Super 14 Power Rankings: Round 10
Only four weeks to go until semifinals now and it looks as though the fight for the top four places will be one of the closest we have seen in years.
The Reds' victory over the Bulls makes the race even closer as the Reds enter the top four and the Bulls remain in third place.
The next four weeks will be of the utmost importance to the playoff contenders, but the most important to the Bulls. The Bulls have the biggest home ground advantage in the competition and are almost unbeatable there.
They need to win their next four games to ensure that they top the table. If they can do this, they will win the competition. If they can't, they'll struggle playing a top team away from home.
The rankings remained largely unchanged this week.
1. The Bulls (1): Last Week: Lost vs Reds 19-12 Win/Loss: 7-2
The Bulls looked rusty against a well-drilled Reds side in Brisbane on Saturday night. Morne Steyn's kicking was off for the first time in living memory, they struggled to break the Reds line, and they seemed to be on the back foot for a lot of the game.
They retain their top spot, however. Remember, road games are hard to win. This was the last game of a four-game road trip, in which they went 2-2. The gap is continually closing between the Bulls and the Crusaders, but they hold the top spot for now.
Positives: Return home to the fortress that is Loftus Versfeld this week.
Negatives: They looked poor against the Reds. Nothing specific, just poor in general. They need to pick their game up again, which I'm sure they'll do.
2. The Crusaders (2): Last Week: Won vs Cheetahs 45-6 Win/Loss: 7-1-1
The Crusaders now top the table in the Super 14 after the Bulls' loss. I didn't put them up because it's more of an expectation that they'll beat the Cheetahs, they had to win to keep their No. 2 spot, which they did so I can't criticise them there. Road trip next week, could be telling.
Positives: To put it in a nutshell, they are playing 'Crusaders rugby' which is always a positive.
Negatives: Road trip to come next week. They have it tough as well, having to play both the Bulls and Stormers in South Africa.
3. The Stormers (3): Last Week: Won vs Chiefs 49-15 Win/Loss: 7-2
The Stormers were awesome against the Chiefs. Their attack was brilliant, there defence was brutal, need I say anymore?
Positives: A 49-15 win on the road against last year's finalists, that's unheard of.
Negatives: They have a tough game against the Reds next week. This will be a good test for them. At the moment, I must say the Stormers are looking better than the Bulls, but next week will show how good they really are.
4. The Reds (4): Last Week: Won vs Bulls 19-12 Win/Loss: 6-3
The Reds became the second team to topple the Bulls after a dominating performance. The Reds played a fast-paced game for the whole 80 minutes, led by their halfback Will Genia who is coming on in leaps and bounds this season.
They showed just how to win by having a go and always backing yourself. A truly great performance, definite contenders for the top four.
Positives: Showed everyone how to play an up-tempo stylish brand of rugby. Looked every bit like a finals side.
Negatives: Must get up for the Stormers next week, which will be tough. We saw what happened to the Blues, who were in the same situation.
5. The Waratahs (5): Last Week: Bye Win/Loss: 6-3
The Waratahs stay where they are after a bye. They take on the Brumbies next week in the local derby in Sydney.
Positives: The bye may have been just what they needed to get back on track after a close loss the the Crusaders.
Negatives: I'm struggling to find any real negatives for this team at the moment. They have been pretty consistent over the last six or seven weeks. They have struggled to win big-time games this year, though, something that will cost them.
6. The Brumbies (6): Last Week: Lost vs Hurricanes 23-13 Win/Loss: 6-3
It was a toss up out of the Brumbies and the Blues for this spot, but I went with the Brumbies, seeing as they have a better win/loss record.
The Brumbies looked average against the Hurricanes, who seemed to be displaying some of their form since the start of the season. Need to get up for a big game against the Waratahs next week.
Positives: Remain in the playoff hunt with just three losses.
Negatives: Have a hard run in. Still have to play the Crusaders, Waratahs, and Reds.
7. The Blues (7): Last Week: Won vs Force 38-14 Win/Loss: 5-4
The Blues scored six tries to beat an on-form Force side on Saturday night. It is looking as though they will have to win every game from here on in and with a trip to South Africa to come, that seems unlikely.
Good to see Joe Rokocoko is finding his old form again, hope to see him back in a black jersey scoring tries this years.
Positives: They scored six tries in the weekend, Rokocoko scored three, this is and has always been a real strength of the Blues.
Negatives: I've said it all season, but consistency is still a problem so forgive me for repeating myself constantly.
8. The Hurricanes (8): Last Week: Won vs Brumbies 23-13 Win/Loss: 4-4-1
Finally a win! It was the Hurricanes' first win since Round Three of the competition. They actually looked quite good at times against a Brumbies side who are always strong at home.
They showed great heart in the first half, playing with 14 men for 20 minutes. It may be too little too late, but the Hurricanes should be aiming to win the rest of their games to try to gain some confidence for next year's competition.
Positives: They won, let's just stick with that.
Negatives: Discipline was a constant problem through the first half. They got away with it in the weekend, but they won't be so lucky every time.
9. The Sharks (9): Last Week: Won vs Lions 32-28 Win/Loss: 4-5
The Sharks carry on their good form with a close win over the Lions. A strong start saw them out to a 19-6 lead after just 22 minutes. They were unable to run away with the game however, sneaking home by four points.
Positives: Four wins from their last four games.
Negatives: Have some tough games coming up against the Blues, Bulls, and Stormers.
10. The Chiefs (10): Last Week: Lost vs Stormers 49-15 Win/Loss: 4-5
Where to start with the Chiefs? They were awful in the weekend while the Stormers were brilliant.
Positives: They have a game that they should win next week against the Cheetahs to get their confidence up.
Negatives: Their season is all but over, time to start looking ahead to next year.
11. The Force (11): Last Week: Lost vs Blues 38-14 Win/Loss: 2-7
The Force's winning streak came to an end as the Blues dealt them their seventh loss of the season.
They are back home next week before heading off to the Republic the week after. They will struggle to win another game.
Positives: James O'Connor is a player worth persisting with and will be the key to the franchise in coming seasons.
Negatives: The trip to South Africa that I mentioned earlier with only two wins to your name this late in the season is going to be hard.
12. The Highlanders (12): Last Week: Bye Win/Loss: 2-7
The Highlanders seem to be in disarray at the moment. One thing the franchise needs to focus on is keeping local talent within the franchise.
Matt Faddes would be one to target, having been called the best outside back to come from the south since Jeff Wilson.
Positives: The bye can have a positive or a negative effect on teams. Going by the theory that things couldn't get any worse for the Highlanders, it should have them refreshed and ready to go to try to win their last few games, even if they are only playing for pride.
Negatives: They lack X-Factor players due to their inability to hold onto players. With Adam Thompson reputedly going to the Crusaders next year, things are only looking worse for the Highlanders.
13. The Cheetahs (13): Last Week: Lost vs Crusaders 45-6 Win/Loss: 2-7
What do you say after a 45-6 loss? At least they only have one game left before they return home.
Positives: Few at the moment.
Negatives: Their game in general looks average at the moment.
14. The Lions (14): Last Week: Lost vs Sharks 32-28 Win/Loss: 0-9 The Lions remain winless despite showing some good fight in the last 60 minutes against the Sharks. Maybe the franchise is cursed as they haven't had a successful season since the great Laurie Mains coached them in 2000-2001.
The Lions remain winless despite showing some good fight in the last 60 minutes against the Sharks. Maybe the franchise is cursed as they haven't had a successful season since the great Laurie Mains coached them in 2000-2001.
Positives: They pushed the Sharks, which is encouraging. Negatives: Zero wins from nine games.
Positives: They pushed the Sharks, which is encouraging.
Negatives: Zero wins from nine games.
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