Super Rugby Rebooted Round 3: Crusaders slow starters no more

Queensland Reds produced the only real upset of Super Rugby Round 3, Brad Thorn's side recording a workmanlike 18-10 victory at Suncorp Stadium despite not scoring a try.

High contact was again a talking point from that match, and across the weekend, with Thorn later questioning the yellow card issued to back-rower Caleb Timu. In his post-match press conference, Thorn said: "It's a contact sport. Let us enjoy some contact."

Elsewhere, the Blues suffered yet another defeat by a rival Kiwi franchise, this time to the Chiefs at home in Auckland, while the Rebels, Crusaders, Lions and Hurricanes also recorded victories. The Sharks and the Waratahs split the points in Durban following a 24-all draw.

Read on for the major storylines from each of the three conferences.

Australian Conference

The competition is only three weeks old but already Will Genia appears to be the recruit of the year after he backed up last week's impressive Rebels debut with another classy display against the Sunwolves.

And the signs couldn't be better for Australian rugby on the whole with the Wallabies scrum-half's service seemingly as slick as ever while the box kick, which has long been the weakness in Genia's game, is showing signs of improvement.

Given the way the game is played these days, a halfback simply must have a quality box kick in their arsenal; Ireland No. 9 Conor Murray showed how vital the skill is during the British & Irish Lions' drawn series with the All Blacks last year.

For the Rebels, who have already eclipsed last year's sole victory following Saturday's win over the Sunwolves, it has been Genia's influence on youngsters Jack Debreczeni and Jack Maddocks that has been particularly noteworthy.

Debreczeni looked lost throughout much of the past two seasons as he was shifted between fullback and fly-half, while also battling injury, under former Rebels coach Tony McGahan. But he is playing with renewed confidence in 2018, with Genia's accuracy and speed of delivery giving the playmaker the extra time his game requires at this point of his career.

Genia has also struck up a slick combination with No. 8 and Japanese star Amanaki Mafi, which set the platform for two marvellous set-piece tries in Saturday's win over the Sunwolves. Mafi on both occasions popped a perfect pass to Genia, who varied his width accordingly, producing a perfect cutout pass to help put Sefa Naivalu over. Minutes later Genia, freed up Reece Hodge -- an inside ball to Debreczeni allowing the fly-half to ghost through and put Maddocks over for his second.

And it's Maddocks who may be the most exciting prospect in Melbourne's squad. Maddocks, a Wallabies development player last year, has already indicated he sees himself as a fly-half moving forward, and there is enough skill and understanding in his game to suggest he can make the transition as time goes on.

The 21-year-old former Sydneysider produced a lovely floated cutout pass to put Naivalu away before then getting himself into position to receive a return ball and score the Rebels' opening try in Tokyo. Forty-five minutes later, Maddocks had a hat-trick.

Maddocks has obvious potential and could become a franchise player for the Rebels moving in the future, but he could find himself on the bench when Wallabies flyer Marika Koroibete returns. It is a situation in stark contrast to what the Rebels endured 12 months ago.

New Zealand Conference

Introducing the Crusaders, Super Rugby's slow starters no more.

The eight-time champions have built a reputation for taking time to work in the competition, but that certainly isn't the case in 2018 after they put the Stormers away in a bonus-point victory in Christchurch on Saturday evening.

The 45-28 win comes on the back of last week's 45-23 over the Chiefs, again with a bonus point, that sees the Crusaders four points clear at the top of the New Zealand Conference. Their unusually fast start should have their local rivals on notice, particularly the Hurricanes whom they face next week in Wellington.

Over the previous five years, the Crusaders recorded their best start to a season when they defeated the Brumbies and the Highlanders in 2017 but only by a combined margin of seven points. In the previous four seasons, they suffered at least one loss in their opening two weeks while, in both 2013 and 2014, they lost each of their first two encounters.

There has been absolutely no rust as they look to defend their title under coach Scott Robertson, despite once again being without a number of key personnel -- Matt Todd the casualty ahead of their win over the Stormers this week. Todd's place was taken by debutant Billy Harmon, who did exactly what so many other rookie Crusaders have done under Robertson in stepping up from the outset.

Harmon did receive a yellow card after the final siren on Saturday but he was otherwise strong in both defence and attack, trailing only skipper Sam Whitelock for tackles made (19) while picking up a try, three clean breaks and two beaten defenders in attack.

The Crusaders opened a 26-0 lead in 20 minutes; the Stormers did an admirable job in closing the gap to just 10 points approaching the hour mark, but two tries in seven minutes erased any thought of an astonishing comeback win.

But it's not all sunshine and rainbows in Christchurch with star fly-half Richie Mo'unga suffering a broken jaw. Mo'unga has been in sparkling form as he chases an All Blacks debut, now increasingly likely given Lima Sopoaga's decision to head north, but he could miss a fair chunk of action after undergoing surgery on Sunday afternoon. Mo'unga was also issued a warning for a dangerous tackle.

Fortunately, Robertson has excellent cover at first five-eighth in Mitchell Hunt, who won two tight games for the Crusaders in 2017 with a penalty and a drop goal after the siren against the Reds and Highlanders respectively.

South Africa Conference

Elton Jantjies is the ultimate enigma, and probably one of the most frustrating rugby players to watch.

When the Lions fly-half is hot, he is almost unstoppable and right up there with some of the best playmakers in Super Rugby. But when he struggles, he tends to press the self-destruct button, which has happened far too often during his rollercoaster ride of a career.

Over the past couple of years, Super Rugby fans have known Jantjies the magician, a player who runs his team with authority. He takes charge from the fly-half position, and is pivotal to the Lions' high-tempo approach. Unfortunately he hasn't quite transferred that form into the international stage.

Jantjies was brilliant in the Lions' win over the Bulls in a hotly contested South African derby. He produced a wonderful all-round performance, dominating the match with ball in hand and his left boot which at times can be as erratic as the man himself.

Jantjies needs to find that consistency if he wants to pull on the Test No. 10 jersey against Wales and England in June. There are currently many fly-halves around the country currently pushing for a Boks jersey, with the Sharks' Robert du Preez and Bulls pivot Handré Pollard Jantjies' main competition.

Jantjies is arguably the most gifted of the trio in terms of his attacking prowess, but he needs to sort himself out mentally. If he wants to be Rassie Erasmus' choice as South Africa's No. 1 fly-half, he needs to produce more performance like that against the Bulls, and less 'facepalm' moments.

Bonus Point

Congratulations goes to Hurricanes halves TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett after they started a record 81st Super Rugby match together, eclipsing the mark of Brumbies greats George Gregan and Stephen Larkham.

The duo were in the thick of the action in Buenos Aires, too, each man playing a part in one of the Hurricanes' five tries in the 34-9 victory over the Jaguares.