One team in the top four, with the remaining bundled from fifth to eighth spot. After a slow start there is no denying that the New Zealand teams are rapidly warming to the task.
Statistically, the figures show a very clear picture, that the five teams are all positive and ball playing rugby sides – but sadly have the lowest crowd attendance of any nation.
Blues – 26 tries scored (equal first), 29 tries conceded (14th)
Key statistics: first in offloads, second in ball carries, second in defenders beaten, second in passing, second in running metres, 12th in turnovers conceded.
Blues (penalties/free kicks): 32: 48
Blues (18): Lions (home), Highlanders (home), Queensland Reds (home), Hurricanes (away), Brumbies (away), Crusaders (home)
Indicative of their running capabilities, statistically, the Blues are as dangerous a team as any in the competition.
But they leak points, and are struggling to maintain consistent pressure; lethal attack that shines in broken play but struggles against structured opponents. Full of game breakers and hard runners, but lacking in match generals.
Chiefs – 26 tries scored (equal first), 18 tries conceded (ninth)
Key statistics: first in running metres, first in defenders beaten, third in ball carries, third in kicks from hand, 11th in line out retention, 14th in turnovers conceded, 14th in scrum retention
Chiefs (penalties/free kicks): 41: 49
Chiefs (22): Lions (home), Cheetahs (away), Bulls (away), Stormers (away), Hurricanes (home), Brumbies (home)
Statistics reveal the attacking beast that the Chiefs are in the competition, running and beating players far beyond any other side—a key factor in running rugby domination. However, for all of their recent offensive class, there are statistical weaknesses that can be capitalised on if their running magic can be shackled.
Surprisingly they technically have the worst scrum and concede more ball than any other team.
Crusaders – 15 tries scored (ninth), 11 tries conceded (equal first)
Key statistics: first in ball carries, second in scrums won, first in passing, second in rucks won, second in total tackles made
Crusaders (penalties/free kicks): 37: 63
Crusaders (18): Bulls (home), Sharks (away), Cheetahs (away), Lions (away), Queensland Reds (home), Blues (away)
Despite being mid table and having lost a galaxy of stars in recent years, the Crusaders continue to be a benchmark side. A team that plays a lot of rugby, they are no nonsense with a brilliant defence and outstanding control in the ruck.
If anything, their statistics show that they have the game, but perhaps not the game breakers to capitalise on their statistical brilliance.
Highlanders – 19 tries scored (third), 16 tries conceded (equal sixth)
Key statistics: Third in ball carries, third in defenders beaten, equal 13th in lineout retention, second in tackles made, first in rucks won
Highlanders (penalties/free kicks): 33: 72
Highlanders (18): Queensland Reds (home), Blues (away), Stormers (home), Sharks (away), Lions (away), Western Force (away)
The most improved and biggest achiever in the competition so far based on their personal. Another rugby playing team, they are playing positive up tempo rugby, with an on field style that belies their lack of big name class. Could potentially be the biggest outsiders ever to reach a super rugby top four.
Hurricanes: 20 tries scored (third), 17 tries conceded (ninth)
Key statistics: First in tackle completion, fourth in defenders beaten, second lowest kicks from hand, 14th in lineout retention, second best in ruck retention, 14th in tackles made
Hurricanes (penalties/free kicks): 29: 36
Hurricanes (20): Sharks (away), Western Force (away), Stormers (home), Brumbies (home), Blues (home), Chiefs (away), Queensland Reds (away)
There is enough evidence and the player power to ensure that the still to fire Hurricanes can challenge for the semi finals. Excellent defence and respect of their ball, but lack of overall structure has led to the Canes being inconsistent with their match displays.
Have ceased their early round kicking, keeping the ball in play as a team full of ball runners should. Tough drawer to close their season out.