It’s tight at the top and deeply, deeply depressing at the bottom of Scotty Stevenson’s power rankings this week.
1. Hurricanes (up 1)
This team has zero damns to give about anything or anyone. Why would you care when you have Harry Potter’s estranged older brother Beauden Barrett running the cutter. Barrett is playing a game of his own at the moment, standing on a stage and pulling rabbits out of his hat while defensive lines watch on trying to figure out how he does it. If that isn’t enough for other teams to contend with, Cory Jane is catching everything kicked to him (as usual). Ardie Savea has still not once been put down behind the gain line. Dan Cron’s scrum is stealing more opposition feeds than any other. And Ngani Laumape and Vince Aso alone have combined for more tries than have been scored by the Cheetahs, the Sharks, The Force or the Rebels.
— Cory Jane (@CoryJane1080) April 22, 2017
2. Crusaders (up 1)
If the Crusaders get up to win their first title in nine years this season, then they will be able to put it down to team spirit. Someone has unleashed the inner child in the Crusaders, who for years have played like Baby Boomers with bad tenants in their seven rental homes. Not now. The Stormers were blown away in a first half onslaught that epitomised the Crusaders play: throw the ball to someone else as quickly as you can. It’s a simple game plan for the Crusaders. Carry lots, pass lots, win lots of rucks, keep the ball for long periods of time. Add to that some staunch defence that has leaked just one final quarter try this season and you have a formidable proposition. Also: Sam Whitelock is a captain without peer right now.
3. Lions (up 1)
Last year’s finalists are 7-1 and ground out a gritty win against the only team to tip them up this season over the weekend when they defeated the Jags at home. The Lions have the best lineout in the competition, a wonderful conference route to the playoffs, and much of the same attacking flair that saw them go to the big dance last year. Andries Coetzee is one of the best ball runners in the competition and Jaco Kriel’s ability over the ball is keeping this team in turnover attack chances. The next three games against the Force, Rebels and Brumbies should each be considered must-wins for this team if it is to go all the way to the final again this year.
4. Chiefs (down 3)
The Chiefs are 7-1 and very unhappy, which is typical for a team that thrives on flogging themselves like the blonde guy from the Da Vinci Code. The Chiefs have battled on their tour to South Africa and Perth – losing to the Stormers, battling back against the Cheetahs (and how!) and participating in one of the grimiest excuses for a rugby game last week against the Force. As frustrated internally as the Chiefs may be, I suspect doing it tough is better preparation for this team than putting 50 points on the board each week. At least, that’s what I am going with.
5. Highlanders (up 3)
The big movers in this week’s power rankings, the Highlanders duly caned the Moon Dogs in Invercargill last weekend and now have the Stormers at home in what should be a cracking game of footy. Marty Banks somehow managed to miss a shot at goal at Rugby Park, bringing to an end a record streak of consecutive goals that dates back to 2015. Marty f**ken Banks! Matt Faddes has returned to the fold looking every bit like the Player of the Year he was last season, and the Highlander’s pack is straight up scary, boasting the best scrum in the competition.
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugby) April 26, 2017
6. Stormers (down 1)
I am wondering what has happened to Dillyn Leyds over the last two weeks. I fear his running feet may have been kidnapped and are currently being held hostage. Adding to the Stormers woes last week was the absence of regular fullback SP Marais, and they’ll be hoping he returns at pace. As much as Robbie Fleck has improved the skill level in the side, they could not cope with the pace of the Crusaders last week, and they’ll be dished up more of the same this Friday in Dunedin. I get the feeling the Stormers are capable of great things when they have all their best players on the park, but the wheels quickly come off when the big names go down. Marais and Kolisi are both back, which bodes well for the tourists.
7. Sharks (N/C)
To be honest, I was struggling to think of the next team to rank here. I thought about the Brumbies for a while before coming down off a massive trip. The Sharks get the nod at number 7 after completing a 9-all draw against the Rebels last weekend. The Sharks have decided to really turn back the clock by taking shots at goal at every available opportunity (they kick the most) and making almost zero clean breaks per game (they make the least). They miss the fewest tackles per game of any side though, so there’s that. They would be number one on the Power Rankings if this was 1959.
8. Jaguares (down 2)
I fear the Jags are slowly but surely blowing this season. I had high hopes for them this season. So their slide in form depresses me. I eat when I am depressed, just in case you were wondering. I am blowing up here.
9. Blues (N/C)
I have a lot of sympathy for the Blues, who just can’t seem to find the last pass, the last metre, or the final try this season. No team makes defeat look as heartbreaking as the Blues do. There is effort, there is structure, there is ability, but there is all the killer instinct of an earthworm. Now they have lost Jerome Kaino for six weeks, have a locking crisis which has necessitated a call-up for Maori All Blacks second-rower Leighton Price, and Tana Umaga has recruited some schoolboy stars to provide backline cover. I pray Akira Ioane finally realises he is a giant who can crush cars with his bare fists and gives us all what we want to see for the rest of the season. The season is gone for the Blues, but not all hope of a fast finish is lost.
10. Brumbies (N/C)
The Brumbies put 43 points on the Reds three weeks ago and have since been beaten by the Rebels and crushed by the Hurricanes. Any smirk they had watching Stephen Moore lose it after the Reds game has been wiped off their dials over the last fortnight. The best tackling percentage in the competition they may boast, but this team has gone so far into its shell on attack, I fear they may never re-emerge. Still, they are seven points clear of the next best team in Australia, so there is that.
11. Bulls (N/C)
The Bulls have a tough gig. Not only do they have to play against some of the best teams in the competition, but they also have a fan base that can turn on them at any moment. Coach Nollis Marais has been in the gun over the last few weeks, but you can’t blame the guy for looking at the Lions and thinking, we should probably try to play like that. They can’t at the moment, but they should stick with it. They have the most successful lineout in the competition, and exactly no one willing to take advantage of that in the backline.
12. Kings (up 5)
Holy shit, I can’t believe I am doing this.
13. Reds (up 1)
That the Reds are making the fewest tackles per game while boasting the worst tackle percentage in the competition is a frightening fact for their fans to comprehend. If that’s not bad enough, they are scoring fewer points per game than any team bar the Force and the Rebels. Where is the Queensland rugby of yore? Six years ago this was a champion team. Still, at least they’re better than…
14. Waratahs (down 1)
Given the history of the Waratahs I cannot believe some smarmy Sydney banker in khakis and a scarf hasn’t tried to have Coach Gibson sacked. He shouldn’t be sacked. It’s not his fault. The Waratahs are struggling to beat other teams because their heads are up their arses. No wonder they can’t see what they are doing out there.
15. Rebels (N/C)
I openly admit I have a soft spot for the Rebels. Never before have such a merry band of misfits and outcasts been thrust together for the purposes of playing professional rugby. The Rebels can’t score points, don’t kick goals, struggle to make a break, don’t bother offloading, and have a malfunctioning lineout. They do all of this with barely a Wallaby on deck, though. Because of that, this is a team I can get around.
The old and the new but both are tough. Will & Hugh found this classic Massey Ferguson tractor on the course at Cotswold Downs golf club. pic.twitter.com/nkcmw2H5wM
— Melbourne Rebels (@MelbourneRebels) April 26, 2017
16. Cheetahs (down 4)
I have given up trying to figure this team out. No one can. Not even them.
17. Force (up 1)
I want to say things will get better, but I’m just not sure they will.
18. Sunwolves (down 1)
I don’t even care about the results anymore. I am just here for the sake.
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