Super Rugby Rebooted: Rebels' reality check, Lions look disjointed

The struggling Blues were upstaged at home to a firing Sharks, who provided the biggest upset of Round 7, with the South African side claiming their first win on the road in Auckland.

Elsewhere, the Rebels couldn't overcome the Hurricanes, while the Lions looked lost against the Crusaders.

Read on for some of the major talking points from the weekend's action.

Australian Conference

Too soon for Rebels to prove they're the real deal

Through the opening rounds of the 2018 Super Rugby season, Dave Wessels and the Rebels showed they were contenders, but two second-half blowouts within three games have shown the Victorian side still have plenty of work to do, to prove they're the real deal.

The first Australian side to take on a New Zealand team in 2018, the Rebels had the arduous task of ending Australia's 33-game losing streak against Kiwi opponents. Unfortunately for the Rebels, they came up against one of the competition's strongest sides, and one of New Zealand's fiercest opponents.

Following their strong win over the Sharks after a quick turnaround last round, plenty of hopes were pinned on the Victorians, but this week's stunning defeat provided a reality check for the young side.

The Rebels started well, building a hefty lead through a Mat Philip try and four Jack Debreczeni penalty goals, but by the 35th minute mark they had run out of steam. The Hurricanes needed just seven minutes to score 17 points and claw back the 11-point deficit.

Once again the wheels fell off the Rebels effort in the second half, as they failed to score a single point, while the Hurricanes ran in four tries.

Rebels No.8 Amanaki Mafi looked like a man possessed in the opening 30 minutes, clocking 15 runs and 100 metres, but didn't return in the second due to an HIA. It was a severe blow for the side, who were struggling to find any go forward and who looked lost after the break.

Despite their second half capitulation, Wessels managed to find positives in his side's loss.

"The game was an opportunity for us to set a marker - what are the things we need to improve on in the next couple of months to be genuinely competitive at the really top end," he said.

"The Hurricanes are the most dominant team in Super Rugby over the last couple of years.

"I thought in the first half we played some really good rugby and ultimately we lost the game because they controlled the field better.

"If we keep improving in the way we have come July when it's playoff time, we can be a lot more competitive in the scoreline."

Luckily for the Rebels, despite another loss, they've maintained their place at the top of the Super Rugby ladder, and they now have an extra week's rest through a bye week. It should allow them plenty of time to look over their poor second half showings before they take on the Jaguares at home.

New Zealand Conference

Blues need Ioane on the wing

The Blues suffered an "embarrassing" defeat according to coach Tana Umaga when they fell to the Sharks 63-40 at Eden Park and it surely proves the Rieko Ioane experiment must now come to an end.

One of the most dangerous wings in world rugby, Ioane started the season in his favoured position, but only weeks later Umaga changed up his plans and slotted Ioane into the centres.

While the change reaped some reward with the Blues' come from behind win over the Lions in Johannesburg, the side has struggled since, with the Auckland team gifting victory to the Stormers in Cape Town before a sloppy performance at home against the Sharks.

Starting the match on the inside, Ioane played just one quarter before he was moved to 13 in a backline reshuffle following Melani Nanai's ankle injury. Despite the move, Ioane's place at centre failed to provide the spark the Blues so desperately needed.

The Blues' defence was poor, missing 29 tackles, while they struggled to secure quality ball and could do nothing to hamper Sharks fly-half Robert du Preez's masterful performance.

Umaga was adamant the Ioane move had been a success.

"I think you saw a lot more of his skillset" he said following the game.

"He's got a very good passing game, he's a very good communicator, and gives confidence to those around him. He's shown when he's closer to the ball he does a lot of good things for us."

But the Blues' position second from the bottom of the Super Rugby table surely proves the experiment must now end.

Conceding an average 40 points a game and now 1-4 - with two losses at home - the Blues sit far down the bottom of the New Zealand conference with just six points.

Things don't get any easier for the Blues as they next face the Chiefs away in Hamilton, and they'll need to find a fix fast as they already sit seven points off the post-season cut-off.

South African Conference

The 2018 Lions look a disjointed outfit

One of the hallmarks of the Lions' success over the last few years was their togetherness, which was showcased on the field by their commitment and coordination.

Former coach Johan Ackermann built a squad that play an attractive, fast-paced game. But he also built a tightknit group of players who were almost telepathically connected to each other. Whether it was on attack or defence, the Lions haven't made many mistakes in the previous two season because of the understanding between the players and commitment to the cause.

But this season, in Swys de Bruin first year in charge of the team, they look a disjointed outfit, that aren't quite in sync with each other.

Their set-piece is bi-polar at the moment, their defence is leaking simple tries almost every weekend and their attack is lacking the punch that knocked out quite a few opponents over the last year years.

At their best, the Lions have always played with pace and precision, and for the most part they were deadly accurate in their execution. But now they are struggling to make a simple pass, a proper cleanout or a tackle.

Against the Crusaders on Easter Sunday they had their chances against the defending, but didn't show that composure at home that their fans have been accustomed to.

The Lions are still top of the South African conference, but they will have to get back to their old form on their upcoming tour of New Zealand and Australia, otherwise the Stormers, Bulls and Sharks will catch up at home.