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If current Super Rugby form holds to the World Cup... All Blacks by 50

Four of the five New Zealand franchises are in playoff spots at the moment.

Nehe Milner Skudder scores a try The performances of the Hurricanes bodes well for New Zealand ahead of the World Cup. Source: Photosport/Marty Melville/INPHO

WE ARE ALMOST at the halfway stage of the 2015 Super Rugby season so there are some conclusions we can draw as we near ever closer to this autumn’s World Cup in England.

  1. The All Blacks are in an ideal place.
  2. The Australian backline will be very dangerous.
  3. The South African’s have spread the wealth around their country.

The first point can almost be used to describe New Zealand rugby at any given time but it looks especially true at the moment. After an impressive 2014, a number of key All Blacks have carried their stellar form into this year’s Super Rugby tournament.

The Hurricanes, Chiefs, Highlanders and Crusaders occupy four of the six playoff spots, with the ‘Canes currently boasting a perfect record of seven wins and zero defeats.

The Wellington team have always had a lot of talented backs – Tana Umaga, Jonah Lomu and Christian Cullen have all played for them – but until this season they have generally been mediocre in Super Rugby.

The man who used to sum up the Hurricanes’ Super Rugby displays was Ma’a Nonu, someone who delivered consistently for the All Blacks but would then play for his club as if it was a massive inconvenience for him.

Eamon Dunphy likes to pick on Yaya Toure but he could easily have been describing Nonu’s Super Rugby displays when he said of the Man City midfielder, ‘he is lounging around midfield like a lounge lizard, looking like his wage packet fell on his foot’.

Playing for his third team in three years, it looked like the inside centre was just happy to lazily mosey around New Zealand cashing checks outside of international windows.

But Nonu, like the ‘Canes in general, has been rejuvenated this year. They also have Beauden Barrett, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith and Julian Savea in their backline and they have been devastating at times.

canes

Besides the league leaders, the Chiefs have also impressed and Sonny Bill Williams’ form will make him a big contender for All Blacks selection. SBW will have to edge out Nonu or Smith, which is a tough task, but the magician’s sleight of hand as been as glorious as ever this season.

Source: Zafer Sari/YouTube

There is also the intriguing sub-plot of Aaron Cruden v Beauden Barrett v Dan Carter for the All Blacks ten jersey and based on their displays so far, DC is probably in third.

The Crusaders have struggled at times this season but looked close to their irresistible best on Saturday, shredding the Sharks in Durban in a 52-7 win.

crusaders

The Brumbies look the most likely team to disrupt the New Zealand dominance and their backline has played some scintillating rugby under Stephen Larkham’s guidance. The legendary ten has clearly helped develop Matt Toomua’s play-making skills and outside him Henry Speight and Christian Lealiifano have been dangerous too.

Tevita Kurdrani has yet to play in Super Rugby this year because of injury but he remains one of the Wallabies key men ahead of the World Cup.

The Bulls are the only South African side in the playoff positions at the moment and it has been a poor start for their franchises. The Sharks, who made the semi-final last year, have been quite poor in a lot of their games and the Stormers have disappointed too.

It is interesting to note the make-up of the Springbok squad though, because the balance of power isn’t located with just one or two teams. So while their Super Rugby teams haven’t looked particularly impressive so far, it isn’t as reflective of the health of their national team as it might be in some other countries.

Here is how the table looks with eight of the 18 rounds completed.

super

There is a lot of rugby left to be played before the World Cup but it looks like the perennial favourites are in a prime position to retain their title.

The king stay the king.

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