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Wild Crazy Super Rugby

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Wild Crazy Super Rugby

Wild Crazy Super Rugby

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Wild, crazy fun, this Super Rugby!
 
New Zealand Conference Power Rankings
 
1) Hurricanes: Not for the first time, a clash with the old arch rivals was like a defibrillator for the ‘Canes, jolting them into the sort of form that went missing over the first two weeks.
Brilliant attack, of course, but just as important was the way they gradually spiked the Crusaders biggest guns, their scrum and driving maul. Don’t forget they were just back from a round the world trip. Shame they’ve got the bye this week.
 
2) Blues: I’m sure there were some hard core Blues fans prepared to back their team against last year’s beaten finalists in the thin, dry air of Johannesburg, but I didn’t encounter any.
Yes, they were a fingertip away from losing, but as long as they had ball in hand they were capable of puncturing the Lions defence and bagging their first, dramatic win. The Ioane brothers were sensational, and we saw a glimpse of why hopes are so high for Stephen Perofeta.
 
3) Highlanders: In most other weeks such a solid win over a good team like the Stormers would be higher up the charts, so apologies to ‘Landers fans.
They got great value from their All Blacks, but also catching the eye is the blossoming combo 12/13 combo of Tei Walden and Rob Thompson. Trucking along nicely, but about to run into a big black and red rig with an angry driver.   
 
4) Crusaders: Talking of which, they won’t be happy with the way their game was defused by the Hurricanes bomb squad. Got a bit tickled up at the breakdown too, where they gave away too many penalties, and yes, Richie Mo’unga was missed.
But even the best teams will have an issue losing players of the calibre of Sam Whitelock and Ryan Crotty during a game, so I wouldn’t start writing death notices just yet.
 
5) Chiefs: There are reported sightings of an old man dressed in rags, towing a heavily laden handcart around the Chiefs Training Campus calling out “Bring Out Your Wounded!” The bye was timely ahead of their clash with the Bulls, but the list remains long and there are rumours of a bid to lure Graeme Purvis out of retirement. 
 
Meanwhile in Oz:
 
 Hands up everyone who had the Rebels leading the overall standings at any point in the next ten years, let alone now? OK, so they haven’t played anyone of real note, but still, it’s a good look for them.
Brad Thorn is also coaxing something out of the Reds we didn’t think was there any more.
On the flip side, the Brumbies are rubbish right now, and the Waratahs clearly used up their Get Out of Jail Free cards in their first two games, and only played like they cared against the Jaguares when it was way too late.
 
South Africa: 
 
The best performance of the weekend in this conference came not from a SA team, but the Jaguares who showed what they are capable of when they are not offloading everything like it’s a live hand grenade and coughing up penalties left right and centre.
Any more of this and people will have to start taking them seriously.
The Lions were told by their affable coach at half time to stop trying to beat the Blues at their own game, so they went back out and kept trying to beat the Blues at their own game.
The Bulls let a win slip, which will not please Mitch, while the Sharks running up 50 against the Sunwolves is not much more than blah blah.
 
Five Worthy Mentions:
 
1) Chris Eves: Scored a try, pulled off a doozy of an intercept, gave a peach of a short ball for Jordi Barrett to open up the Crusaders, and took one for the team by swapping sides of the scrum. More than made up for the fact that he’s rather near the top of the Penalties Conceded chart.
 
2) Akira Ioane : Rag-dolled 10 would be tacklers, made 75 hard-as metres scored an important try, and helped drive Murphy Taramai over for the winner in perhaps the most influential, powerhouse performance of his career. 
 
3) Rob Thompson: might not have the muscle magazine power of Malakai Fekitoa, but runs great lines with strength, has plenty of pace and can set up a team mate.
One loose pass ended up down the wrong end of the field, but more than made up for that with 92 metres from 12 runs, seven defenders beaten, a try assist, and 10 tackles. Crusaders will need to watch their old mate.
 
4) Amanaki Mafi: Another number 8 who brings brute power to work, and ended up with stats to match those of Ioane, albeit against lesser opposition. One of the main reasons the Rebels have started so well.  
 
5) Aaron Smith: Looks to be nearing top form again.
 
Meanwhile Up North :
 
OK, first the real news. Ireland have bagged their third Six Nations Championship under Joe Schmidt. It would be unfathomable, irresponsible even, for New Zealand Rugby to not seriously consider Schmidt as successor to Steve Hansen.
 
Things are not so rosy cheeked to the East of the Emerald Isle.
 
England were ponderous and predictable against a very average French team, which suggests that either the Eddie Jones magic is starting to wear off…or his “my way or the highway” method is wearing thin.
 
Either way, another loss to Ireland, at Twickenham this weekend and it’s time to light the fuse and stand back.
 
And finally :
 
Each Friday morning I’m on a panel on TAB Trackside Radio tipping results for the punters.
Last year, through Super Rugby, Mitre Ten Cup and internationals I had an overall 71 percent strike rate on head to heads, which I was happy with, and 48 percent on margins, which I wasn’t, although but Mark Stafford tells me getting 48 percent of margin bets right means you’re making reasonable money.
 
If the first few weeks of Super Rugby are anything to go by, I’m not going to get close to those numbers this year, but hey, we like unpredictable don’t we?