Super Rugby Power Rankings: Week Eight

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

Round seven of Super Rugby was the best standard of rugby we have seen, across the board, in 2017.

The Canes-Tahs game had its moments of brilliance, the Sunwolves' win over the Bulls was reward for endeavour, the Highlanders-Blues clash was a classic New Zealand derby, the Stormers-Chiefs will be tough to beat for match of the year and the Force stormed home late to beat the Kings in a thriller.

For all the doom and gloom surrounding the competition's future, the game, on field is as exciting as ever.

A reminder, these are a subjective take on who would beat who if they met at a neutral ground tomorrow.

If a team has five wins but four of those wins have come against lowly opposition, they naturally won't shoot too far up these rankings.

1. Hurricanes

Hurricanes fans are happy fans at the moment. Photo: Getty ImagesThe Canes jump two spots to sit on top of the Power Rankings ahead of round eight.

Their first 40 minutes against the Waratahs was breathtaking.

While the Tahs only appeared to switch on in returning from the sheds, the Canes must be given credit for running right over the top of a team that clearly wasn't ready for what was coming.

Ngani Laumape and Matt Proctor are quietly becoming one of the most destructive centre pairings in Super Rugby.

The telling number(s): Matt Proctor's RMDC (runs, metres, defenders beaten, clean breaks) line against the Tahs - 6/95/4/3.

2. Crusaders

Had the bye, otherwise would likely be on top of this ladder.

3. Chiefs

The Chiefs must bounce back against the Cheetahs. Photo: Getty ImagesAs good as their clash with the Stormers was, the Chiefs were a touch off their best at the weekend.

There were more turnovers than usual (16), both from dropped ball and missed cleanouts, which allowed the Stormers to thrive.

They are starting to become heavily reliant on Damian McKenzie for a spark in attack - which certainly isn't the worst thing as he is a genuine star.

Title contending teams typically win at least one game in South Africa so this week's clash against the Cheetahs is crucial.

The telling number: 120 tackle busts - fifth worst in Super Rugby and on the slide.

4. Stormers

The Stormers are flying. Photo: Getty ImagesThe only query over their form to start the season was the absence of a win against a high flying team.

The Chiefs win changes that.

This team is unbeaten and playing a style of rugby that can match it with anyone - particularly on their home deck.

Dillyn Leyds' behind-the-back flick pass while on the ground has gone viral but it's the work of the back row - Notshe and Kolisi in particular - that is allowing the Stormers to run over the top of teams.

The telling number: 87 line breaks - second most in Super Rugby.

5. Lions

Had the bye last week and slipped a spot as the Stormers surged ahead.

6. Highlanders

Have fallen a spot based on the rampaging Stormers win, rather than their own output.

The Blues raced out to a first half lead but the Highlanders didn't panic and looked in control when it mattered most.

Ben Smith had a couple of massive plays which stopped tries being scored.

The telling number: 87.3 percent tackle success - second best in Super Rugby.

7. Sharks

Eeked out a win against the Jaguares in arguably the most bland match of the weekend.

They aren't quite capable of the attack the Stormers and Lions have put together, which leaves them relying on penalties in the opposition half.

The telling number: 98 percent scrum success - equal best in Super Rugby.

8. Brumbies

Scott Fardy led the Brumbies to a big win over the Reds. Photo: Getty ImagesThe Brumbies' second half against the Reds eliminated any doubt as to who the best team in Australia is.

That was the best 40 minutes we have seen from an Australian team this year.

The Reds were woeful but the attack is starting to follow the foundations of good defence, exits and set piece play that have been set by coach Stephen Larkham.

Henry Speight is back at his dominant best.

The telling number: Speight's RMDC line - 10/83/6/3.

9. Blues

Sonny Bill Williams is back. Photo: Getty ImagesThe Highlanders game provided further evidence that the Blues aren't quite ready to make the leap with the rest of their Kiwi counterparts.

They led at half time but fell apart in the latter stages of the loss.

They are still a fine side in their own right but fine doesn't quite cut the mustard in the cut-throat NZ Conference.

Sonny Bill Williams gets his first start at inside centre against the Canes tomorrow.

The telling number: 20 turnovers conceded against the Highlanders.

10. Jaguares

There isn't really much to say about this performance against the Sharks.

They were squeezed to a tighter style of rugby than usual and could not break the shackles.

Yet to beat a top notch team.

The telling number: Six line breaks against the Sharks - well below their usual mark.

11. Force

The Force put together a stirring win in the face of adversity. Photo: Getty ImagesJump a pair of spots after the stirring win against the Kings.

Coach Dave Wessels has openly said it wasn't the kind of performance he would have liked but the fact remains, the Force of the years past would have rolled over down two tries with 15 minutes to play.

The telling number: 2049 run metres - third least in Super Rugby.

12. Waratahs

Another week, another loss caused by an incomplete performance.

Hard to tell if the Canes simply switched off at half time or if the Tahs actually outplayed them in the second half.

The telling number: 79.3 tackle success rate - fourth worst in Super Rugby.

13. Reds

Stephen Moore and the Reds were thrashed by the Brumbies. Photo: Getty ImagesAfter clinging on for dear life and scrapping to a 10-all score at half-time, the Reds were demolished by the Brumbies on Saturday.

That's six straight losses and like the team above them on this ladder, they are yet to put together a complete performance.

A must-win clash against the Kings awaits.

The telling number: 78.2 tackle success rate - worst in Super Rugby.

14. Sunwolves

A four spot jump for the Japanese side, who have been impressive all year without reaping any rewards.

They play a thrilling brand of unstructured rugby that brought the tired Bulls unstuck.

They are no easy beats on their home deck but life gets far tougher when they take on the Crusaders in Christchurch tonight.

The telling number: 12 turnovers won against the Bulls.

15. Kings

Deserve plenty of praise for the way they played against the Force.

That was the first time this season they have thrown caution to the wind and they nearly notched their first win in Australia as a direct result.

The telling number: 23 defenders beaten against the Force - well above their average output.

16. Rebels

Had the bye and slipped below two teams that played their best game of 2017.

17. Bulls

After a pair of strong performances without wins in New Zealand, the Sunwolves clash was a must-win game for the Bulls.

They played 55-60 minutes of good rugby in their matches against the Blues and Chiefs but they were far from good in this nasty loss.

The telling number: 67 percent possession in the second half for one try and a penalty goal.

18. Cheetahs

Had the bye and were in a similar boat to the Rebels.