Power Rankings - Week Two
SUPER RUGBY SPOTLIGHT: This past weekend Super Rugby went into overdrive, with 14 teams back in action for the first time in 2018 - after the South African conference kicked off proceedings the week before.
Each week we will assess and rank all fifteen teams based on their performance throughout the season.
Check out how your team stacks up below.
1. Crusaders (1-0)
The defending champion Crusaders are still the best team in Super Rugby.
The Christchurch based franchise got their season off to a perfect start, beating the Chiefs 45-23 on Saturday. Get used to seeing plenty of scores like this, the Crusaders topped 40 points seven times last season and went undefeated until the last week of the regular season.
Scott Robertson’s men definitely look primed for a repeat as they try to send long time prop Wyatt Crockett off into the sunset with a fourth title.
2. Lions (2-0)
Swys de Bruin’s transition to head coach has been as successful as possible so far.
3. Highlanders (1-0)
The Highlanders topped the Blues in their first competitive hit out since the departure of All Blacks midfielder Malakai Fekitoa. The new midfield pairing of Rob Thompson and Teihorangi Walden stepped up in his place, scoring four of the Highlanders’ five tries.
New coach Aaron Mauger cracked into a well-deserved Speights after his first win, which was also the Highlanders’ first opening round win since 2014.
Might have been ranked higher but lose points for Aaron Smith’s man-bun.
4. Waratahs (1-0)
Daryl Gibson’s side are just four seasons removed from winning a Super Rugby title, and after a disappointing 2017 they look set to reclaim their spot atop the Australian Conference thanks to a healthy Bernard Foley and the return of Kurtley Beale after a short stint with the London Wasps.
5. Bulls (1-0)
John Mitchell’s Bulls team shocked the rugby world last week after beating the Hurricanes 21-19 in Pretoria. They’ll be tested once again in week three as they take on the Lions, who have become South Africa’s best team since their re-introduction in 2014.
6. Blues (0-1)
The Blues showed some real promise as they went down in a thriller against the Highlanders.Despite the loss, the Blues produced a strong offensive performance with 19 clean breaks, over 500 metres gained and 22 defenders beaten. But they came up short in the only statistic that really matters, points scored.
The Blues are well placed to beat a depleted Chiefs side in week three before they head to South Africa. A victory over the Chiefs would be their first win over a New Zealand side since round one of 2016.
Unfortunately, it’s a lot easier said than done. After picking up a win against the Jaguares and losing at the final hooter to the Waratahs, the Stormers’ season could very quickly get away from them as they take on the Crusaders, Highlanders and Blues in consecutive weeks.
8. Rebels (1-0)
9. Brumbies (1-0)
The reigning Australian Conference champions have a weak schedule to start their season; they’ll play the Reds, Rebels and Sharks in Australia before a bye and won’t face a New Zealand team until week nine.
10. Sharks (0-1)
11. Chiefs (0-1)
The Chiefs have undergone the most significant changes of any New Zealand side. With a new coach, new players in several key positions and the loss of 100 test caps in the backline, the Hamilton side face an uphill battle in 2018.
Colin Cooper’s first game in charge saw the Chiefs concede 45 points, the most they’ve conceded since 2016.
12. Hurricanes (0-1)
Head coach Chris Boyd will be hoping that history repeats for his side. Their last loss to open the season was a 52-10 drubbing at the hands of the Brumbies in 2016. They went on to win their first title.
13. Sunwolves (0-1)
Jamie Joseph has completely revamped the Sunwolves roster. 36 members of the 2017 team are gone, and there are 23 new faces in the changing sheds.
The Japanese franchise already look significantly more structured and effective under Joseph. Just one year after opening their season with an 83-17 dismantling at home, the Sunwolves had the Brumbies on the ropes before eventually going down by seven in Tokyo.
14. Jaguares (0-2)
Travel is one aspect, but the Jaguares’ real achilles heel has been discipline. Last season they ranked in the bottom five in terms of penalties conceded, and had the second most yellow cards with 12. They have already been handed three after just two games in 2018.
The Queensland side could be bottom dwellers for a while as new coach Brad Thorn shifts the focus towards youth. There’s no doubt the team has some real talent, they just need time to put it together on the field.
By Sam Warlow, RugbyPass