Round 1 is in the books, and it’s time to take a (very early) look at which teams are peforming and which aren’t in season 2019.
Every week I’ll try to ride the fluctuations and present a 1-through-15 ladder of which teams are kicking goals, and which sides are destined for an early exit.
The Bulls were clinical all over the park in their 40-3 victory over the Stormers in Pretoria.
Handre Pollard looks to have had a strong off-season, and produced a man of the match performance in the win.
Debutant winger and former Sevens star Rosko Specman also looked a very good find, scoring a double. One to keep an eye on.
The Lions recorded their first ever win in Buenos Aires, beating the Jaguares 25-17.
It was largely in part to flanker Marnus Schoeman, who scored a hat-trick in the victory.
Yes, they came off rolling mauls and the back of a scrum – but he made his presence felt in defence, and was impressive with his carries all evening.
They look a complete side, most importantly – and have been slowly rising in the past three years.
The Highlanders left it late, but rode a cameo performance from halfback Aaron Smith off the bench to steal a hard-fought 30-27 win against the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday.
The Chiefs looked the better team for the majority of the contest, and looked to have the game locked away after Sio Tomkinson was red-carded with 15 minutes to play.
Champion sides find a way to win – even under duress. File the Highlanders in that category.
The first Australian side on this list. The Rebels entered Friday’s contest as outsiders, but I said in my preview matchup of that match up that I thought the visitors would get the chocolates in the nation’s capital.
I was impressed by Quade Cooper’s return to Super Rugby, and thought that he directed traffic well.
Jack Maddocks was immense on the right wing, and Billy Meakes was almost best on ground for the Melbourne side, as they ran away with it 34-27.
Admittedly, the Brumbies set piece went to water in the second stanza, but I liked what I saw from Dave Wessels’ troops.
They didn’t look like the clinical world-beaters of the last two seasons, but I think it’s ok to give them a couple of weeks to find their mojo.
The scary part? They still won.
Braydon Ennor was probably the best player of any side in Round 1, and was the ultimate difference between the sides.
They still seem to have the tactical nous up front, and the depth to call on, to go deep in this competition.
The Sharks were 45-10, six-try winners in a rout of the Sunwolves overnight.
Akker Van De Merwe was the best on ground, pinching a double. The Du Preez brothers were impressive as well, Robert’s work to set up S’bu Noski was A+ elite.
They play the Blues next week in what should be a highly entertaining fixture.
The Hurricanes had a gritty first up win against the Waratahs, 20-19 at Brookvale Oval in Sydney.
Jordie Barrett and Ardie Savea were the best of the Canes outfit, and they rallied late to dominate the last 15 minutes.
They should have lost when Bernard Foley had a free penalty from almost in front to bury them, but a win is a win, and they play the Crusaders in a Round 2 blockbuster.
The Chiefs played well in a Round 1 loss to the Highlanders. They couldn’t be in the top half of this list, well, because they didn’t win.
However, they were the best of a losing bunch. Nathan Harris is a walking highlights reel, and one of the Chiefs’ best.
Etene Nanai-Seturo looks the goods, and was impressive in his debut. With a full complement, back from injury in the coming weeks, they should rise in this list – sooner rather than later.
Showed some very pleasing signs for long-time supporters. They had two kicks in the last 10 minutes to pinch the win, but flyhalf Harry Plummer missed his two set shots – handing the Crusaders the victory.
The biggest knock on the Auckland side was their tendency (as in previous years) to buckle in key moments.
If they can get the ball in the hands of their weapons more than they did in Round 1, they will upset a few sides this season. Sleepers.
This was a tough one to call. The Waratahs played a decent eighty minutes on Saturday – nothing more, nothing less.
Their turnovers and ill-discipline was a worry, but the work of Karmichael Hunt in his return was pleasing.
Israel Folau was solid, and their bench punched above their pre-game predicted weight.
A shocking penalty miss from near in front from ‘Iceman’ Bernard Foley in the 78th minute was a blight on the performance.
Showed enough to suggest they’ll be decent this year.
The Jaguares can take a decent amount out of their loss to the Lions.
On a positive note, flyhalf Joaquin Diaz Bonilla looks a more than adequate replacement for stalwart Nicolas Sanchez after he left to play in France.
Santiago Medrano was solid in the scrums, and they had opportunities to win this contest.
Essentially, they were outplayed by a keener Lions outfit, who dominated up front.
They will take some time to click under a new general – but they will be better for this first up loss.
The Brumbies promised pre-game that they would show more in attack than a highly impressive set piece game.
Their rolling maul has been the centrepiece of their attack in previous seasons, and they scored early through it in Canberra.
To their credit, they seemed more willing to throw the ball to both edges, and losing Toni Pulu and David Pocock to injury in the first 10 minutes did not help.
The Sunwolves Started brightly, but faded fast as the Sharks put on a clinic against them in Singapore.
They seem to always play decent spells of rugby against whoever they play, but their defensive woes appear the consistent, never-changing barrier to success.
The Stormers barely fired a shot against an ultra-impressive Bulls outfit – and have a lot to work on before their tough second round clash against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires.
Siya Kolisi getting injured was a blow, and their set piece was very average. A ray of hope was their work with ball in hand in and around the breakdown.
They carried lots, and with some success – but that isn’t a blueprint to win games in this tournament.
Had a bye this week – 15th by default.
Be sure to check back every Sunday for a weekly look at how the Super Rugby sides continue to shape up.