Defending champions the Highlanders ended a two-game losing streak to beat the ACT Brumbies and the Hurricanes revived their Super Rugby season with a thumping 50-17 win over the Lions on Saturday.
apan will use the Asia Rugby Championship to try to regain some lost momentum since last year's World Cup heroics, beginning with Saturday's home opener against South Korea.
Super Rugby snapped out of its mid-season torpor Saturday with a thrilling match between the first-placed Chiefs and third-placed Hurricanes which showcased the quality of the New Zealand conference.
Former Springboks coach Nick Mallett said the Japanese Sunwolves were "embarrassing" Super Rugby after they suffered a 92-17 mauling from the South African Central Cheetahs in Bloemfontein Friday.
Having failed to win any of its first five matches in Super Rugby this season, Queensland seemed an unlikely candidate to challenge New Zealand teams' domination of the southern hemisphere tournament.
The Crusaders ended the Sharks' unbeaten record and the Chiefs overcame some serious travel-related obstacles to firm as favorites for a Super Rugby title after the weekend's fifth round of matches.
South Africa's Sharks remained the only undefeated team in Super Rugby after a fourth round in which their match and one other pivoted on penalty kicks in extra time.
The ACT Brumbies and Durban-based Sharks are the only unbeaten teams in Super Rugby after a third round which posed new questions about the strength of New Zealand teams.
Argentina's Jaguares made a winning debut in Super Rugby but the other newcomers, Japan's Sunwolves and South Africa's Kings, lost in the weekend's opening round as did both of last year's finalists.
Captain Sam Cane scored from a lineout drive in the 77th minute to clinch the Chiefs' 27-21 win over the Crusaders Saturday in the first round of Super Rugby.