Awesome points there guys.
I agree that this surge of form from the Chiefs is going to be temporary, I just can't see them holding it consistently.
Canes need to sort themselves out quickly - they are forever failing the moment any team really muscles up to them and shows any real solidity in their defence - they're the perennial bullies of the Super 14 in that they can usually only beat the weak teams. They have the personnel, especially in their backline - but the forwards really need to start fronting up; I'm always so shocked at how lazy they've been getting around the field. Fortunately guys like Karl Lowe and (surprisingly) Jason Eaton are really stepping up the pace. I know Rodney's being his usual workhorse self and doing an awesome job, but I'm really starting to wonder whether he can last until 2011...and finally with Weepu playing 10, guys like Brendon Leonard, Jimmy Cowan, and even Alby Mathewson are putting the pressure for those precious 2 halfback roles (fortunately Ellis' injuries properly takes him out the serious running, and Moa's just not in the same league). Barring potential injury, 2 of those 4 guys are gonna be disappointed to miss out on the squad this year, and will have to make do with the Juniors. Personally I say take Cowan (stepped up again to reclaim the #1 spot) and Weepu and let Leonard and Mathewson run the Juniors.
Blues are just up one week and down the next - they seem to be in a perpetual daze but guys like Chris Lowrey are stepping up well - there's hope yet.
Crusaders are wallowing without Richie - and that's sad that they're so blatantly a one-man team. But as mania said - they were easily the hardest hit in terms of player loss since last season; although they lost Hamilton too which I see as a plus!
Highlanders are telling their critics to go sit on something tall and sharp, and good on them. They have the most dominant pack in NZ but they are suffering for lack of true talent in their backline, especially since Williams left and Vainikolo just isn't firing like he did last year. No disrespect meant to the likes of Shoemark, Hayward and Bowden - but Cowan is the only real quality in their whole backline. Letting Kawau go was a mistake, as was missing out Pehi Te Whare.
Agree with mania - the Sharks have finally risen to the top and are looking quite settled - I would love nothing more than to hear that the Canes pulled off an upset over them, but with Gear and Waldrom out, and with their current form - I just don't see it happening.
The Bulls could well be on a slippery slope back down the table now - but with Habana and (more importantly) Matfield back into the mix, they could well be preparing for a final charge to the end.
The Tahs are looking decidedly average and are winning games rather ugly. Halangahu at 10 should help them as he can control the game better than Beale, and has a more accurate boot for the posts; but they need to up the ante if they want to make the final 4.
Reds are punching above their weight IMO - they have some real class, but the rest of the team is too far down in overall quality to make them all truly competitive.
I maintain that the top 4 by the end will contain no Aussies at all.