Super Rugby Round 12 Australia at risk of falling adrift

Another week, another two Australian losses at the hands of New Zealand sides. Hopes were raised heading into Round 12 that Australia's losing streak against New Zealand would finally come to a close with the Waratahs hosting the Blues. Instead, fans were left disappointed and disgruntled with yet another error-riddled performance from the top Australian team.

It was a different story for the Jaguares who continued their winning run, making it four on the trot, including two wins in New Zealand, while the Sharks stunned the Highlanders in Durban.

Read on for the talking points in Round 12.

Australian Conference

Australia falling further and further behind

Thirty-eight straight losses.

It's a number that seems almost unfathomable.

It's been almost two years since Australian fans last saw an Aussie Super Rugby side down a New Zealand team -- in fact the Sunwolves have defeated a New Zealand side more recently than the Aussies (48-21 in the final round of 2017, for all those wondering) -- and after another weekend of embarrassing results many fans may have lost all hope of the streak being broken in 2018.

Not once did the Waratahs lead against the Blues on Saturday night, despite holding over 75 per cent of territory and the lion's share of possession. They had plenty of opportunities to score, and in the final minutes, the chance to win the game. Instead, game smarts, technical ability and finishing went missing.

Camped on the Blues tryline in the dying minutes, the Tahs needed just to cross the line to steal the win and end Australia's agonising drought. Instead, in what could only be a misunderstanding or a massive brain fade, Kurtley Beale chose to attempt a cross-field kick to Israel Folau on the wing. Two metres is all that stood between brilliance and heartbreak.

Continuing the theme of Australian rugby, it ended in heartbreak.

Blues coach Tana Umaga wasn't willing to dive into the narrative while captain Augustine Pulu insisted the side hadn't been motivated by the streak, but the truth remains, Australia's best side couldn't seal the win over New Zealand's worst. It's an issue that will likely culminate in a second whitewash at the hands of New Zealand sides and epitomises just how far behind Australian rugby is falling.

The Rebels were made to look like amateurs when the Crusaders ran riot in the second half on Friday night, running in six tries while the Rebels couldn't even get a point on the board. Missing Will Genia for the second 40 minutes, the Rebels had no direction and looked clueless, and they're likely to remain that way with the Wallabies halfback set to sit out another three weeks through injury. Luckily for the Rebels, one of those three games will be against the floundering Sunwolves in Melbourne, but even the struggling Japan side is sure to push the weakened team. Unfortunately for Rebels fans, two of the three games will be against the Brumbies in Canberra and the Blues in Auckland.

Luckily for Australian fans only two of the four Aussie teams took to the field this weekend with the Brumbies and Reds sitting out a bye week. Instead, they witnessed the Jaguares earn their fourth straight win, including their second win in New Zealand, when they dominated the Chiefs, while the Sharks stunned many when they smashed the Highlanders in Durban.

While Australian fans lament poor management and missed opportunities, and New Zealand fans laugh at Australia's poor efforts - Australian rugby continues to fall further and further behind and now stands at risk of falling adrift.

New Zealand Conference

All roads still lead to a New Zealand champion

It won't shock many that the Crusaders and Hurricanes have steadily climbed their way to the top of the combined Super Rugby table and are most definitely favourites for the title, but people must not rule out the Highlanders and Chiefs just yet.

Although the Highlanders were shocked by the Sharks in Durban, they still remain in touch of the top sides, sitting fifth on the combined table, while the Chiefs have maintained their position in sixth despite a loss to the Jaguares at home.

The Crusaders are sure to hit another strap once Joe Moody returns and links up with Owen Franks, and Richie Mo'unga can only get better with more time after his return from a fractured jaw, while the Hurricanes are certain to lift to new heights with Nehe Milner-Skudder and the Dane Coles when he returns.

But the Highlanders and Chiefs might just fine themselves with a chance.

The Highlanders have shown sparks of what made them great only a few years ago, with an already brilliant Aaron Smith taking further steps to reach greatness.

While the Chiefs had made head way in developing a backline that are truly talented and have made an impact. Damian McKenzie has now started to make an impression in his new position at fly-half, while Charlie Ngatai, Toni Pulu and Anton Leinert-Brown give him plenty of options out wide.

For another year New Zealand rugby appears to be blessed with talent, and if each side remains healthy while also seeing the return of several injured stars, there's no doubt a new Zealand team will find themselves on the podium again.

South African Conference

Saturday afternoon rugby must put smile on Rassie Erasmus' face

Saturday's afternoon Super Rugby matches in the Republic must have put a big smile on Springbok boss Rassie Erasmus' face, especially the late fixture between the Sharks and the Highlanders.

Following another below par display by the Lions on their tour of Australasia, the Stormers and the Bulls produced a pulsating South African derby at Newlands, before the Sharks produced arguably their best performance of the year to smash the Highlanders in Durban.

Many players who are on the Bok coach's radar for the upcoming Tests against Wales and England seem to be hitting form at just the right time, and a number of those players caught the eye on Saturday.

However, Erasmus will be worried about Malcolm Marx's groin injury he sustained in the Lions' defeat to the Hurricanes.

The hooker is such a key player for the Boks. Marx is a fantastic player with ball in hand, but his ability to steal balls on the ground makes him a priceless commodity, especially as Erasmus is unlikely to play with an out and out fetcher in his back row.

Erasmus is rumoured to have spoken to veteran Bulls hooker Adriaan Strauss about coming out of retirement after he called quits to international rugby at the end of 2016. So he could potentially be a replacement at No 2 if Marx is rulled out.

But besides Marx's injury troubles, Erasmus would have been pleased with what he saw this past weekend.