Super Rugby Rebooted: Australia's drought breakers, deliberate knockdown uncertainty continues

After 40 games, Australia finally saw the end of their New Zealand hoodoo with the Waratahs putting on a slick display to thump the Highlanders 41-12, but it was the individual display of Taniela Tupou for the Reds the night before that stole the show for Australian fans.

While the Crusaders continued their winning run and Steve Hansen named his All Blacks squad for the June series with several rookies rewarded for their impressive form so far this year.

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

Australian Conference

Tahs snap streak but Thor's thunderous game steals the show

The last Australian Super Rugby team to defeat a New Zealand franchise, the Waratahs bookended the trans-Tasman run of outs with an impressive 41-12 victory over the Highlanders.

After 40 games without a win against Kiwi opposition, the Waratahs at last gave Australian fans some respite from the incessant insults of their New Zealand neighbours; the writing on the wall early after a moment of madness from Highlanders winger Tevita Nabura.

Leaping into the air to claim a high ball, Nabura inexplicably extended his right boot into the face of Cameron Clark catching the chasing NSW winger flush on the jaw. Originally missed by referee Brendon Pickerill, local broadcaster Fox Sports ensured there would be no repeat of the overlooked incident of foul play like there had been in Christchurch a week earlier as replays soon flooded the big Allianz Stadium big screens.

After consultation with Television Match Official George Ayoub, Pickerill eventually reached for the pocket and produced a red card much to the delight of the partisan home crowd. With the Highlanders down to 14 men for the remainder of the match, and 13 while Aaron Smith was in the sin bin, the Waratahs were never seriously heeded as they went on to claim a bonus-point win.

While the one-man advantage certainly helped the Waratahs end Australia's 40-game dry spell, there had been enough in their recent performances to suggest the kind of performance they produced at Allianz Stadium wasn't far away. In their two previous encounters, also against New Zealand opposition, the Waratahs should really have never lost.

But sometimes you just need that little bit of luck, the bounce of the ball or a brain-fade on the part of your opposition to go your way. In just his third game of Super Rugby, Nabura certainly provided the latter.

There were a number of fine performers for the Waratahs as Taqele Naiyaravoro and Israel Folau both scored doubles, the entire forward pack delivered a solid set-piece and Bernard Foley ran for 99 metres and made four clean breaks. But the individual Australian performance of Round 14 came a day earlier as Taniela Tupou all but secured the Wallabies No.3 jersey with a breathtaking display against the Hurricanes.

Disgraced by the Sunwolves in Tokyo a week earlier, the Reds restored some much needed pride in pushing the Hurricanes all the way to the final siren in Wellington. And much of that was down to Tupou's play, the prop scoring one try via powerful drive from close range before he later found some room to move to provide for Jordan Petaia.

Receiving the ball close to the left touchline, Tupou first palmed off All Blacks winger Nehe Milner-Skudder and then skipped through a feeble attempted tackle from TJ Perenara. The "Tongan Thor" completed the play with a perfectly floated pass inside for Petaia who raced away to score.

With Sekope Kepu not quite at his best this season, Tupou has seemingly thrust himself into the box seat to wear the Wallabies No.3 jersey against Ireland next month. And there are no longer any questions about Tupou's scrummaging ability with the Reds enjoying a stable set-piece platform for much of this season.

Add that to Tupou's raw power, superb body height and skills in open field, and Michael Cheika can't not be excited for what impact the former schoolboy sensation may have in Wallabies gold.

New Zealand Conference

Hansen rewards rookies as deliberate knockdown uncertainty continues

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen on Sunday named his squad for next month's three-Test series with France, including back-rowers Jordan Taufua and Shannon Frizell for the first time. The uncapped Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi and the Crusaders trio of Jack Goodhue, Richie Mo'unga and Tim Perry were also named.

Later on Sunday, Hansen took a backhanded swipe at Brad Shields in declaring the Hurricanes back-rower "probably would have made the team this year" had he not switched allegiance to England. Having seen others promoted ahead of him over the last few years, Shields grew weary of waiting for the All Blacks and will instead answer to Eddie Jones in South Africa next month.

While Shields was never going to be an option given his recent decision, Hurricanes teammate Ben Lam was thought to be very close to an All Blacks debut. And he certainly did his best to impress Hansen, who was in the stands on Friday night, scoring two tries in another powerful display of finishing. He did however bomb one further five-pointer with a laissez-faire putdown, the ball falling free of his grasp inches from the turf.

Whether that impacted Hansen's final decision and those of his selection counterparts is unknown but something that won't have been lost on the All Blacks' brain trust was the knock-on ruled against Peter Umaga-Jensen late in the second half.

After initially looking like he would find himself in the sin bin for a deliberate knockdown, Umaga-Jensen avoided sanction with referee Ben O'Keeffe, his assistants and the TMO agreeing the Hurricanes centre had made a genuine attempt at intercept and might well have caught the loose ball had he not been grabbed by Reds winger Filipo Dauguno.

It was the right decision despite the fashion in which TJ Perenara had charged at O'Keeffe pleading Umaga-Jensen's case.

Twenty-four hours later in Sydney, there were several more incidents of a similar variety, one of which saw Aaron Smith sent to the sin bin. The All Blacks scrum-half could have few arguments with the ruling, though the visitors themselves had cause for complaint a short while later when Waratahs skipper Michael Hooper made the same indiscretion but was only penalised.

There were two further occasions when referee Brendon Pickerill consulted TMO George Ayoub for assistance, in what has become one of the biggest grey areas in the game.

"I think in those moments everyone is competing at their very best and it happens pretty quickly, the main thing we ask for in those situations is consistency," Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger said post game.

Highlanders captain Ben Smith added: "A lot of the time its reflexes; as Aaron said it just happens that quickly, it's a reflex to either try and grab it or sometimes you're making a tackle on someone and the ball is there at the same time. Its reaction sort of stuff a lot of the time."

Asked whether the law itself needed to be looked at, Smith replied: "I'm with Aaron, it just needs to be consistent. Whatever the rule is, as long as they're consistent we'll just get on with it."

Whether the law needs to be addressed or yellow cards reserved for try-scoring situations only, you can guarantee it will pop up at some stage during the June Test window.

South African Conference

Jaguares finally getting the hang of Super Rugby

The Jaguares have finally figured out this Super Rugby thing, and they might just be the sort of team you would like to avoid in the playoffs.

It has taken the Argentinian a couple of seasons to make their mark in the competition, even though they have basically fielding a fully fledged Test team almost every weekend.

Their discipline was their biggest problem, and at one point it seemed that rugby's Spanish law book was different to the ones used by the rest of the world. It's still not quite perfect, but the Jaguares are conceding fewer penalties and fewer players are leaving the field for yellow and red card offences.

The Jaguares have won their last five matches, including two matches in New Zealand. Their emergence as a force has thrown the South African conference wide open, and they now find themselves second in the SA Conference following their drubbing of the Bulls in Buenos Aires.

Although the Jaguares can still finish top of the SA Conference -- they are seven points behind the Lions with four matches to play -- they are essentially fighting for a playoff berth with the Bulls and the Sharks. And one would say their destiny is in their own hands, as they have to play those teams three times -- Sharks twice and Bulls once -- in the home stretch.

If they can ride this sort of momentum in the playoffs they will be a handful, as they have already shown in away matches Down Under this year. They can be a really dangerous team, as they play in the face of the opposition and can unsettle any team.