15. Jason Woodward (Rebels). Click for more photos

Australian team of the week

15. Jason Woodward (Rebels). Photo: Getty Images

Another slip-up by the Brumbies in Christchurch and the Waratahs' spirited bonus-point win over the Hurricanes have breathed fresh life into the fight for Super Rugby's Australian conference honours.

Just when it seemed the Brumbies had a stranglehold on top spot after pummelling the defending champion Chiefs, they loosened their grip with a 40-20 thrashing at the hands of the Crusaders.

Then, with their season on the line, the Waratahs broke the shackles with an impressive five-try victory over the high-flying Hurricanes at Allianz Stadium.

Waratahs captain Dave Dennis forges ahead despite being tackled.

Waratahs captain Dave Dennis forges ahead despite being tackled. Photo: Getty Images

Suddenly the Brumbies' six-point buffer over the Waratahs is down to one ahead of the Canberra-based team's top-of-the-table showdown with the Sharks and former coach Jake White on Saturday night.

With the Waratahs having a bye this weekend, Brumbies centre Pat McCabe said there was no time to dwell on their 14-year winless streak in Christchurch as they eye another chance to skip clear of their main conference rivals.

"You can't get too down about the performance.," McCabe said. "We just need to keep moving forward.

"We're still in second [on the ladder], so we just need to stay positive and move on and take the lessons out from this one and become a better team."

The Waratahs have a 15-day wait for their next opportunity to pick up competition points, against the lowly Lions in Sydney, but captain Dave Dennis insisted the bye wouldn't halt his side's momentum.

"What it does is allow a few blokes a bit of rest," Dennis said. "It's been a tough couple of weeks, or month or so, for the guys who have been playing each week and it gives us an opportunity to freshen up and get away.

"But I think, as a team, we would very much have that momentum moving into the Lions here on Sunday week. A couple of guys will play club rugby as well, and a couple of guys will keep coming in and doing a bit of work, which is important."

The Brumbies' defeat was also a good result for the Western Force, who enjoyed the bye without losing any ground on Australia's conference leaders and only dropped one rung on the overall ladder to fifth, below the Waratahs.

The Force have the chance to move back ahead of the Waratahs when they travel to Bloemfontein to tackle the Cheetahs next Sunday morning (AEST).

The Melbourne Rebels and Queensland Reds have almost certainly kissed their fading finals hopes goodbye.

The Rebels are in 11th position, a distant nine points adrift of the sixth-placed Crusaders following a 22-16 loss to the Sharks at AAMI Park, and the Reds are a further point back in 13th spot after being hammered 44-14 by the Blues in Auckland.

The Chiefs regained the lead in the New Zealand conference with a 38-8 thrashing of the Lions in Hamilton, after the Hurricanes not only surrendered the advantage but also fell out of the top six after returning to Wellington empty-handed.

AAP