Under-strength Chiefs defying the odds
Sunday, April 3, 2016 Lynn McConnell Getty Images
Remember this is a side without Brodie Retallick, Augustine Pulu, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Pauliasi Manu, Andrew Horrell, Dominic Bird, Nepo Laulala, Mitchell Karpik, Tevita Koloamatangi, Nathan Harris and Glen Fisiiahi.
New Zealand Conference
The Chiefs sit atop both the New Zealand Conference and the overall competition ladders with 24 points, two ahead of the Highlanders, both teams still to have a bye. The Chiefs have also been scoring some handy advantage by claiming bonus points, four, the most of any side in the competition and they are streets ahead in terms of their points differential which sits at 108, the next highest being the Highlanders' 58.
But the Crusaders demonstrated their sleeping giant status with an impressive 43-37 win over the Lions in Johannesburg. To have claimed both the Sharks and Lions within a week is one of the more meritorious efforts to date. The Chiefs-Crusaders return game in Suva on July 1 is shaping as a monumental contest.
The Highlanders had to hang tough to get a win over a determined Force side 32-20 in Dunedin and after three tough contests they will be looking for some relief before their bye when playing the Reds in Brisbane on Saturday.
Welcome respite from the critics came with the Blues win over the Jaguares 24-16 but it doesn't get any easier as they line up against the Chiefs on Friday.
Guess what will be going on during the bye week in Canberra? Plenty of introspection it would seem if the Brumbies are to quickly recover from their 23-48 thumping by the Chiefs. It didn't knock them off the top of the ladder, and it won't next week either because their stablemates, the Rebels, have the bye as well.
The Rebels moved into a share of the lead courtesy of their 21-17 win over the Waratahs in Sydney. The 2014 champions are looking in trouble as the halfway point in the season approaches. They've got the bye next week and then face the Brumbies.
The Force showed they could still cause an upset, especially if they can play at home like they did in going down to the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday.
FULL TIME: An historic Rebels win in Sydney as we hold on to defeat the @NSWWaratahs 21-17. #WARvREB #GoRebels pic.twitter.com/lgFDHLnKns— Melbourne Rebels (@MelbourneRebels) April 3, 2016South Africa 1
The Stormers had the bye this round, but are still four points clear in the Conference on 18 points. The Bulls confirmed second place with their 23-18 win over the Cheetahs to move to 14 points while the Cheetahs, the only side in the Conference still to have the bye are on seven points.
The inability of the Sunwolves to get up over the Kings 28-33 means their only points are from bonus points, one of which came in their loss to the Kings.
South Africa 2
The Lions had a chance to move top of this Conference but the Crusaders put paid to that with their 43-37 win so they could only claim one bonus point to move to 14, two behind the Sharks but well clear of the Jaguares who, after their 16-24 loss to the Blues have still only the one win and seven points.
The Kings did get on the board with their first win by beating the Sunwolves 33-28.
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