Super Rugby Power Rankings: Week Three

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

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

Ardie Savea and the Hurricanes torched the Rebels on Saturday. Photo: Getty ImagesIt'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

Johnny Faauli and his dreadlocks were a force against the Blues. Photo: Getty ImagesThey 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

Mitchell Hunt stepped up for the Crusaders in place of Richie Mo'unga. Photo: Getty ImagesAlong 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

Andreis Coetzee and the Lions blitzed the Waratahs in round two. Photo: Getty ImagesAnother 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

Waisake Naholo nabbed a double for the Highlanders against the Crusaders but it wasn't enough. Photo: Getty ImagesSo, 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 was fuming after Thursday's performance. Photo: Getty ImagesNick 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 fanbase. 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 Sharks cut a happy bunch after their post-siren win against the Brumbies. Photo: Getty ImagesThe 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.

9. Blues

The second half was not pretty but perhaps only the Hurricanes and Crusaders would have been able to withstand a blowout while facing the Chiefs with 14 men for 40 minutes. Steven Luatua's four week suspension will seriously hurt their chances of sticking fat in the New Zealand Conference and their clash with the Highlanders on Saturday already shapes as a season-altering contest.

The telling number: 23 missed tackles against the Chiefs. Far too many.

10. Waratahs

Israel Folau and the Waratahs have stumbled through the first two rounds. Photo: Getty ImagesMuch like the Reds, the Tahs were unconvincing in round one and well beaten in round two. Their defensive line speed was woeful against the Lions. They allowed Jantjies and Janse van Rensburg to run all over them and subsequently look better in attack than they actually are. History says Super Rugby contenders win at least one of their South African matches and the Tahs must lift their game against the Sharks if they are to do that.

The telling number: 81 metres for Israel Folau. Through two starts, well below his usually prolific production.

11. Force

Heath Tessman and the Force are all smiles heading into round three. Photo: Getty ImagesAustralian rugby's only winner from round two, the Force won in true Force style against the Reds. It was a performance filled with grit and grind and they may be a touch hard done by to not be in the top ten given they are currently on top of the Australian Conference. The only reason they did not move ahead of the Tahs is that the Reds were well below their best in Perth. Should they travel to Canberra and knock off the Brumbies, they will move into the top 10.

The telling number: 9 defenders beaten for Chance Peni against the Reds. Strutting his stuff early.

12. Brumbies

Sam Carter was despondent after the game. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyTwo matches, two losing bonus points for the Brumbies. The 81st minute loss to the Sharks was a heartbreaker if there ever was one. Steven Larkham's side must beat the Force on their home deck or risk slipping away early in the season.

The telling number: 646 metres carried. Second last only to the Force with ball in hand.

13. Cheetahs

The Cheetahs pushed the Lions to their limit in round one and were rewarded with a well deserved win in round two against the Bulls. They are playing a brand of rugby that must be commended and will continue to push visiting Australian and New Zealand sides this season.

The telling number: 76.2 percent lineouts won. They've attacked well when they've had the ball but this many botched lineouts doesn't help.

14. Jaguares

Tuculet has led the Jaguares in two strong performances. Photo: Getty ImagesAfter easily accounting for the Kings in round one, the Jaguares staged a second half comeback to rival the Crusaders before falling one try short against the Stormers. They are throwing the ball around and being rewarded for it.

The telling number: 185 metres in two matches for Joaquin Tuculet. The fullback does not hesitate in challenging the defensive line from opposition kicks.

15. Bulls

The Bulls' first two weeks have been similar to that of the Brumbies. They've been solid without being great and have nothing but a single losing bonus point to show for it. Handre Pollard is back at his best.

The telling number: 23 line breaks in two starts. Really good signs in attack.

16. Kings

They're heavily reliant on the elite boot of Lionel Cronje but the Kings have a clear game plan and they follow that structure with dedication. They won't challenge many defensive lines but they will not be out and out whipping boys in 2017 on what we have seen so far.

The telling number: 13 from 13 off the tee for Cronje. Yet to miss a penalty shot or conversion.

17. Rebels

The Rebels have played two matches for two floggings in 2017. Photo: Getty ImagesThey won't finish this low come the end of the season but right now, they cannot be any higher. Two disastrous performances that have been tough to watch. Lucky to not be last on the rankings given they just broke the franchise record for worst ever loss.

The telling number: 127 points conceded. Not the way you want to set the tone in your first two matches.

18. Sunwolves

If you can't beat the Kings on your home turf, there isn't much hope.

The telling number: 72.7 percent tackles completed. Second last only to the team above them in the rankings.

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