Super Rugby Pacific power rankings: Chiefs usurp Crusaders as form team

The Chiefs celebrate their last-ditch win against the Crusaders in Christchurch last weekend.

Peter Meecham/Getty Images

The Chiefs celebrate their last-ditch win against the Crusaders in Christchurch last weekend.

OPINION: The sight of Chiefs director of rugby Warren Gatland exploding with delight in the coaching box was quite the contrast to Clayton McMillan’s reaction after they upset the Crusaders.

There was no hooting or hollering, rather a smile and a bit of a chuckle as the head coach digested what he’d just seen – two late tries and a 24-21 win.

McMillan has done wonders with the Chiefs since taking over from Gatland in an interim role last year, a move which became permanent after he guided them to the Super Rugby Aotearoa final last year.

Now, having guided the Chiefs to their first win over the Crusaders in Christchurch since 2016, he’s got his team firing in Super Rugby Pacific.

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With only a missed Bryn Gatland penalty against the Blues denying them a 3-0 record, the Chiefs top Stuff’s latest power rankings.

Chiefs replacement Rameka Poihipi scores the match-winner against the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday night.

John Davidson/Photosport

Chiefs replacement Rameka Poihipi scores the match-winner against the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday night.

1. CHIEFS (2-1) PREVIOUS RANKING: 5

Kudos to anyone who got on the Chiefs when the bookies were offering $4.20 to tip about the Crusaders in Christchurch last weekend.

The fact the form team in New Zealand came back from 21-10 down to win it without ace halfback Brad Weber was mighty impressive.

Buckle up for No 8 Pita Gus Sowakula vs Hurricanes captain Ardie Savea in Wellington on Sunday.

2. BRUMBIES (4-0) PREVIOUS RANKING: 2

Undefeated after four rounds, the Brumbies shape as the Australian team most likely to threaten the Kiwis down the stretch.

Their clash with the Reds in Canberra on Friday night should be a beaut.

Crusaders flanker Tom Christie, middle, and head coach Scott Robertson, right, digest their 24-21 defeat to the Chiefs in Christchurch last Saturday night.

Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

Crusaders flanker Tom Christie, middle, and head coach Scott Robertson, right, digest their 24-21 defeat to the Chiefs in Christchurch last Saturday night.

3. CRUSADERS (3-1) PREVIOUS RANKING: 1

For all the talk of the Crusaders leaking two late tries in their defeat to the Chiefs, what about their lack of execution earlier in the game?

And here’s another question: what is wrong with center Braydon Ennor’s and prop George Bower’s hands?

Wing Mark Telea has been one of the Blues' best players so far this season.

Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Wing Mark Telea has been one of the Blues’ best players so far this season.

4. BLUES (2-1) PREVIOUS RANKING: 4

Beat the Highlanders on the back of a good second half, but their best rugby so far this season remains their first 70 minutes against the Hurricanes in week one.

Confirmation more Covid-19 cases have been detected in camp means they might not get a chance to snap a 14-match losing streak against the Crusaders this weekend.

5. REDS (4-0) PREVIOUS RANKING: 6

Brad Thorn’s troops are undefeated, but last year’s Australian champions are yet to reach the level of a year ago.

They’ll have to if they’re to beat the Brumbies in a rematch of the Super Rugby AU final this weekend.

The Hurricanes are scheduled to return to action against the Chiefs in Wellington on Sunday.

Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

The Hurricanes are scheduled to return to action against the Chiefs in Wellington on Sunday.

6. HURRICANES (2-1) PREVIOUS RANKING: 3

Out of action in round four due to a Covid-19 outbreak, the Hurricanes’ wish for their game against the Chiefs in Wellington to be pushed back to Sunday has been granted by New Zealand Rugby.

7. WARATAHS (2-2) PREVIOUS RANKING: 8

Without a doubt the most improved team so far this year, the Waratahs’ defensive performance against the Force on Sunday was as gritty as it gets.

Have already won two more games than during Super Rugby AU last year, when they leaked 292 points in eight games.

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8. FORCE (1-3) PREVIOUS RANKING: 7

For all their intent and willingness to get the ball to dangerous wings Manasa Mataele and Toni Pulu, the Force’s inability to finish opportunities is haunting them.

9. MOANA PASIFIKA (0-1) PREVIOUS RANKING: 9

Spare a thought for the newcomers for a moment.

Limited to one game through four weeks due to Covid-19 in their camp, and in the Hurricanes’, they already have two games to catch up.

The fact their game against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday is now under threat is just another blow.

Fijian Drua's Selestino Ravutaumada finds space against the Reds in Brisbane last weekend.

Chris Hyde/Getty Images

Fijian Drua’s Selestino Ravutaumada finds space against the Reds in Brisbane last weekend.

10. FIJIAN DRUA (1-3) PREVIOUS RANKING: 11

The best running rugby has without a doubt been produced by the Drua.

Watching them run in three tries in the space of five extraordinary minutes against the Reds last weekend was special.

Keep an eye on the newbies.

Highlanders coach Tony Brown has got his work cut out for him after a rough start to the season.

Derek Morrison/Photosport

Highlanders coach Tony Brown has got his work cut out for him after a rough start to the season.

11. HIGHLANDERS (0-4) PREVIOUS RANKING: 10

What a mess the Highlanders have so far been, on and off the field.

From dismal performances on the field, to players flouting mask rules during a flight home, the good news is things can surely only get better.

12. REBELS (0-4) PREVIOUS RANKING: 12

It’s difficult to envision how the woeful Rebels will muster a win anytime soon.

They have four more games before they start clashing with New Zealand-based teams.

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