Super Rugby Power Rankings: Week Five

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

One month into the Super Rugby season and thankfully, the flavour of the month has been running rugby.

The top five teams in this week's Power Rankings are five teams that thrive on throwing the ball around and that have been subsequently rewarded.

The big movers of the week are the Brumbies after their clinical performance against the Waratahs, who alongside the Reds continue their slide down the rankings.

1. Chiefs

The Chiefs rested Aaron Cruden and Hika Elliot among several regular starters and may have taken a resurgent Rebels outfit lightly.

They broke clear late but this was a scare for Super Rugby's ladder leaders.

Shaun Stevenson thanks Chiefs fans in Melbourne. Photo: Getty ImagesThey go into the bye as the team to beat this season, boasting a vicious attacking game, near-perfect set piece and defensive numbers that indicate they can win it all.

The telling number: 93.6 percent - best in Super Rugby. Lineout king Brodie Retallick reigns supreme.

2. Hurricanes

Stiff to not go back on top of the rankings after romping home against the Highlanders.Captain Hurricane enjoyed his team's form on Saturday. Photo: Getty ImagesThe Canes were disappointing against the Chiefs in treacherous conditions but back on their home turf, they looked the team that pieced two thrashings together in the first two weeks.

Jordie Barrett could be every bit as good as his brother, which is terrifying.

The telling number: 81 line breaks. Best in Super Rugby by a margin of 27. Borderline unstoppable when on song.

3. Crusaders

How do they do it? Three weeks, three consecutive comebacks from the brink.The Crusaders can't stop winning. Photo: Getty ImagesTrailing 21-5, the four-try second half was mesmerising to watch.

A combination of set piece dominance and superb game control by Bryn Hall and Mitch Hunt has been the story of the comebacks, though one must think giving sizeable leads away every week cannot be sustainable.

The telling number: 43 points in 47 minutes - the Crusaders' combined points total in the comeback against the Reds and the comeback against the Blues.

4. Lions

The Reds carried hopes into their clash with the Lions but were comprehensively outplayed.Courtnall Skosan bagged four tries on Sunday. Photo: Getty ImagesThe Quade Cooper red card didn't help the visitors but there is no doubting who the best team in either African conference is.

The Lions attack swiftly, take a no nonsense approach to defence and are impeccable at scrum time. A handy combination.

The telling number: 105 defenders beaten. Third most in Super Rugby.

5. Highlanders

Semi-finalists in 2016, the Highlanders prop up an uber-competitive New Zealand Conference after four rounds.It's been a slow start to 2017 for the injury ravaged Highlanders. Photo: Getty ImagesTheir three losses have been against the Chiefs, Crusaders and the Hurricanes - three airborne teams at the moment - but derbies have to be won to survive in the cutthroat NZ Conference.

The return of Ben Smith against the Canes has been offset by knocks to Malakai Fekitoa and Aaron Smith - two stars to add to their lengthy injury list. A trip to Canberra awaits.

The telling number: 25 turnovers conceded against the Canes. Woeful.

6. Stormers

Had the bye. Tough to move up, tough to slide down.

7. Sharks

The match against the Kings was a seriously tough watch.

Bad handling, impatient attack and excessive kicking aside, winning form is good form and even though a two-point victory over the Kings is nothing to write home about, it keeps the Durban outfit one point behind the Lions and Jaguares in Africa 2.

The telling number:  88.6 percent tackle success. They have their flaws but they are making a better percentage of tackles than any other team.

8. Brumbies

The Brumbies are top of the Australian Conference. Photo: Getty ImagesCoach Stephen Larkham welcomed the underdog tag preseason but there is no doubting the strength of the Canberra team now.

They showcased better skills, hands and game awareness against a Waratahs team that can't get out of its own way.

While the Tahs and Reds continue to bumble along, the wheels will keep turning at GIO Stadium when the Brumbies host a vulnerable Highlanders team.

The telling number: 14 turnovers won. The best Australian team at the breakdown, led admirably by Scott Fardy.

9. Blues

The Blues have battled to stay in touch with the New Zealand Conference. Photo: Getty ImagesIf there wasn't already, there is now a clear gap between the best Blues rugby and the best rugby the remainder of the NZ Conference is capable of.

They came out of the gates like a pack of raging bulls against the Crusaders but that effort petered out in the second term.

Augustine Pulu is yet to find a suitable partner in the halves - Piers Francis was good but not great in place of Ihaia West.

The telling number: 78.9 percent lineouts won. The defensive lineout was hammered in the Crusaders' comeback, as the comeback kings scored two tries off the back of rolling mauls.

10. Reds

Quade Cooper and the Reds were well below their best against the Lions. Photo: Getty ImagesThe Reds started the season sixth in these rankings and have not stopped sliding since.

The 44-14 thrashing at the hands of the Lions, coupled with the loss of Quade Cooper and James Slipper to suspension and a snapped achilles, respectively, rubs salt in the open wounds.

The 3-1 Jaguares await the 1-3 Reds, with the Hurricanes greeting them upon their return to Brisbane.

A telling two weeks lie ahead.

The telling number: 79.5 percent tackle success. For all the talk about a reinvigorated defensive showing, the Reds have folded when it has counted.

11. Jaguares

Ramiro Moyano scored a hat-trick against the Kings. Photo: Getty ImagesDid anyone see this coming? After a shaky debut season, the Jaguares have played a flashy brand of football en route to a 3-1 record.

They cruised to a 24-7 half-time lead against the Cheetahs and were carried to the five try romp by a hat-trick to Ramiro Moyano.

Their home deck is quickly turning into a fortress.

The telling number: 105 defenders beaten. Second best mark in Super Rugby.

12. Force

The other team on the bye and the victim of a drop after the Jaguares' thrashing of the Cheetahs.

13. Waratahs

The Waratahs are desperate to turn things around. Photo: Getty ImagesIt takes two to tango but the Tahs were the main contributors to the dour Aussie derby against the Brumbies.

Bernard Foley is back on Friday night and thankfully, the Israel Folau experiment is over.

Getting those two back in their preferred positions will work wonders for what has been a terribly disjointed attacking effort in the first month.

The telling number: 39 offloads. Only better than three other teams - all of which are Australian...

14. Bulls

Notched their first win of 2017 against the Sunwolves but made mighty hard work of it.

Yet to establish an attacking game which will threaten quality teams.

The telling number: 316 carries in 2017. Kicking plenty of good ball away.

15. Rebels

Tom English and the Rebels were admirable against the Chiefs. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyStill yet to register a win but looked every chance of causing the upset of the year to date against the Chiefs.

They are starting to get cattle back and Tony McGahan will be happy that Jackson Garden-Bachop and Jack Debreczeni showed some spark with front foot ball.

The telling number: 74.6 percent tackle success. Worst in Super Rugby.

16. Cheetahs

The Cheetahs were superb against the Lions in round one but the wheels have fallen off.

Weak wins over the Bulls and Sunwolves were the writing on the wall as they were thrashed by the Jaguares on Sunday.

Whether they've completely lost their mojo will come to the fore against the Sharks in Bloemfontein.

The telling number: 78.4 percent lineout success. Second worst in Super Rugby and a major hindrance against the Jaguares.

17. Kings

Their dour approach to rugby is designed to draw the kind of rubbish rugby the Sharks produced in their clash on Sunday.

They couldn't overcome the Durban outfit even though they put their worst foot forward, which says plenty about this Kings team.

The telling number: 90 percent off the tee for Lionel Cronje in 2017. Super Rugby's newest sharpshooter.

18. Sunwolves

Pretty bloody bad against the Bulls.

They continue to give their best effort every week but the physicality and class required is not there.

They're in for some thrashings when they head to New Zealand in three weeks time.

The telling number: 100 percent scrum success. Still one of the strongest scrums in Super Rugby.

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