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PartnersApril 11, 2016

KFC Super Rugby power rankings week 7: The least talked about star of Super Rugby


The Chiefs still top the rankings after a close call against the Blues, but the Hurricanes are breathing down their necks following a niggly win over the Jaguares in Wellington. Scotty Stevenson sorts it all out in the KFC Super Rugby Power Rankings.

1. Chiefs
Rd 7: 29-23 v Blues
Last week: 1 (N/C)
Yes, the Chiefs are still on top after withstanding the full force of the Blues’ best intentions in Hamilton on Friday night. ‘The Battle for Huntly’ was typically fierce, and the Blues even managed to unearth some serious vulnerabilities in the Chiefs defensive set up – namely that they are prone to getting caught short when teams go wide-to-wide on them. Unfortunately for the Blues, the Chiefs are the stage-six clingers of rugby; you just can’t shake them. Also, I am inclined to give bonus points here for the fact that Stephen Donald played forty minutes and showcased his infamous “head dummy step” which, of course, no one bought. When asked post-match if he was happy to run dummy cut lines all night, Beaver replied “When you have Seta Tamanivalu running the outside line, would YOU pass me the ball?”

2. Hurricanes
Rd 7: 40-22 v Jaguares
Last week: 4 (up 2)
The Hurricanes celebrated Cory Jane’s 100th Super Rugby match with a pull-away win over a Jaguares side that now looks intent on winning nothing but the thug life award for most niggle in a season. No sooner had the Canes posted a bonus point victory than they were again disparaged in some sections for struggling against a weaker side. Those same sections claimed pre-season that the Jaguares were play off contenders, which just goes to show you can’t have your cake and eat it too, even when you are playing in the Cake Tin. Seriously, though, how can you not love a team in which the hooker runs for more metres than any other player? Dane Coles is the Schalk Brits of New Zealand rugby.

3. Crusaders
Rd 7: 20-19 v Force
Last week: 3 (N/C)
The Crusaders are guilty of making a complicated game look impossible. If the Crusaders were planning your trip to the Gold Coast they would book flights via Los Angeles, London and Dubai. There is no such thing as the shortest route to the line for this team, which is just the way they do things. There is also no such thing as panic in the Crusaders which is exactly the reason they were able to win this week despite making 23 turnovers. One more thing: is Johnny McNicholl the least talked about star of Super Rugby?

Johnny McNicholl: scored a try. (Photo: Getty Images)
Johnny McNicholl: scored a try. (Photo: Getty Images)

4. Lions
Rd 7: 24-9 v Sharks
Last week: 6 (up 2)
I prayed following the defeat to the Crusaders that the Lions wouldn’t back away from their enthusiastic attacking mindset, but they did anyway, which illustrates both the futility of prayer and the deep-seated South African mistrust of rugby flair. The Sharks did more than the Lions to win the game, but were undone by the fact they are as imaginative as a politician’s press conference. The Lions took full toll of the Sharks’ woeful turnover rate which is exactly what they should have done.

5. Highlanders
Rd 7: 27-28 v Reds
Last week: 2 (down 3)
The Highlanders attempted to smash the world record for the most godawful passes in a single game of rugby and did it with ease. There is plenty of admiration for the Highlanders’ rip shit and bust style – they are the defending champions after all – but there was a worrying lack of composure against the Reds. It was as if the Highlanders were missing something. Oh, that’s right, Ben Smith wasn’t playing.

6. Brumbies
Rd 7: BYE
Last week: 5 (down 1)
Through no fault of their own the Brumbies fall a place on a bye week. What does one do in Canberra on a bye week? What does one do in Canberra any other week?

7. Stormers
Rd 7: 46-19 v Sunwolves
Last week: 7 (N/C)
The Stormers shocked the universe by scoring more points this week than any other team in Super Rugby which would have put paid to the whole one-dimensional Stormers argument if it weren’t for the fact they scored all those points against the Sunwolves, who have the defensive integrity of wartime France. The Stormers have a dream draw this season, but they will not go deep in the playoffs until they stop playing deep in their own half.

8. Bulls
Rd 7: 38-6 v Kings
Last week: 9 (up 1)
Old mate Jeremy Wells loves the Bulls for their ten-man style and who could blame him for that? I’m just going to throw this out there as exhibit A in the case for the Bulls’ adherence to legacy: Bulls first five eighth Tiaan Schoeman ran zero times for zero metres. How is that even possible in a game of rugby? There is nothing more Bulls than that stat – nothing!  They also threw 22 offloads. There is nothing less Bulls than that stat.

Tiaan Schoeman in action for the Bulls. (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)
Tiaan Schoeman: Bulls legend in the making. (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)

9. Blues
Rd 7: 23-29 v Chiefs
Last week: 10 (up 1)
There are three genuinely exciting things about the Blues. Two of them are called Ioane and the other is called Blake Gibson. It has been mentioned before in the Power Rankings that the Blues look like a side that has forgotten how to win, and that’s all about chances. I mentioned during the game that the Blues create chances, and the Chiefs convert them. That was pretty much the match report from Friday. The Blues do so many good things, but offloading to no one inside their own 22 is not one of them.

10. Rebels
Rd 7: BYE
Last week: 8 (down 2)
The great thing about being a Rebel is that you can walk around your own home town and not a single person will know who you are. Perfect for date nights. The Rebels fall off the back of the bye but like the Brumbies it’s through no fault of their own. I am starting to love the Rebels – they have a Highlanders buzz going on there, minus the championship, the two Smiths, Malakai Fekitoa, Patrick Osborne, Waisake Naholo and Lima Sopoaga. But in every other way they are like the Highlanders.

11. Reds
Rd 7: 28-27 v Highlanders
Last week: 14 (up 3)
I can’t believe I am doing this, but the Reds are on a climb through the Power Rankings after somehow holding out the defending champions in Brisbane on Saturday night. There are certain elements that temper my enthusiasm for the Reds. First, the Highlanders sucked to 2013-level proportions. Second, the Reds themselves genuinely have no idea how they won that game. They are the first team this year to get a standing ovation at half time, purely because the Suncorp faithful were as shocked as the players that they had scored 22 points.

12. Waratahs
Rd 7: BYE
Last week: 12 (N/C)
I’ve got a horrible feeling that the Waratahs are about to discover their mojo again, and realise it was lying under a towel at Coogee Beach all along.

13. Force
Rd 7: 19-20 v Crusaders
Last week: 17 (up 4)
I actually shed a tear for the Force on Friday night. After three weeks of conducting losing captain post match interviews with Matt Hodgson in New Zealand I feel like I’ve become emotionally invested, which is a terrible state to be in with a team that continues to find all new ways to break your heart. There is T’Pau-level heart and soul in the Force but heart and soul only get you so far in this competition. At some point you have to nut punch someone.

14. Sharks
Rd 7: 9-24 v Lions
Last week: 11 (down 3)
The Sharks have jumped the Shark. What has happened to this team?

15. Cheetahs
Rd 7: BYE
Last week: 15 (N/C)
You know that friend you have who turns up to every party, makes everyone laugh, dances like a demon, puts on good tunes but then drinks too much an ends up smashing your rabbit ornaments you just bought from IKEA at which point you swear you will never invite him to a party again but then the next party rolls around and he’s not there and suddenly it doesn’t feel half as much fun without him? Yeah, that’s the Cheetahs on a bye-week.

16. Jaguares
Rd 7: 22-40 v Hurricanes
Last week: 13 (down 3)
They’re not getting any better, are they?

17. Sunwolves
Rd 7: 19-46 v Stormers
Last week: 18 (up 1)
The dam was always going to burst at some stage for the Sunwolves, and it finally happened against the Stormers. Yes, the Sunwolves conceded more points than any other team this week but at east they are still scoring some points of their own, which is more than can be said for the Kings.

18. Kings
Rd 7: 6-38 v Bulls
Last week: 16 (down 1)
Stop, hey, what’s that sound? That’s the sound of the Kings’ coming crashing back down to earth, that’s what that sound is.

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