After the first six weeks of this year’s Super Rugby season its time to look at who are shaping up as the contenders and who are the pretenders in the title race.
Here we sum up all 15 teams start to the year and give our prediction on where they will finish.
Current position: 12th
The ACT-based side have been the big disappointment so far in 2018. Tipped pre-season to be a contender they have already been beaten by the Reds and Rebels and just edged out the Sunwolves and Sharks. New coach Dan McKellar has a lot of work to get the nags running.
Current position: 1st
The Melbourne-based team have been the surprise packet so far in 2018 and new coach David Wessels has quickly created a Force-Rebels fusion that has won four from five. Of course the real tests are to come as they now face NZ opponents but the Rebels look sharp.
Current position: 7th
After a 45-19 shellacking at the hands of Melbourne in week two, there were fears that it would be another year of woe for Queensland but since then Brad Thorns’ new look no-name side have shown tremendous team spirit and organisation. One to watch in 2019.
Current position: 15th
The Sunwolves are the perfect opponent. Turn up with a smile, throw the ball around, miss a lot of tackles, lose by 30+ points and then say thank you very much. A walking bonus-five-points for any other team in the tournament. And the cut the Western Force.
Current position: 9th
It’s been a slow start for NSW with two wins and a draw from their four matches but the Wallabies-laden line-up with names like Israel Folau, Michael Hooper and Bernard Foley cannot be written off. They look a little light upfront but should have enough to reach the final eight.
NEW ZEALAND CONFERENCE
Current position: 13th
On their day, such as against the Lions in Johannesburg, the Blues can be breath-taking and the Ioane brothers unstoppable. Unfortunately that day doesn’t come often enough and when you are in the all-powerful NZ conference you just can’t have any off days.
Current position: 5th
The Chiefs started off with a loss against the Crusaders but since then they have gone from strength to strength with four straight wins. Brodie Retallick is back to his very best, Sam Cane looks a notch up on last year and Damian McKenzie is elusive as ever. Looking like champs.
Current position: 3rd
They started impressively with a win over the Chiefs at home, but since then the Saders have gone off the boil. A cruel injury list including Kieran Read, Owen Franks and Richie Mo’unga is part of the reason but the Christchurch side look a little short of fire-power to go all the way.
Current position: 6th
Looked impressive against the Crusaders until the Canes made them look very ordinary over the weekend. They have a superb flyhalf in Lima Sopoaga, the world’s No1 fullback in Ben Smith and Aaron Smith at scrumhalf but upfront they look a little soft.
Current position: 4th
The Canes look to have a very impressive squad with the Barrett brothers, Ben Lam and a solid pack. When you have players like Vince Aso coming off the bench you know you have some depth. Will push the Chiefs all the way and might just snatch it.
SOUTH AFRICAN CONFERENCE
Current position: 14th
John Mitchell has made a real impact in Pretoria and although the Bulls have lost four from five they have been far from outclassed. They beat the Hurricanes in week two and were more than competitive against the Chiefs and Crusaders in NZ. Will continue to improve.
Current position: 11th
The Argentine side look to have improved slightly since last season and will push the Stormers all the way for a play-off spot. Like the Sunwolves, the Jaguares are desperate to play attractive rugby at all costs – win, draw and mostly lose. They are more effective than the Sunwolves but too cavalier to be serious contenders.
Current position: 2nd
Without departed coach Johann Ackermann, now at Gloucester, the Lions have looked like a rabble at times and already have lost twice and just squeaked past the Sunwolves at home. With the Bulls and Sharks already also-rans they will make the play-offs but no more.
Current position: 10th
Hopes were high for the Kwazulu-Natal team in February, with some picking them as the top SA side, but they are fading fast. They certainly have some impressive performers in the Du Preez brothers but their tight five is untested and midfield dysfunctional.
Current position: 8th
Prediction: Quarter finals
The boys from the Cape look set for their usual season – a safe passage to the play-offs, thanks to being in the weak South African conference, followed by a speedy exit in the quarter finals. Young fly-half Damian Willemse is impressive but needs another season before he can make his team contenders.
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