Six weeks into the 2010 Super 14 and it seems that the competition is no easier to predict.
It should start to become clearer after we see the Bulls and the Stormers on their road trip in New Zealand and Australia. This will be telling as the South African sides are never so good away from home, as has been seen with the Lions and Sharks so far this year.
Week six produced a mixed bag of games. We saw an exciting thriller to start with between the Blues and the Brumbies, a nail biter between the Bulls and the Hurricanes, the Crusaders produced a demolition job of the Lions, the Highlanders versus Sharks game was one of poor quality, the Waratahs snuck home against the Force, while the Stormers again showed their defensive prowess once again after holding the Cheetahs to 8.
This week's rankings look at the teams' efforts in the whole competition so far rather than looking just at their games from the weekend. As always, the previous week's ranking is in parentheses.
1. The Bulls (1): Last Week: Won vs Hurricanes 19-18 Win/Loss: 5-0
The Bulls hold onto their number one spot once again due to their unbeaten record but their hold may be beginning to slip as they have looked shaky for the last two weeks now. This was the first week where they were held to below 40 points and only got home by one point. A win is a win though. The Bulls begin their road trip next week where they will be tested and we will see how good they really are.
Positives: Five from five is good. Morne Steyn seems to be radar accurate once again this year with his goal kicking.
Negatives: Holes are starting to form in the once impenetrable wall that was the Bulls. The coming weeks will show if they have what it takes to top this competition.
2. The Crusaders (2): Last Week: Won vs Lions 46-19 Win/Loss: 5-1
It was hard to judge the Crusaders this week. They put out a second-string team to destroy a terrible Lions team who have been below average all year. Because of this, they don't rise but they don't fall in the rankings.
Positives: Showed great depth in beating the Lions 46-19 with a side that was largely a 'B' team.
Negatives: None at the moment, they are playing well and have been closing the gap between them and the Bulls every week.
3. The Stormers (3): Last Week: Won vs Cheetahs 21-8 Win/Loss: 5-1
The Stormers defence has been amazing. I go on about it every week, but if you can consistently hold teams to less than 15 points then you are going to win a lot of games. To go with this, they have the likes of Bryan Habana out wide who has shown some great try scoring form this year.
Negatives: Not so much a negative, but it will be interesting to see how they go on the road.
4. The Reds (4): Last Week: Bye Win/Loss: 3-2
I couldn't drop the Reds after a week off due to the fact that they were so good against the Force. Also the fact that the Waratahs had a narrow win and the Brumbies losing saw that they weren't going to be over taken. Nothing much more to say seeing as they didn't play this week.
Positives: A side with great potential, need to try to build on the momentum they created before the bye which can be tricky.
Negatives: Another side who begins their road trip next week. Anyone notice that none of the top four teams have done their road trip yet?
5. The Waratahs (6): Last Week: Won vs Force 14-10 Win/Loss: 4-2
The Waratahs climb one spot in the rankings this week after a win over the Force that was far from flattering. To beat a Force side that has been struggling by just four points hardly warrants a raise. However, the Brumbies and the Hurricanes both lost and the Chiefs had the bye which saved the Waratahs from falling this week.
Positives: A win's a win and a 66 percent win/loss record is good at this stage of the season.
Negatives: A narrow win over one of the competitions two worst teams has to be seen as a negative rather than a positive.
6. The Brumbies (5): Last Week: Lost vs Blues 39-34 Win/Loss: 4-2
The Brumbies lost to the Blues, but they actually played quite well. Matt Giteau looked dangerous and seemed to be finding some of the same form that he displayed last year. A poor start to the second half cost them as Rene Ranger proved to be too much of a handful for them. All is not lost though and they will be liking their chances heading into a game against the Chiefs in Canberra next week.
Positives: Looked good against the Blues despite the loss. Threatening on attack.
Negatives: Their start to the second half needs looking at.
7. The Hurricanes (7): Last Week: Lost vs Bulls 19-18 Win/Loss: 3-3
I couldn't drop the Hurricanes after pushing the Bulls so close in Pretoria. They defended unbelievably well to keep a side who has scored 50 points on four occasions this year to just 19. Despite this, I couldn't put them up after a loss. They are back home next week where they will be looking to get back to their winning ways.
Positives: To let in only 19 points against the Bulls is outstanding. Back home next week.
Negatives: After looking very good after the first three games, the Hurricanes have now lost their three games in South Africa which questions whether they have what it takes to win a championship.
8. The Blues (10): Last Week: Won vs Brumbies 39-34 Win/Loss: 3-2
The Blues looked good in their win over the Brumbies on Friday night as they ran in five tries to win 39-34. Rene Ranger was their stand out player who proved to be too much to handle for the Brumbies.
Joe Rokocoko touched down twice, while Isaia Toeva also had a strong game and scored a try to boot. They finally seem to be showing what they are capable of and if the Blues could put out more performances like this one they will be in with a shot at a top four place.
Positives: Looked very threatening; brilliant in the first ten minutes after half time.
Negatives: Winning on a consistent basis may be the Blues biggest hurdle this year.
9. The Chiefs (8): Last Week: Bye Win/Loss: 3-2
The Chiefs fall in the rankings this week due to the Blues outstanding performance. After a great start on tour, the Chiefs have really fallen off the pace and will be up against it next week against the Brumbies in Canberra. Nothing else to say after a week off.
Positives: They are definitely capable of winning, actually winning is a different thing though.
Negatives: They really haven't looked like winning since coming home from South Africa.
10. The Cheetahs (9): Last Week: Lost vs Stormers 21-8 Win/Loss: 2-3
The Cheetahs went down to the competition's top defensive team in a 21-8 loss. The Cheetahs are another team who lack consistency and with a road trip to come it may be another long season for the Cheetahs.
Positives: Like the Chiefs they have shown they are capable of winning with good wins over the Hurricanes and the Sharks.
Negatives: Consistency is a problem, road trip to come, prospects look bleak for the Cheetahs.
11. The Sharks (12): Last Week: Won vs Highlanders 30-16 Win/Loss: 1-5
The Sharks finally got off the mark with a win over the Highlanders. Despite this, it was arguably their worst performance of the year as their error rate was high dropping balls all over the show and really struggling to turn chances into points at times. Ruan Pienaar and Ryan Kankowski were both stand outs and will want to lead their team on to some more wins as they return home next week.
Positives: Their first win of the season has to be a positive.
Negatives: Handling errors are a concern.
12. The Highlanders (11): Last Week: Lost vs Sharks 30-16 Win/Loss: 1-5
The Highlanders were awful against the Sharks. A home loss to a team that had previously lost every game they had played is enough to see the Highlanders fall this week. It's what is turning out to be a standard Highlanders game.
They look capable of scoring points, but never seem to be able to convert these opportunities into points. Because of this they will struggle to win games although they should win against the Lions next week.
Positives: Their set piece went well against the Sharks.
Negatives: They are still really struggling to get across the line and lack some creativity in their midfield.
13. The Force (13): Last Week: Lost vs Waratahs 14-10 Win/Loss: 0-5
The Force went close this week but still remain winless so remain at No. 13 in the rankings this week. The season is virtually over for the Force so their goal now should be just to win as many of their coming games to gain momentum for next year because they won't get into the top four even if they do win their final eight games.
Positives: Showed improvement in their narrowest losing margin so far.
Negatives: Still haven't won a game and don't look like winning too many.
14. The Lions (14): Last Week: Lost vs Crusaders 46-19 Win/Loss: 0-6
The Lions really look like the weakest team in this year's competition. Losing 46-19 to a Crusaders B team? Enough said.
Positives: Very few.
Negatives: Defence is the obvious one but their attack hasn't been great either other than their 65 point haul against the Chiefs.
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