SportsJuly 4, 2016

Super Rugby Power Rankings: Is this the real life?


Scotty Stevenson awakes from a long and disorientating slumber to continue the unforgiving weekly task of ranking every team in Super Rugby from best to worst.

Sweet Lord, that break was so long I had actually forgotten which team was last top of the Power Rankings. Worse, I am now reminded of how much can change in a month. The last time we posted these, the UK was in the EU, Australia had a government, and Auckland had a housing crisis. Okay, so not everything has changed…

1. Chiefs
Rd 15: 23-13 v Crusaders
Last round: 6 (up 5)
Ni Sa Bula Chiefs fans! The pride of Hamilton swapped a home game at Waikato Stadium for a home game in Suva and delivered a body blow to the Crusaders with a pull-away win in the wet which saw them deny the most cultish side in the competition a bonus point. The Chiefs are riding a Stephen Donald tsunami all the way to the playoffs and Damian McKenzie, after a couple of quiet weeks in May, is back to his electric best. No team counter attacks as well.

Super Rugby: Tropical Downpour edition. (Photo: Getty Images)
Super Rugby: Tropical Downpour edition. (Photo: Getty Images)

2. Lions
Rd 15: 37-10 v Sharks
Last round: 2 (N/C)
The only thing that can stop the Lions going real deep in the playoffs (if not winning the whole competition) is if they wake up one day and realise they are the Lions. They have been the hit of the competition and the one reason the South African conference deserves to be treated with some respect. The Sharks had no answer to the onslaught on the weekend, and the Lions have now scored the most points and most tries of any team this season. They also became the first team to qualify for the playoffs.

3. Hurricanes
Rd 15: 37-27 v Blues
Last round: 3 (N/C)
I still think Wellington Mexican food joint Flying Burrito Brothers should be running a special on the Vaea Fifita flaming Fajita this week, but I am not in the business of marketing ethnically usurped menu items so it probably won’t happen. The Hurricanes may well look at this come from behind victory as a pivotal moment in the season – they were forced to make 176 tackles against the Blues and still managed to take their own attacking chances in the second spell.

4. Crusaders
Rd 15: 13-23 v Chiefs
Last round: 1 (down 3)
If there’s one thing I know about the Crusaders it’s this: they would have been angry for the entire trip back to New Zealand, and even angrier considering they were on the same plane as the Chiefs, who beat them up in Suva. Okay, there are two things I know about the Crusaders, and the other thing is that they will come out this weekend and be much better than they were on Friday night. The Crusaders are always good when they just trust what they do, which is the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

5. Waratahs
Rd 15: 57-12 v Sunwolves
Last round: 5 (N/C)
I have long thought the Waratahs were capable of finding a way to snatch the Australian conference from the Brumbies and nothing I saw over the weekend has made me change my mind. Just as the Brumbies did before the break, the Tahs crushed the Sunwolves in Tokyo. However, they did it with more style and flair and that still goes a long way in this competition. Tatafu Polota-Nau had one of his best games of the season, and managed not to get knocked out which was a bonus. The more Folau settles in at centre, the better this team looks.

6. Highlanders
Rd 15: 48-18 v Kings
Last round: 4 (down 2)
This was once a team that struggled to cobble together enough men for a starting fifteen and now it is so confident that it can head to South Africa and leave behind three of its most important players. Moreover, the Highlanders bench was sensational value for money against the Kings in front of four spectators in Port Elizabeth. Matt Faddes is firming as captain of the 2016 Palagi All Stars team with a hat trick of tries, and Aki Seiuli may well be everyone’s new favourite front rower. There are few teams in Super Rugby who can do so much damage in such a short space of time, and the Highlanders’ final quarter blitzkrieg should have others on notice.

7. Brumbies
Rd 15: 43-24 v Reds
Last round: 7 (N/C)
Fullback Aidan Toua topped all players in the comp this week for metres run, and the Brumbies looked well balanced against a Reds team that has battled away all year. Still, I don’t know why I can’t bring myself to go all in on this team. Maybe it’s just me.

8. Stormers
Rd 15: 57-31 v Rebels
Last round: 9 (up 1)
Only a disaster could stop the Stormers clinching top spot in their conference now. They are nine points clear of the Bulls with two games to play, and those games are against the Force and the Kings. Posted their highest ever score on the weekend but who cares? I am not a fan of the red and black uniforms. If there are two colours more opposite to their traditional blue and white, it would have to be red and black. I am no fashionista, but that’s just dumb. Actually, away strips need to be banned, or all be designed by Stade Francais.

9. Blues
Rd 15: 27-37 v Blues
Last round: 10 (up 1)
I’m going to say it. The Blues deserve an enormous amount of praise for not being shit this year. So they won’t make the playoffs, and that’s not great for the franchise, but as soon as they realise they can win the games that count – namely those against other New Zealand teams – then they will be a contender. The Blues do so much right in a game of rugby, but they are guilty of wearing themselves out by running the ball from everywhere. They are still missing the crucial percentages in game management.

Jerome Kaino mere seconds before scoring a try. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
Jerome Kaino mere seconds before scoring a try. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

10. Rebels
Rd 15: 31-57 v Stormers
Last round: 12 (up 2)
The Rebels are on a quest to make sure every game they play finishes in an AFL-level score, which is a nice gesture to the people of Melbourne but not a great idea when you are on the wrong side of that score, as they were against the Stormers. The Rebels, like the Blues, have enough talent to get results, but lack the finish. If they discover a way to convert their territorial dominance to points, they’ll be in business. Also, letting the Stormers score seven tries against you is horrible.

11. Sharks
Rd 15: 10-37 v Lions
Last round: 8 (down 3)
They have lost four first choice five eighths. And they are playing like it. A case in point: Paul Jordaan ran for no metres. How does an inside centre run for no metres? The whole job of an inside centre is to run metres. I’m afraid it’s back to the drawing board for the Sharks. Either that or time to pull Andre Joubert’s moustache out of retirement.

12. Bulls
Rd 15: 11-29 v Jaguares
Last round: 11 (down 1)
Where do I begin here? The Bulls kicking game, which was their only game, was so bad they couldn’t have hit a wall if they were standing in a lounge. Apart from that, they chased them badly and then when they got the ball they dropped it. The official stats say the Jaguares kicked the ball more than the Bulls did, which makes me feel like I was watching a different game entirely. In fact, I think the statistician gave up, went to the pub and made the rest up later.

13. Jaguares
Rd 15: 29-11 v Bulls
Last round: 18 (up 5)
Too late, their time has come.

14. Cheetahs
Rd 15: 30-29 v Force
Last round: 14 (N/C)
Sends shivers down my spine.

15. Reds
Rd 15: 24-43 v Brumbies
Last round: 13 (down 1)
Body’s aching all the time.

16. Force
Rd 15: 29-30 v Cheetahs
Last round: 16 (N/C)
Goodbye everybody, they’ve got to go.

17. Sunwolves
Rd 15: 12-57 v Waratahs
Last round: 15 (down 2)
Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth.

18. Kings
Rd 15: 18-48 v Highlanders
Last round: 17 (down 1)
Mama, ooh ooh ooh ooh…

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