Kiwis reign in Super Rugby battle

Wednesday March 08, 2017 Written by Published in Rugby Union

Round two is in the books and Australian rugby’s depth is on show like never before.

 

The three Australia-New Zealand match ups through the first two rounds have resulted in three Kiwi wins, though two were beltings of the Rebels, who are languishing.

After another weekend of astonishing rugby by the Kiwi sides, here is how the Power Rankings stand.

1. Hurricanes

It’s early days and they have played two of the worst teams in the competition but their points differential of 131 from two games says it all. The truly elite teams in Super Rugby are the ones that are able to destroy inferior foes and the Canes done exactly that against the Sunwolves and Rebels. Whether they are a class above their New Zealand counterparts will be tested in a Friday afternoon blockbuster against the Chiefs at FMG Stadium Waikato.

The telling number: 154 points scored in 160 minutes of rugby. Devastating.

2. Chiefs

They were aided by a Steven Luatua red card on the stroke of half-time but the Chiefs still blew the Blues out of the water before two consolation tries reigned the margin back in. Another strong performance.

The telling number: 30 carries for Damien McKenzie. A pitbull at the back for the Chiefs.

3. Crusaders

Along with the Sharks, the big movers heading into round three. They looked shot against the Highlanders but if anyone can pull off a 27-6 comeback against one of the best teams in Super Rugby, it’s the most successful franchise in the competition’s history. The set piece was the star of the show in the final 30 minutes, as they mauled and scrummaged their way to a Seta Tamanivalu winner in the 78th minute. Even without flyhalf Richie Mo’unga, this team just knows how to win.

The telling number: 100 percent scrum success. Very strong at set piece.

4. Lions

Another impressive performance by the Lions but this win may have been as much about how bad the Waratahs were defensively. Elton Jantjies’ and Rohan Janse van Rensburg have formed one of the best 10-12 combinations in Super Rugby and through the first two rounds they look the real deal, as they were in 2016. It will be tough to properly gauge just how good they are all season long, though, as they do not play any Kiwi opposition.

The telling number: 28 line breaks through two rounds - second only to the all-conquering Canes.

5. Highlanders

So, so close yet so, so far in the cut-throat New Zealand Conference. A loss largely due to two James Lowe intercepts in round one followed by a Crusaders comeback special on Saturday has left the Highlanders with just one bonus point to show for their efforts. They are far better than their record suggests but have to beat the Blues on Saturday to stay in touch in the NZ Conference.

The telling number: 27 percent possession against the Crusaders. Too many opportunities to give to the men from Christchurch.

6. Stormers

South African Conference 1 was there to be won and the Stormers have emerged as the team to beat. They are two from two after following up a great win against the Bulls with a 72nd minute SP Marais winner in a seesawing battle against the Jaguares. Hardly strong opposition but winning form is good form.

The telling number: 88.7 percent tackle completion. Solid signs that the stingy Stormers of old are back.

7. Reds

Nick Stiles hit the nail on the head when he labelled the loss against the Force as “atrocious”. The final 20 minutes of the match were a flashback to the Reds of 2014-16 - a nightmare for Queensland’s tortured fan base. The jury is officially out and a bad loss to the Crusaders could see them slide further down this ladder.

The telling number: 7 combined lost scrums and lineouts against the Force. The capitulating set piece played a major role in the Reds’ demise.

8. Sharks

The big mover of round two. They arguably should have beaten the Reds in round one and their post-siren win against the Brumbies would have made the 10,000km flight back to Durban far more enjoyable. They are set to chase the Lions’ tail in South African Conference 2 all season but South African teams that break even overseas are historically formidable at home.

The telling number: 33 points for Pat Lambie. The sharpshooter kicked his team to success in Australia.    - Rugby.com.au

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