With the first three rounds in the books, we’ve seen every team play at least twice.
It is always interesting in a world cup year to see how provincial sides rest players, rotate rosters, and work out the best way to utilise their man-power in the months preceding the tournament.
With that in mind, the first few rounds of Super Rugby 2019 has been intriguing. A few newbies, a couple of unfamiliar faces – and a whole heap of interesting and unpredictable results.
Without further ado, let’s have a look at our week three Super Rugby power rankings.
Last week: 1
The Crusaders are a very, very good rugby side. They were missing a host of All Blacks when they took to Suncorp Stadium last night to tackle the Reds, and still controlled the contest from start to finish.
A 22-12 win perhaps flattered the home side, and the Crusaders would have won the match by a lot more if not for a series of out of character handling errors.
I have been impressed by Braydon Ennor, and Jack Goodhue looks electric as ever. New fullback Will Jordan was ultra impressive in his first start, and their forward pack remains the standard in the competition.
They often use their tight five in attacking sweeps down the left and right edges, and that is a testament to their versatility and adaptability in positions 1-thru-15.
They will continue to be tough to beat.
Last week: 13
They were only 13th last week because of their bye in round two. The truth of the matter is, they are the only other unbeaten side in the competition aside from the Crusaders – and have put together two very solid 80-minute performances to get to that spot.
Their 24-19 win over (an admittedly shorthanded) Highlanders was a pleasure to watch. The home side started slowly, but eventually found their feet behind quick ball from a willing group of loose forwards.
Adam Coleman was immense off the pine. Tom English had a double, and is one of the unsung heroes of the Rebels backline with his ability to straighten up the attack, and bend the defensive line.
Jack Maddocks is always a try-scoring threat, as he actively goes searching for action, and is always a last-pass option. If he can stay fit and continue to mature, he looks to have a mortgage on a Wallabies jersey for the foreseeable future.
Quade Cooper dominated the pre-season conversation, and he continues to impress. His no-look push pass to set Maddocks up was A+ elite.
Last week: 6
The Hurricanes are working their way up these rankings. A second-round loss to the Crusaders was their only blip so far this year.
If any punters felt the Brumbies were a chance across the ditch against the Canes, they were quickly reminded of the attacking potential, and depth of last years semi-finalists.
Dane Coles had a double, but it was the hat-trick to my player of the round, Ngani Laumape, that ultimately killed the Brumbies.
The Palmerston product was plain scary on Friday night. He carried and defended with utter brutality, and showed an impressive turn of foot to go 70m untouched for one of his three five-pointers.
Last week: 8
The Bulls looked more like the Round 1 Bulls that pummelled the Stormers in their 30-12 win over the Lions in Round three.
Handre Pollard played general, kicking 20 points off his own laces to pace his side. Their forwards were brutal up front, and comfortably won the battle of the piggies.
In the backs, Rosko Speckman continues to look like one of the finds of the season.
Last week: 7
The Stormers have registered two straight wins to continue their climb after a first round stinker against the Bulls.
Their 16-11 round three win over the Sharks at Kings Park Stadium was a proper arm-wrestle. The difference between the sides turned out to be a 4th minute intercept from Damian Willemse.
Game management was the order of the day for the Stormers, some smart kicks continually turned their opponents around, and pinned them in their half.
A gutsy victory, two on the trot, and a spot in the top five of these rankings, for their efforts.
The Jags were made to work hard for their 23-19 win over the Blues in Round 3, however you get the sense watching this side play that they will provide consistent problems for their opponents through the season.
I mused last week that their post-Sanchez era looked like it wouldn’t be all that bad. I’ll double down on that. Ramiro Moyano had a double, and Joaquin Diaz Bonilla kicked a conversion and two clutch penalty goals to secure the win.
The most impressive part of the win, however, was how little they had the ball. The Blues had 63 per cent possession, but couldn’t capitalise – and were suffocated out of the contest by a Jaguares outfit that is quickly building a reputation as a solid defensive proposition.
Last week: 2
The Sharks dropped their first game of the season, courtesy of a five-point loss to the enigmatic Stormers.
It could have been another tough win for Robert Du Preez and his troops, but a woeful first half, riddled with turnovers and ill-discipline made that difficult.
It’s always hard to win a game when you have two players sin-binned in the first 40 minutes, and a fourth-minute intercept to an opposition flyer also doesn’t help.
It’s not panic stations whatsoever, though, for the Sharks. They have looked one of the better sides through the first two rounds.
Last week: 3
The Highlanders lost a close one to the Rebels in Melbourne. This game was a little hard to judge, only because the visitors were resting a host of All Blacks.
That being said, if you make your bed, you’re expected to lie in it – and the Highlanders did just that on Friday.
A little surprisingly perhaps, they were out-enthused up front, by a less credentialled forward pack. However, Jackson Hemopo and Shannon Frizell were both solid.
With both sides at full-strength, I’m not sure we would have seen the same scoreline, but nonetheless, a slight slip in the rankings for the New Zealand side.
Last week: 12
What a performance from the Sunwolves! Playing away from home, across the ditch – the Japanese outfit recorded their first ever win in New Zealand.
An attacking masterclass began in minute one, and refused to relent until the final whistle had sounded.
Surprising also, was their defensive hustle – time and time again catching the Chiefs on the back foot with their line speed and physicality in the contact zone.
Hayden Parker is the goal-kicking equivalent of a metronome, and was outstanding once again.
Michael Little is a genuine top 20 player in the competition, too – and provides a lot of attacking spark from inside centre.
Last week: 12
It’s been a sluggish start for last year’s finalists. Defensively, they pass – but their attack has been nigh on non-existent through three matches.
Alarmingly, they are yet to register a try from one of their backs, all seven of them coming from their piggies.
They have the artillery to dig themselves out of this hole, and an inspirational leader in Malcolm Marx. But they have a lot of work to do if they’re to wrestle control back in the next few rounds.
Last week: 11
They are zero and two, but both matches have been played against extremely strong New Zealand sides, and both were close.
That, in and of itself, is a good start for a Queensland side that has had identity problems for a few seasons on the run.
They lost 22-12 to the ladder leading Crusaders, in this one, but can take plenty from the performance.
Their forward pack is surprisingly good. Not just ok, but actually quite good. Their scrum and set piece trembled, but mostly held ok against the best set-piece in the competition.
Scott-Young, Rodda and Tupou are some of the better ball-carriers in the competition, and their young backline is only going to keep improving.
Samu Kerevi was good for the home side, that lost young gun Jordan Petaia in the first 15 minutes with an apparent ankle injury.
Last week: 4
Last weeks big movers, became this week’s big fallers. The Brumbies went across the ditch to New Zealand with a zest and confidence that can only come with a battering of the Chiefs the week previous.
They left their Round 3 match-up with their tail between their legs, and not much more than a whimper. They were out-enthused, out-classed and out-played in every aspect of Friday night’s fixture against the Hurricanes, eventually losing 43-13.
Their tendency to sit back in attack, and not take the ball flat at the line gets found out by the better sides.
That, combined with their mass of turnovers and inaccurate kicking meant they were constantly fighting themselves, before they could even think about fighting the opposition. Plenty to work on.
Last week: 10
Had a bye – so sit only above those teams with no wins yet.
Last week: 14
A slow start got slower for the Blues – who looked relatively insipid against the Jags this morning.
They need to find a way to win games when their big names aren’t firing. Yes, they will win miracle matches, and put 40 points on teams, but those wins do not a season make!
Defensively, they were slow and sluggish, and allowed the Jags to dictate terms at the breakdown time and time again.
They aren’t travelling well at this point – the premature nature of the competition being their only saving grace.
Last week: 15
Two weeks in a row the Chiefs sit at the bottom – and it was a 30-15 loss to the Sunwolves in Round 3 that started the alarm bells ringing proper.
They have looked, aside from the first 40 minutes of the season, just awful. They were poor against the Brumbies, and poor this week against the Sunwolves.
Alarmingly, Damian McKenzie has been very average through the two rounds that he has played. I’m still not convinced he is a playmaker – and would be better suited given space to move from the back.
They have a multitude of problems to iron out – and it gets no easier, a Round 4 match up with the Crusaders awaits.