The Crusaders and Highlanders will enjoy their June break, albeit infused with matches against the French Barbarians, but there is work to be done by the Hurricanes and Blues. The Waratahs have still not shaken those pesky Rebels, while the Jaguares can yet head the Lions in the SA conference.
1. Crusaders (First in NZC)
So much for thinking the Crusaders would not be at their best in Hamilton, apparently with one eye on the June tests. Richie Mo'unga was in imperious form, Scott Barrett and Matt Todd gave dominant displays, and Luke Romano added ballast off the bench. They have just about sealed pole position for the playoffs.
2. Jaguares (Second in SAC)
The momentum of their hot form will be lost in June, so we will watch with interest how their Pumas return from rugged internationals against Wales and Scotland.
3. Hurricanes (Second in NZC)
The Canes still look odds-on to secure second berth in the NZ conference and a home quarter-final, but there will be some sleepless June nights for messrs Boyd and Plumtree. Uppermost in their minds as they seek to arrest this form dip is their misfiring lineout.
4. Lions (First in SAC)
They have just two games left to seal the SA conference, but those are far from a given. Again, how their Boks pull up in late June will be critical.
5. Highlanders (Third in NZC)
You gotta love the Highlanders. Their lineout, led by the committed Tom Franklin and Jackson Hemopo, cleaned out the Hurricanes on Friday, their backs pass in front of the man, and they vary their game nicely. Do not yet rule them out of a home quarter-final.
6. Waratahs (First in AC)
Anything is possible for the Waratahs when Israel Folau is running freely, as he was in the 52-41 win over the Reds at Suncorp. But they also scored some sweet set-piece tries. The June 29 clash with the Rebels will decide the Australian conference winner.
7. Chiefs (Fourth in NZC)
The Chiefs gave it a decent crack against the Crusaders, but they were up against it when Sam Cane cried off late, Brodie Retallick did not go the distance and they kept getting pinged by the referee. Oh, and the Crusaders were not in merciful mood. But young Luke Jacobson is a quality young player and his brace was deserved.
8. Rebels (Second in AC)
The Rebels did not have to be that flash to down the Blues at Eden Park last Saturday. But they were far too good for the woeful home team. The big boot of Reece Hodge, some tactical variations and Billy Meakes' double all led to their first win on the hallowed turf.
9. Brumbies (Third in AC)
The Brumbies have some fine players in their ranks, so why shouldn't they beat the Sunwolves 41-31 in Canberra? Henry Speight crossed for two tries, while others such as David Pocock kept their standards up. But they remain too far off the pace in the Australian conference.
10. Reds (Fourth in AC)
The Reds, at 4-9 and fourth in the Australian conference, seem too high in the power rankings. But how many times have they scored 41 points against their arch-rival Waratahs and lost? If they tighten up their D, they have a royal show of closing the season with three straight victories.
11. Sharks (Third in SAC)
It would take a rugby miracle for the Sharks to qualify for the playoffs, but then who predicted they would rack up 63 points on Eden Park?
12. Bulls (Fifth in SAC)
The Bulls, of course, did not play last weekend, but they should rise up the table in the final three rounds provided their internationals do not get too banged up against England.
13. Stormers (Fourth in SAC)
The Stormers have (again) flattered to deceive this season. So who knows how they will fare against the Jaguares and Sharks in July?
14. Blues (Fifth in NZC)
Crashing to their seventh straight home defeat of 2018, we must ask the question: have the Blues hit their nadir? Tune back in on June 29 when the Reds come to town for a definitive answer.
15. Sunwolves (Fifth in AC)
Good to see Robbie Robinson and Jason Emery in their rightful positions at this level, but the Sunwolves, despite showing spirit against the Brumbies, look destined for the wooden spoon.