Super Rugby Trans-Tasman Power Rankings Round 5

The sprint to the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final concludes this weekend, with the Blues, Crusaders and Highlanders facing one last examination of their credentials.

A win for the Blues at home to the Force will be enough to see them through to the final, while bonus points and for-and-against will be the determining factors for the southerners.

There is of course the outside chance that both the Hurricanes and Chiefs could still make the final, but that will require upsets from both the Rebels and Brumbies.

But what does it all mean for our Power Rankings?

Across the five weeks, ESPN will rank all 10 teams, from top to bottom, taking into account which teams are playing the best rugby, injuries, each team's recent opponents, and which teams are looking most like title contenders.

Previous Rankings: Round 4 Round 3 Round 2 Round 1

1. Blues

2021 record: 4-0

Previous rank: 2

The Blues passed the sternest test of their trans-Tasman campaign in Brisbane last Friday, defeating the Reds 31-24. The victory was built on their powerhouse pack as they outmuscled a Queensland outfit that was rocked by the late scatchings of James O'Connor and Bryce Hegarty. With skipper Patrick Tuipulotu back in the second-row, they have real momentum up front; the platform will be there for a comfortable win over the Force and with it the right to host next week's final.

This week's opposition: Force (Auckland)

2. Crusaders

2021 record: 4-0

Previous rank: 1

So it turns out that Richie Mo'unga is really quite important to the Crusaders' game plan. Scott Robertson's side were well below their best in a scratchy 29-21 win over the Force, who really dominated much of the second half in Christchurch. In fact, with a little more polish on their finishing, the visitors could have come away with one of the upsets of the year. Mo'unga will be back to fire the Crusaders past the Rebels in Sydney, but they enter the weekend 11 points adrift of the Highlanders on for-and-against. Robertson's men will know exactly what they need to do by the time kick-off rolls around on Saturday afternoon. Can you really see a Super Rugby final without the Crusaders in it? It's been a while ...

This week's opponents: Rebels (Sydney)

3. Highlanders

2021 record: 4-0

Previous rank: 3

You could have been forgiven for thinking that a game of cricket had broken out at Forsyth Barr Stadium last Saturday, such was the rate at which the score grew in the first half. But you always had the belief that the Highlanders would eventually sort their defence, and continue to rip apart the Waratahs line that is as flimsy as a politician's promise. Vitally, the Highlanders did scoop up the bonus point and got a nice little 36-point boost to their for-and-against record. They'll find the going much tougher in Canberra you'd suspect, though.

This week's opposition: Brumbies (Canberra)

4. Hurricanes

2021 record: 3-1

Previous rank: 3

Anyone else still gobsmacked Jordie Barrett missed both of those potential match-winning penalties in Canberra? Canes coach Jason Holland absolved Barrett of the blame, choosing instead to call out the TMO decision which found a tiny Ardie Savea knock-on. No matter which side you look at it, the Canes blew a golden opportunity for a chance at some silverware after a poor Aotearoa campaign. If they can put a big win on the board to start Round 5, then perhaps some of their Kiwi rivals will get a little nervous? File that in the "wishful thinking" catalogue.

This week's opposition: Reds (Wellington)

5. Chiefs

2021 record: 3-1

Previous rank: 6

Didn't Hamilton look a picture last Sunday? Wait, what? Oh yeah, that was a glorious Sydney sun on show at Leichhardt Oval. And the Chiefs seemed to enjoy themselves, overcoming the suspension of Damian McKenzie to see off the Rebels in the second half. Centre Anton Lienert-Brown had a field day, and looks in spectacular form ahead of the Test season. No doubt he's enjoying life at Coogee, with the Chiefs now settled in Sydney ahead of the attacking free-for-all otherwise known as a date with NSW.

This week's opposition: Waratahs (Sydney)

6. Brumbies

2021 record: 1-3

Previous rank: 7

The Brumbies were always going to be a tougher nut to crack at home, and so it proved as they ruined the Hurricanes' rebuild [with the help of J. Barrett]. In what was arguably the hardest game of the Trans-Tasman season to date, the Brumbies were again well served by form back-rower Rob Valetini and rising lock Nick Frost up front, while Nic White added the classy touches from the bench to help guide them home. Back-to-back wins to finish the season then?

This week's opposition: Highlanders (Canberra)

7. Reds

2021 record: 1-3

Previous rank: 5

We're not sure who walked under a ladder in Queensland last week, but losing both James O'Connor and Bryce Hegarty to injury inside 24 hours before kick-off isn't what you call the "perfect preparation" for a date with the unbeaten Blues. Still, Brad Thorn's side gave a fair account of themselves; they just lacked a little bit of size up front against a massive Blues pack. We did like the look of the pint-sized Mac Grealy, though. A touch of Cheslin Kolbe about him?

This week's opposition: Hurricanes (Wellington)

8. Western Force

2021 record: 0-4

Previous rank: 10

Had Toni Pulu not been injured, could the Force have run down the Crusaders? It's a question worth asking, given the winger's brilliant opening try and on the account of his teammates just lacking that one genuine attacking game-breaker in his absence. Regardless, there was a lot to like about the Force's performance in Christchurch as they dominated territory and possession in the second half and eventually denied their hosts what at that point looked like being a vital bonus point. Can they get up for another game in NZ, this time at Eden Park?

This week's opposition: Blues (Auckland)

9. Rebels

2021 record: 0-4

Previous rank: 9

It's nice to see the Rebels playing with some freedom again, certainly interim coach Kevin Foote has loosened the attacking shackles that dominated this year's Super AU season. The Rebels scored some nice tries against the Chiefs, none more so than Stacey Ili's ripper which was laid on by fly-half Carter Gordon, who looks a real prospect. But it's hard to see anything other than a closing loss for 2021. Might a beautiful afternoon at Leichhardt again though?

This week's opposition: Crusaders (Sydney)

10. Waratahs

2021 record: 0-4

Previous rank: 8

The Waratahs are just a woeful defensive team. Here comes an 0-13 season. Catch you next year, NSW.

This week's opposition: Chiefs [Sydney]