too many errors, not enough set-piece grunt and some poor defence. The 38-12 loss to the Sharks was the Highlanders’ worst display of the season. They will need to swiftly recover to dispatch the wounded Lions this weekend.
8 Sharks (Third in SAC)
These Sharks love to feast on the New Zealand teams. The manner in which they devoured the Highlanders would suggest they have a working formula. If anyone gives Curwin Bosch room to run, he will slice them open with his step, while their scrum can be a weapon.
9 Waratahs (First in AC)
No one said it would be easy to bust this hoodoo. Even against the Blues. So it proved, but the Waratahs left too many chances out on Brookvale Oval. They pushed hard in the dying throes, but would then cough up the ball. Daryl Gibson must be having sleepless nights. On the plus side, Israel Folau made a good return to on-field action.
10 Reds (Third in AC)
They head to Tokyo straight off the bye and will be eyeing up nothing less than five competition points.
11 Bulls (Fifth in SAC)
The Bulls fell in Cape Town, strangely outgunned in the forward exchanges, and have now fallen to the foot of the SA conference log. They need to start winning again, and fast.
12 Blues (Fifth in NZC)
Let’s be clear: the Blues were better than the Waratahs, but not by that much. However, they will be buoyed by the win, their committed attitude on defence and the fact they went more north-south than east-west on attack.
13 Rebels (Second in AC)
Ah, the Rebels. They have just proven they are a different team without Will Genia. But they will still head to the ACT confident of a decent showing and possibly even a W.
14 Brumbies (Fourth in AC)
They will have no Chance Peni, but they will hopefully have more rugby nous for this weekend’s clash with the Rebels. Will that be enough?
15 Sunwolves (Fifth in AC)
The Sunwolves have seven games to try and manufacture a win, or they will stay rooted to this table and the competition and Australian conference table.