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KFC Super Rugby power rankings: Crusaders just wanna have fun

The Chiefs have finally been toppled off the top spot, only to be replaced by another New Zealand team in Scotty Stevenson’s latest Super Rugby power rankings.

1. Crusaders
Rd 9: 40-14 v Brumbies
Last week: 3 (up 2)

Have you noticed how much fun the Crusaders are having? Me too. And that’s why they are winning. Forget all the other bollocks about victory streaks, and forget, too, any sentence that includes the phrase “first time since”. Just put it all down to a bunch of lads enjoying their footy. That’s weird, the game plan hasn’t changed an awful lot, the playing roster still features a tonne of veterans, the coaching staff is the same… Oh, that’s right, there’s not a whole lot of dudes worrying about playing for another team at another tournament in November.

2. Chiefs
Rd 9. 28-27 v Hurricanes
Last week: 1 (down 1)

In true New Zealand rugby style, the Chiefs managed to win a game of rugby against a tough conference opponent for just the second time post-bye, at a venue they had triumphed at just twice before in 11 attempts, and still feel miserable about it. No one does victory misery like a New Zealand rugby coach. Okay, fair enough, the Chiefs scrum and lineout got schooled, they gave away too many penalties, missed too many tackles, and turned the ball over too much, but, on the plus side, THEY WON. That’s why they’re here.

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3. Lions
Rd 9: 45-10 v Kings
Last week: 4 (up 1)

There’s an old African saying that goes “The drier the waterhole, the thinner the warthog.” I have no idea what that means, how relevant it is here, or whether or not it is actually an old African saying. What I do know is the Lions did exactly what they should have done against the Kings, which is to say they put them away without too much fuss and looked good in the process. Have I told you how much I love the Lions?

4. Hurricanes
Rd 9: 27-28 v Chiefs
Last week: 3 (down 1)

Watching the Hurricanes fall to the Chiefs by a single point on Saturday was like watching an 80-minute documentary of the entire history of the Hurricanes, narrated by New Zealand’s Morgan Freeman, Golden Tonsils Grant Nisbett. It had everything: the undeniable brilliance of the backline, the extreme athleticism of the loose forwards, big tackles, sidesteps, counter-attacking runs, kicks into the wind, a crowd…and just when the Canes were about to score the last minute winner, they dropped the ball, with an open try line.

There is nothing more Hurricanes than that.

5. Stormers
Rd 9: 40-22 v Reds
Last week: 9 (up 4)

Well, well, well, the Stormers scored a whole bunch of points. What? It was against the Reds? Ah, right. I’m sick of trying to figure out where the Stormers stand in the scheme of things. They still play too much in their own half, and they won this one on superior discipline as opposed to genuine skills. They are a good team but they can’t seriously be thinking they are championship contenders with this style of play, can they?

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6. Waratahs
Rd 9: 49-13 v Force
Last week: 12 (up 6)

I was a fortnight early on predictions of the Waratahs finding their mojo, but they finally did. Israel Folau now holds the record for the most Super Rugby tries for the Waratahs, and there’s every chance, considering they have a game in hand, that they’ll now go on to win the Australian conference. There is too much quality in this side to see them slip back into their losing ways now. Look out, the Waratahs are the biggest climbers this season in Power Rankings.

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7. Highlanders
Rd 9: 14-15 v Sharks
Last week: 5 (N/C)

Why does every team think they can run through the Sharks’ midfield? The Sharks midfield is on maximum security lock down. Of course the Highlanders still tried, even though they lost one of their own midfielders, Jason Emery, after the wee man from Manawatu pulled off a dangerous charge on an airborne Wille le Roux that would have given him lifetime membership to the Cobra Kai Dojo. The Highlanders dropped the ball lots too. This was the opposite of a bounceback, whatever that is. The Landers look flat. Dunedin needs to host a street party for them.

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8. Bulls
Rd 9: BYE
Last week: 8 (N/C)

Just when the Bulls were starting to find a groove they go and have a bye week. I hope they have not spent the week watching endless replays of Morne Steyn’s kicking game.

9. Blues
Rd 9: BYE
Last week: 8 (down 1)

The problem is, the Blues bye week means the New Zealand Herald had to run stories about some teams called the Highlanders, Crusaders, Hurricanes and Chiefs. This was not good for the Auckland press corps. To make up for the lack of poor reviews, Power Rankings has dropped them one place.

10. Rebels
Rd 9: 36-14 v Cheetahs
Last week: 13 (up 3)

Perfectly balanced from the Rebels in week nine against a team that tried to make the magic happen again, but came unstuck against a superior team. The Rebels missed just nine tackles in the match, which is their best defensive effort of the season, and they kicked well in play to force the Cheetahs to return the ball out of their own defensive third. Smart week for the Rebels who now sit on top of the Australian conference. I’m really wanting to buy the Rebels, but I’m just scared of being burned again.

11. Sharks
Rd 9: 15-14 v Highlanders
Last week: 10 (down 1)

The Sharks played with a one-man advantage for 65 minutes of the match against the Highlanders and sneaked a one-point win. I cannot stress enough how impressive that steadfast adherence to not attacking a team at any cost is. It takes amazing self-control as a team to say, “I know we have an overlap whenever we want one, but let’s just make our tackles, and not get too excited about trying to score tries.” I admire the Sharks for that. They have the self-control of a field full of Stylites. They pray to the God of defence. Good luck against the Chiefs.

12. Brumbies
Rd 9: 14-40 v Crusaders
Last week: 6 (down 6)

This loss shows one thing: how bad the Waratahs were last week in Sydney. Where have the Brumbies gone? It is remarkable to think that this is the same team that put 50 on the Hurricanes in round one. Is it the front-office fracas? Is David Pocock that important to them? Has the person who designed their camouflage strip ever been in a war zone? Where? In a candy shop? I’ve never seen a Brumbies side look more bored or more predictable.

13. Cheetahs
Rd 9: 14-36 v Rebels
Last week: 10 (down 3)

The Cheetahs put 90 points on the Sunwolves last week, then went to Brisbane and got smashed to pieces by the Rebels, who the week before had been smashed to pieces by the Hurricanes. All of which means the Cheetahs’ result against the Sunwolves is the greatest outlier in the history of Super Rugby, and that the Cheetahs were possessed last week by a tokolosh.

14. Force
Rd 9: 13-49 v Waratahs
Last week: 11 (down 3)

Oh.

15. Sunwolves
Rd 9: 36-28 v Jaguares
Last week: 18 (up 3)

There’s a place for unashamed sentimentality on the Power Rankings and the Sunwolves deserve all the credit they can get for a chase down win over the Jaguares. Yes, the Jags, Hags, Ags, have been a massive let down, but take nothing away from Tokyo’s finest. A 120-point swing in a fortnight is something to cherish, as is loosehead prop Masataka Miami’s defence.

16. Reds
Rd 9: 22-40 v Stormers
Last week: 15 (down 1)

For the second straight week the Reds were slaughtered by a South African team. So much for a resurgence after their one-point win over the scrappy and panicky Highlanders in round seven. The Reds can’t play in anything less than 99% humidity.

17. Jaguares
Rd 9: 28-36 v Sunwolves
Last week: 16 (down 1)

Allow me to quote last week’s Power Rankings:

“Surely this is the most disappointing team in the competition given all the pre-season predictions about the strength of their roster. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Sunwolves beat them this weekend.”

I also do tarot readings on every second Tuesday.

18. Kings
Rd 9: 10-45 v Lions
Last week: 17 (down 1)

Allow me to quote last week’s Power Rankings:

“This is not going to be pretty for Kings fans.”

The Kings had 36 rucks in the entire game against the LIons, and ran for a team total of 128 metres, which is an all-new low in Super Rugby history. Not pretty? Try guy from the Goonies ugly.

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