Super Rugby Power Rankings: NZ conference becoming a two-horse race for the top

Four wins by NZ teams over the weekend sees that same quartet occupy the top five spots in the power rankings. The Bulls are back in the playoffs hunt, but the Australian and South African conferences are wide open, while in NZ it is fast becoming a two-horse race to the top.

Hurricanes' Jordie Barrett in action against the Crusaders. Source: Photosport

1 Hurricanes (Second in NZC)

That the Hurricanes command top billing without yet playing anything close to 80 minutes of quality rugby is symptomatic of Super Rugby’s woes. But fair play to the Canes, they have an unheralded pack and men such as Gareth Evans, Ricky Riccitelli and Sam Lousi are working their socks off. The drums are beating for Matt Proctor, who is very solid at centre.

2 Crusaders (First in NZC)

The French would describe the first 30 minutes of the Crusaders-Waratahs clash as "un passage a vide" for the home side. Then they seemed to flick a switch and took control, but are lucky to have lost Joe Moody for just two weeks for a nasty elbow to Kurtley Beale’s face.

3 Jaguares (Second in SAC)

The packs will collide with some force in BA on Sunday as the Jaguares host the Bulls. If the home side can clinch a fifth win on the bounce, they will hold this third position on the rankings.

4 Highlanders (Third in NZC)

We were worried about the Highlanders, returning from South Africa with fatigue and resting the best halfback in the world against the leading SA conference team. Maybe we should lighten up, as Lima Sopoaga chalked up 19 points, and the Elliot Dixon/Luke Whitelock and Rob Thompson/Tei Walden combinations reaped sweet tries.

5 Chiefs (Fourth in NZC)

Gee, these Chiefs are resilient. Their pack stood tall, again, in Cape Town, and the dour 15-9 victory will be like pure gold as they farewell their quartet of All Blacks flying home for a very important national training camp.

6 Lions (First in SAC)

Sitting pretty just weeks ago, the Lions have now hit the skids. So they will welcome a home fixture against the Brumbies.

7 Bulls (Third in SAC)

Just like that, the Bulls are back in contention. Listless against the Stormers, they brought physicality, five tries and 39 points against the Sharks. Who will pick the SA conference winner now?

8 Stormers (Fifth in SAC)

One measly bonus point was all they could bank against the Chiefs. They now fly to Hong Kong to try and knock the Sunwolves down a peg after the Japanese franchise stunned all with their shellacking of the Reds.

9 Waratahs (First in AC)

Everything turned to gold in the first 30 minutes for the Waratahs in Christchurch. Thereafter nothing went right, including the Joe Moody non-call by the officials. But it would help if their opponents always kick the ball straight to Israel Folau. Daryl Gibson will be planning to edge the Highlanders and explode the hoodoo this weekend.

10 Sharks (Fourth in SAC)

Consistently inconsistent. Hence their yoyo power ranking. They lost the game and the physical battle to the Bulls. Now for the Chiefs. They’ll probably win by 25.

11 Rebels (Second in AC)

A big second stanza saw them edge the Brumbies in Canberra. They can do it, after all, but this is not the cohesive Rebels outfit of March.

12 Brumbies (Fourth in AC)

We think the Brumbies should be better, but the manner in which they bottled a 21-10 halftime lead would suggest they are not much chop in 2018. That was their fourth straight loss.

13 Blues (Fifth in NZC)

The Blues scored two tries, one of which emanated from a marvellous Sonny Bill Williams offload to Orbyn Leger. But that was it. They lost 36-15 at home to a Hurricane side that struggled to engage third gear. You cannot be competitive for 60 minutes and hope that will be enough in the NZ derbies.

14 Reds (Third in AC)

63-28 to the Sunwolves in Tokyo. All the very best, Brad Thorn.

15 Sunwolves (Fifth in AC)

You may have picked the Sunwolves to beat the Reds in Tokyo for their first victory. But there is surely not a pundit on the planet who foresaw the 63-28 scoreline. Hayden Parker showed his value with no less than 36 points, while Hosea Saumaki, who is proving a handful on the wing, ran in a hat-trick. Can you further believe that the Sunwolves did not even snatch a tryscoring bonus point?