The Tight Five: What weve noticed about Super Rugby so far
With the fourth round of 2015 Investec Super Rugby imminent, allblacks.com takes a look at five things that are already beginning to be noticeable three weeks in.
The Hurricanes and Chiefs are top of the New Zealand Conference, with Chris Boyd’s men top of the table, and group, due to superior point’s difference.
Hurricanes streak is worth a toast
While many are heeding caution, what is sport, what is emotion, what is celebration, if a side cannot be lauded for winning three straight matches on tour in one of the most testing competitions on earth?
Certainly if the ‘Canes had sunk to 0-3 at this point, the knives would be out, so crack open a lemonade and toast a catchment area that would be embracing all good news – especially considering the early whispers this group could be 2015 champions.
Give Hurricanes fans an inch, and they will take a mile. Too long have they suffered in the shadows of other New Zealand sides and if this start can be built upon…
…expect the unexpected.
Chiefs lay marker
Stop the clock.
The Chiefs victory over the Crusaders was as comprehensive as it was cautionary, this is a side that has won two of the last three trophies and looks the goods to repeat the feat in 2015.
The old firm were the glaring contributors, Liam Messam, Aaron Cruden and others looked so comfortable within the system, while Sonny Bill Williams looks like he never left.
But against a red and black pack, admittedly understrength, the Chiefs were able to bully proceedings and this only enhanced the final score line.
No need to get Blue
The Blues had to face the Chiefs, who probably based their initial domination of Super Rugby in 2012 and 2013 on subduing their big town neighbours, before taking on a surging Stormers and a Cheetahs side that grabbed a heartbreaking victory.
Super Rugby is no sugar coating factory, but the Blues head clean breaks (27), are second in metres ran (1247), beaten defenders (57), and offloads (33).
These are not the numbers of a side on the verge of a precipice.
There is plenty of time for the Blues, a home game and a bye over the next three weeks is embellished with an opening Round Five match against the Hurricanes in Wellington.
A week to think
The Crusaders sit 13th overall and fourth on the New Zealand Conference, and considering their less than flattering early season form, epitaphs are already being penned.
This is a side that has endured such campaign openings before and gone on to win the title, while there are some seriously big names still to return, even if Kieran Read will be no magic bullet for the seven-time champions.
The Crusaders come off the bye and play four straight fixtures against franchises from the Republic, two at home, two away. This will decide their season.
Highlanders still an unknown force
A close loss to the Crusaders and a tight win over the Reds is a start.
It isn’t the sort of rambunctious opening that sends fans scrambling for ‘We are the Champions’ t-shirts, but there are good signs so far from the men from the Deep South.
After their visit to Waikato this weekend, the Highlanders host the Waratahs, Hurricanes and Stormers – tough rivals no doubt – but a stretch of the season the Otago based outfit will want to make count.