The first week of the 2010 Super 14 went largely as expected with a couple of thrilling finishes, some great tries and little bit of controversy thrown in for good measure.
The main focal point of the first week was how the referees enforced stricter rulings around the breakdown area. It became obvious that some teams adapted to the new rulings better than others.
While the new rulings did encourage teams to run the ball more, they also made the defending team more hesitant to compete for the ball for fear of being penalised.
Taking away the contest for the ball removes an essential part of the game and needs to be looked at even if it means less running rugby.
A nice mix of the two would be ideal.
The Power Rankings are largely based on the form of the teams and how they played rather than what the actual standings look like. However, they will no doubt look similar as the teams in form are generally the ones winning.
The first week was a hard one to rank having only seen each team play once and not being able to compare strengths of oppositions.
So, here we are with the first power rankings of the season:
1. The Bulls: Last Week: Won vs Cheetahs 51-34
The Bulls top the first power rankings of the year with an impressive 51-34 win over the Cheetahs and stamp their authority on the competition right from the start.
Morne Steyn kicked well, as always, and scored one of the Bulls six tries.
Positives: Fifty-one points is impressive, particularly away from home. But their opposition, the Cheetahs, don't look to be a huge threat this year.
Negatives: Defensively, giving up 34 points isn't great against one of the weaker teams in the competition and will certainly be a focus for the Bulls in coming weeks.
2. The Chiefs: Last Week: Won vs Sharks 19-18
What? The Chiefs are No. 2, and they only won by one point?
That's right the Chiefs fill the second spot largely because they managed a win in South Africa over the Sharks in just their first game of the season. These away wins can't be underestimated and getting points in South Africa is even more important.
Positives: A win in South Africa goes a long way and could prove crucial near the end of the season if things are looking close for the semifinal spot.
Negatives: The Chiefs cut it a bit fine leaving it until the last play to clinch themselves a win, but they'll take what they can get while in South Africa.
3. The Hurricanes: Last Week: Won vs Blues 34-20
The Hurricanes slide into this week's rankings after having a poor start to their win over the Blues.
However, they came through and looked good in the second half, adapting well to the new refereeing decisions. Consequently, they kicked nine penalties, while the Blues only kicked two.
Positives: Hosea Gear looked very dangerous, and the kickers were radar accurate and finished strongly.
Negatives: A slow start saw the Hurricanes trailing 20-12 at the break, but they managed to get themselves up for the second half.
4. The Crusaders: Last Week: Won vs Highlanders 32-17
The Crusaders started well holding possession for nearly 30 minutes in the first half. A strong start and a strong finish saw off a fierce Highlanders side who gave them a scare in the middle.
Positives: Kept the Highlanders scoreless in the first half and retained the ball well. Scored four tries to obtain a bonus point to go with their win.
Negatives: Seemed to go to sleep through the middle as Michael Hobbs scored 17 points, putting the Crusaders at 18-17 during one stage in the game.
5. The Brumbies: Last Week: Won vs Force 24-15
The Brumbies ran in three tries to take themselves to a victory over the Force. On Friday night, Stirling Mortlock became the first man to reach 1,000 Super Rugby points.
An away win sees the Brumbies into the No. 5 spot on this week's power rankings.
Positives: Three tries is a good start and shows that the Brumbies are going to be a threat on attack this year.
Negatives: Handling errors let the Brumbies down, although that can be attributed to the slippery ball in the high humidity.
6. The Stormers: Last Week: Won vs Lions 26-13
The Stormers kicked their season off with a win in Jo'burg against the Lions. Joe Pietersen and Jacque Fourie both dotted down while Pietersen nailed six kicks.
Positives: A win is a win, and two tries in Jo'Burg isn't a bad effort considering it's one of the hardest grounds to go to and win.
Negatives: Took a while for the Stormers to get going, but they defended well enough to make sure that it wasn't an issue.
7. The Waratahs: Last Week: Won vs Reds 30-28
The Waratahs just sneaked home over a determined Reds side who pushed them right to the final whistle before Wycliff Palu touched down under the posts in the dying seconds.
Positives: Got a win against their archrivals, which counts for something.
Negatives: For 80 minutes, it looked like the Tahs weren't going to be able to snatch the win, which must cause some concern amongst their camp.
8. The Reds: Last Week: Lost vs Waratahs 28-30
Oh so close!
It seemed as though the Reds were going to sneak another one past their rivals on Saturday night, but it wasn't to be. Palu scored a heartbreaking try in the dying seconds to steal the match.
Positives: Looked good and played an attractive style of rugby, pushed the Waratahs to the absolute limit.
Negatives: Twelve points against them in the last few minutes was deadly.
9. The Sharks: Last Week: Lost vs Chiefs 18-19
Along with the Reds, the Sharks were one of the two most unlucky teams in the competition this week; it seemed they had seized victory, but it was not to be.
Positives: They pushed last years finalists to the last play.
Negatives: A home loss could be crucial come crunch time.
10. The Highlanders: Last Week: Lost vs Crusaders 17-32
The Highlanders looked like they were going to grab another one from the Crusaders with fifteen minutes left, but weren't able to capitalise on enough opportunities.
The team definitely showed that they have potential to do well, but it remains to be seen if they can turn chances into points.
Positives: Although 32 points doesn't suggest it, the Highlanders were very good defensively. Michael Hobbs looked to have the goods at first-five.
Negatives: Handling errors are an issue.They blew too many chances by dropping last passes that could have seen the results reversed.
11. The Blues: Last Week: Lost vs Hurricanes 20-34
They were superb for 40 minutes and abysmal for another 40 minutes. So was Stephen Brett for that matter, who seemed to dictate the way the team played whether it be good or bad.
Positives: Great start.
Negatives: Poor finish. Didn't adapt well to the new rulings, which cost them dearly.
12. The Lions: Last Week: Lost vs Stormers 13-26
Remained competitive for 30 minutes, but failed to stick with the Stormers in a costly home loss.
Positives: Traditionally, they have been one of the weaker sides, so they did well to keep the score within 13. If they are going to challenge for the title, they need to do better while at home.
Negatives: Home losses are costly in this competition.
13. The Force: Last Week: Lost vs Brumbies 15-24
Only lost by nine, but zero tries sees the Force slide in the rankings.
Positives: The Force are injury struck at the moment and will likely be stronger once they get their players back.
Negatives: No tries.
14. The Cheetahs: Last Week: Lost vs Bulls 34-51
This may seem low for a team who scored 34 points against the defending champions, but the fact that they let in 51 makes them slip.
Positives: Thirty-four points on attack.
Negatives: Letting in 51 points is an issue.
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