The surprises keep coming in Super Rugby, although the suspicion remains that 14 teams are still playing for the right to make the hardest trip in rugby – a grand final against the Crusaders in Christchurch.

Scott Robertson's side had their first bye this weekend and yet no team made a concerted attack on their position at the top of the table. The Hurricanes are the closest on 27 competition points to the Crusaders' 34 but the Sunwolves made them work extremely hard for their 29-23 victory in Tokyo.

Such is the close nature of the competition this year, a defeat for John Plumtree's side, who were without many of their front-liners, wouldn't have been a great shock. Of the 15 teams in the competition, 14 still have a realistic chance of making the top eight and a place in the quarter-finals.

Every team, apart from perhaps the Crusaders, has appeared vulnerable this season, which is just over halfway completed. And even the Crusaders dropped a game to the Waratahs in Sydney.

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Of the Kiwi teams it is the Hurricanes who inspire the most confidence as potential challengers to the Crusaders' attempt to win three titles in a row for the second time. The Chiefs and Blues, in particular, failed to impress again this weekend.

The Lions' 23-17 victory over the Chiefs at Waikato Stadium will supply the South Africans with confidence ahead of their match against the Crusaders next Friday, but they will be big outsiders in what is a repeat of last year's final. Robertson's men haven't lost at home in three years.

Wes Goosen of the Hurricanes. Photo / Photosport
Wes Goosen of the Hurricanes. Photo / Photosport

The Waratahs survived the continuing Israel Folau controversy with a 23-20 win over conference rivals the Rebels in Sydney and while the Melbourne side remain the best in Australia for the moment, they have lost their last two matches and in Quade Cooper they have a first-five who is again running hot and cold.

"It's a weird feeling," Waratahs' Kiwi coach Daryl Gibson said afterwards in referring to the toll of the Folau fallout. "We've won a game but the emotion of the week and to come out with a win has been good but a strange feeling. It takes a lot out of people emotionally and mentally."

The Stormers, after tipping over the Rebels last weekend, would have expected to beat the Brumbies once they had arrived home in Cape Town, but instead it was the visitors who won 19-17 in a game which featured a scoreless final quarter.

Few coaches would have treasured their win this round more than Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger because his side hadn't won since round two when they beat the Reds in Dunedin.

The Highlanders' 24-12 win over the Blues was more comprehensive than the score suggests because after conceding a try to Tom Robinson they scored 24 unanswered points and simply shut out the visitors in the second half.

"I'm really proud of the resilience and fortitude, not just tonight but over the past few weeks," Mauger said. "It's been challenging."

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