Australian Super Rugby Conference Power Rankings – Round 1

Now the first round of Super Rugby is now in the books, it’s obviously time to put together a ranking for each team based on the sample size provided over the weekend. Because the Sunwolves now play in the Australian conference they will be included in the rankings.

For this of you not familiar with Power Ranking it differs from the table ranking as it changes week to week based on two factors:

  1. Their performance the previous week
  2. Their body of work during the season to date

So without further adieu here are the rankings after Round 1.

1.Rebels

This was a pretty easy pick right? putting up 45 points on Brad Thorne’s men (or in any Super Rugby game) is no easy feat.

Genia and Debrezceni looked like they’ve been playing together for years. The move for Debreczeni back to the 10 jumper seems to be the right move after a substandard year in the 15 jumper last year (Side note: I could never work out why the Rebels moved him last year he looked like he was starting to become comfortable there in 2016).

The change of scenery seems to have had a positive influence on Dane Haylett-Petty’s form as he put up two tries from the back. Look for them to build on this performance against the Sunwolves in Japan in round 2.

2. Brumbies

It was a toss-up here between the Brumbies and the Waratahs at the two spot and ultimately what broke the tie is the body of work from last year.

After a shaky start the Brumbies started to find their identity in the 2nd half. The Brumbies set piece was solid without being dominant, the return of Scott Sio in round two will assist here. the emergence of Tom Cusack as David Pocock successor is very pleasing and Isi Naisarani hasn’t lost any steam from his breakout season in 2017.

Rob Valentini picked up an injury in the first half which was a shame but Lachlan Mccaffrey reminded everyone why we brought him back from overseas.

The backline play was a bit subpar and it’s going to take a bit of time for Christian Lealifano and Kyle Godwin to learn to play together again. All up though a pleasing start to the season (as the saying goes a wins a win). the Brumbies will have a challenging turnaround against the Reds in Brisbane this week.

3. Waratahs     

What’s worrying for the Waratahs to start to the year is they don’t seem to have improved their scrum, which was a big weakness for them in 2017 and a traditional strength of all South African teams.

While there were some positives including a fairly impressive debut from the Waratahs young prop Harry Jonson-Holmes, as the game went on their scrum was continuously pushed backward. This isn’t going to get any easier for the Tahs as their next two games will see them face the Sharks in Durban and the Jaguares in Argentina, both teams will boast a powerful scrum.

On the positive side the Tahs defence came up big in key moments and the rest appears to have done Israel Folau some good finding the try line in the 18th minute of the game and looking dangerous with each subsequent ball carry.

The next two weeks will be a huge challenge for the Tahs both mentally and physically if they can come away with some points it will put them in good stead to content for the conference championship.

4. Sunwolves

Going into this game I had no idea what to expect from the Sunwolves. Somehow I think that might have been intentional from the Brains trust of former Highlanders coaches Tony Brown and Jamie Joseph.

The Sunwolves look a much improved outfit in 2018, boasting a solid mix of Japanese internationals and foreigners with significant Super Rugby experience. Including former Highlanders Hayden Parker and Craig Miller who appear to have followed Joseph to Japan.

The Sunwolves had a solid set piece even forcing a penalty at a scrum on the Brumbies feed. Which set up a failed attempt at a rolling maul try.

The Sunwolves backline was pretty impressive, not afraid to throw the ball wide and attack from anywhere on the field. Mirroring many of the tactics employed by our New Zealand Neighbours.

While they’re sitting in 4th this week I think the Sunwolves will turn some heads this year and pick up some big scalps. I’m giving them a real shot at upsetting the Rebels at home the weekend.

5. Reds

It may be a tough year for the Reds in 2018. But I hope the administration backs Thorne. There’s a lot to be said for his courage and taking a cultural approach which he believes will bear fruits in the near future.

The reds scrum was solid but their lineout really struggled which made it hard to provide a platform for the backline. To make matters more difficult Scott Higginbotham was shown a red card in the first 10 minutes. He provides a large chunk of the Reds ‘go-forward’ and as anyone who’s played rugby knows it’s really difficult to play a man down. Unfortunately they’ll have to make do without Higginbotham for the next three games while he serves his suspension. Look for Lukhan Tui to pick up some of the slack over the next few weeks in his absence.

It’s not all doom and gloom for the Reds their backline looked solid and they continue to build on the solid midfield combination of Kerevi and Pia’aua.

The Reds have a real shot at toppling the Brumbies this week if they can stay disciplined.

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