1. Hurricanes (First in NZC)
They are now top of the log on both form and numbers, and few could qualm with that. Things got typically physical against the Chiefs, but men like No 8 Gareth Evans stood tall and Beauden Barrett’s brilliance was enough. Imagine what they will do when Julian Savea catches a break and his brother is back in harness?
Beauden and Jordie Barrett.
2. Crusaders (Second in NZC)
No movement on the power rankings, but they did lose their lead in the NZ conference, courtesy of the bye. That can only spell bad news for the Sunwolves, who visit the Garden City on Saturday.
3. Lions (First in SAC)
The bye did no damage whatsoever to the Lions. They still lead the SA conference by a whopping 11 points.
4. Waratahs (First in AC)
A visit to the SCG for the first time in 35 years clearly agreed with the Tahs, who put the cleaners through the Reds in their bitter match-up. How Australian and NSW rugby will be regretting the fact that blockbusting and in-form wing Taqele Naiyaravoro has signed for Northampton Saints.
5. Highlanders (Fourth in NZC)
The Highlanders didn’t play that well to beat the Brumbies 43-17, but they were far too good for ACT. The scrum, which was lambasted in some media, was not as bad as made out. But coach Aaron Mauger will demand more accuracy ahead of the Gordon Hunter Memorial Trophy clash with the Blues on Friday night at Eden Park.
6. Chiefs (Third in NZC)
The Chiefs are 5-2 but must have offended the propping gods after loosehead Aidan Ross went down in a heap against the Canes. At this rate, new scrum coach Nick White will be thrust into action, even though he is 43! Solomon Alaimalo is being talked up, but he needs to get his decision-making right.
7. Rebels (Second in AC)
The Rebels’ depth was always going to come into question at some stage. After Will Genia was injured, they collapsed against the Jaguares and relinquished their hard-won Australian conference lead. Skipper Adam Coleman needs to be told they are playing in a competition, not a one-off test match. A draw is better than a narrow loss.
8. Bulls (Second in SAC)
Swab that man Warrick Gelant, the fullback in sterling form who crossed for a hat-trick in the demolition of the Sharks in Durban. The Bulls might just be worth keeping an eye on, as they have a favourable draw from now.
9. Brumbies (Third in AC)
We know the Brumbies have David Pocock coming back to form, a solid scrum and a reasonable goalkicker. But they have precious little else, which is why the Highlanders put 43-17 on them under the roof.
10. Sharks (Third in SAC)
The Sharks played like a side that had nothing left on the tank after an arduous and yet creditable tour of New Zealand. Their defence, however, which was leaky on these shores, was again exposed by the Bulls.
11. Stormers (Fourth in SAC)
Sorting the defence was, is and will be the top priority for a side once renowned for the most parsimonious D in the competition. They are coming off the bye, so will need to keep the Sharks quiet in Durban.
12. Blues (Fifth in NZC)
They Blues did it. They went to Tokyo, exorcised some ghosts, won the game and secured the bonus point along the way. Akira Ioane continued his tryscoring form, while Dalton Papali’i showed his talent with a startling solo try. But the Blues will need to be far more accurate and energised to beat the Highlanders on Friday night.
13. Jaguares (Fifth in SAC)
Buoyed by their third win of the season, against the Rebels, the Jaguares are showing more starch. Now they just need an 80-minute performance and they could lower the Brumbies, thereby hauling themselves off the bottom of the South African conference.
14. Reds (Fourth in AC)
Something is not right at the Reds after such a fine opening to the season. But Brad Thorn has said Quade Cooper is not the answer, whatever the question. The Reds will target the Chiefs scrum and seek to shut down Damian McKenzie. Good luck with that.
15. Sunwolves (Fifth in AC)
The Sunwolves presented a stiffer defensive line, which helped against the Blues. But they could not maintain it and, despite a nice try set up by Hayden Parker for Tim Lafaele, and turning over a lot of the visitors’ ball, they had to cede 24-10. Now they head to NZ for a couple of soft games against the Crusaders and Hurricanes.