Super Rugby Pacific, Round Seven - Teams and Predictions
BEAST MODE ACTIVATED: With Super Round on the horizon, teams are starting to make their move as Super Rugby Pacific ramps up for round seven.
The action kicks off in Christchurch as the Crusaders host the Highlanders.
The Crusaders will be buoyed after their dominant win over the Chiefs as they push for the top two whilst the Highlanders are refusing to panic despite remaining the lone winless team in 2022.
This is followed by the Fijian Drua welcoming the NSW Waratahs to the Gold Coast.
The Drua are looking to build off their narrow defeat to the Rebels as they hunt for their second win. Meanwhile, the Waratahs have been boosted by the return of Wallabies captain Michael Hooper.
Saturday’s action commences in Auckland as the Blues host Moana Pasifika. The hosts kicked off the round with a 32-19 win over the newcomers on Tuesday and will be out to complete the double.
Brisbane looms as the host for arguably the match of the round with the Queensland Reds facing the Brumbies.
The top two sides on the leader once again will battle it out, with the Brumbies eager to replicate their 16-12 win a fortnight ago. As for the Reds, Brad Thorn’s men are hoping they can replicate last year’s Super Rugby AU Final at the same venue, pulling off an after-the-siren victory.
The round finishes on Sunday as the Hurricanes host the Chiefs at Sky Stadium. The hosts have opted to move Jordie Barrett to inside centre for the crucial clash whilst the Chiefs welcome back Luke Jacobson from injury.
Queensland Reds playmaker James O’Connor has revealed an almost telepathic bond with ball-running prop Taniela Tupou as the side prepares for the next chapter in their Brumbies rivalry.
Top spot on the Super Rugby Pacific ladder will go on the line at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday, the Reds (5-1) able to jump the unbeaten Brumbies with a bonus-point win.
History suggests that will be hard to come by though.
While the home side in Reds v Brumbies games have won a remarkable 14 of the last 15 clashes, the margin has been five points or less in seven of the last eight.
That includes the Reds’ last-gasp three-point win in the 2021 domestic final – the Brumbies’ last trip north – and a controversial four-point win to the Brumbies in Canberra earlier this month.
On that occasion the Brumbies were able to stifle the Reds’ scrum potency, with Tupou bouncing back to dominate at set piece in a gutsy win against the NSW Waratahs last week.
While O’Connor was quick to clarify their scrum would hinge on all eight big men, he said 25-year-old tighthead prop Tupou’s influence on the game had grown to new heights this season.
“He’s just authentic; Nella is Nella,” O’Connor said.
“As he gets older and as he’s growing he’s becoming so much more reliable.
“Now I can just look at him and tell where he’s at and he’ll let me know whether he’s got it as well.
“In set-piece, but also with his energy on the field [in general play]. He creates space all over the field and I believe he’s only getting better.”
Second-row Lukhan Salakaia-Loto will return from an ankle injury for the Reds, while Liam Wright and Filipo Daugunu will start in place of the injured Seru Uru and Jock Campbell.
Yet to play a game this season, off-contract wing Suliasi Vunivalu (hamstring) is eyeing a return in the Reds’ April 15 clash with the Melbourne Rebels.
Brumbies flyhalf Noah Lolesio (ankle) is out injured and won’t get the chance to push his case for a Wallabies cap later this year against incumbent O’Connor, while Test scrumhalf Nic White will come off the bench a week after the birth of his third child.
“We know each others’ games inside and out, it’s so easy to get up for these ones,” O’Connor said of the rivalry.
“They’re the pinnacle of Australian rugby and we’re chasing them.
“They have been the most consistent team this year in Australia. I feel we’re still building, which is a good thing because last year we probably peaked a bit too early.”
Round Seven teams and predictions below!
Friday, April 1
Crusaders v Highlanders
(Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch – Kick-off: 19.05; 06.05 GMT)
The Crusaders have won eight of their last nine completed Super Rugby matches against the Highlanders (L1); their only defeat in that span came in their most recent meeting at Orangetheory Stadium (33-12 – Round 6, 2021 Super Rugby Aotearoa).
The Highlanders will be aiming for back-to-back away victories against the Crusaders in Super Rugby for the first time in the history of the competition, following their 33-12 win the last time they travelled to Christchurch (April 2021).
The Crusaders lost their most recent Super Rugby home match (24-21 v Chiefs – 12 March 2022); the last time they recorded back-to-back defeats at home in the competition was in April 2015.
The Highlanders have lost their last six Super Rugby matches in succession; the last time they went on a longer losing run in the competition was an 11-match span from June 2012 to April 2013.
The Crusaders have gained more metres (77) and scored more tries (5) from mauls than any other team in the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific campaign.
The Highlanders have scored five tries starting possession from a scrum in the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season, the second-most by any team (Chiefs – 6) and two more than the Crusaders (3).
The Crusaders have made 27 kicks in play per game in the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season, four per game more than any other team in the competition and five per game more than the Highlanders (22).
Tom Christie (Crusaders) has made 96 tackles in the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season, 20 more than any other player in the competition and 38 more than the Highlanders’ best Josh Dickson (58).
Rhys Marshall (Highlanders) has crossed the gainline on 14 carries per 80 minutes in the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season, the most of any player in the competition (min. 25 minutes played).
Will Jordan (Crusaders) has gained 61 metres from kick returns per 80 minutes in the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season, the most of any player in the competition (min. 85 minutes played).
@rugby365com: Crusaders by 10 points.
Crusaders: 15 Will Jordan, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Leicester Fainga’anuku, 12 David Havili, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Ethan Blackadder, 5 Quinten Strange, 4 Scott Barrett (captain), 3 Fletcher Newell, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Shilo Klein, 17 George Bower, 18 Tamaiti Williams, 19 Zach Gallagher, 20 Pablo Matera, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Fergus Burke, 23 Braydon Ennor.
Highlanders: 15 Connor Garden-Bachop, 14 Sam Gilbert, 13 Fetuli Paea, 12 Scott Gregory, 11 Mosese Dawai, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith (captain), 8 Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, 7 James Lentjes, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Andrew Makalio, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Ethan de Groot, 18 Jermaine Ainsley, 19 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Folau Fakatava, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Denny Solomona.
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser & Stu Curran
TMO: Shane McDermott
Fijian Drua v Waratahs
(CBUS Super Stadium, Gold Coast – Kick-off: 18.45; 17.45; 08.45 GMT)
This will be the second Super Rugby match between the Fijian Drua and NSW Waratahs; the Waratahs defeated the Drua in their inaugural meeting (40-10–Round 1, 2022 Super Rugby Pacific).
Three of the Fijian Drua’s last four Super Rugby matches have been decided by margins no greater than five points on the day; although, the Drua have won only one of the four games in that span(L3)
The NSW Waratahs have lost their last eight Super Rugby away matches in succession; the last and only time they went on a longer losing run on the road in the competition was a nine-match span from March 1996 to May 1997.
The NSW Waratahs’ most recent Super Rugby match against a team from outside Australia was a 40-10 victory against the Fijian Drua (February 18, 2022); the Waratahs will be aiming for back-to-back wins in such fixtures for the first time since March 2019.
The Fijian Drua have made nine offloads resulting in a break this Super Rugby Pacific season, more than any other team in the competition and four more than the NSW Waratahs(5).
The Fijian Drua have scored four tries starting possession from a tap penalty this Super Rugby Pacific season, more than the rest of the competition combined (Crusaders–1, Hurricanes–1, MelbourneRebels–1).
The NSW Waratahs have an 86 percent scrum success rate in the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season, the second lowest of any team in the competition (Western Force–83%) and 10 percentage points fewer than the Fijian Drua(96%) – the highest of any team in this category.
The NSW Waratahs have conceded 14 penalties per game in the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season, the most of any team in
the competition and two per game more than the Fijian Drua(12).
@rugby365com: Waratahs by seven points.
Fijian Drua: 15 Kitione Ratu, 14 Tuidraki Samusamuvodre, 13 Kalaveti Ravouvou, 12 Caleb Muntz, 11 Vinaya Habosi, 10 Teti Tela, 9 Frank Lomani, 8 Nemani Nagusa (captain), 7 Kitione Salawa, 6 Joseva Tamani, 5 Sorovakatini Tuifagalele, 4 Isoa Nasilasila, 3 Samuela Tawake, 2 Mesulame Dolokoto, 1 Kaliopasi Uluilakepa.
Replacements: 16 Tevita Ikanivere, 17 Haereiti Hetet, 18 Manasa Saulo, 19 Viliame Rarasea, 20 Vilive Miramira, 21 Rusiate Nasove, 22 Peni Matawalu, 23 Napolioni Bolaca.
Waratahs: 15 Alex Newsome, 14 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 13 Izaia Perese, 12 Lalakai Foketi, 11 Dylan Pietsch, 10 Tane Edmed, 9 Jack Grant, 8 Will Harris, 7 Charlie Gamble, 6 Hugh Sinclair, 5 Geoffrey Cridge, 4 Jed Holloway (captain), 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 David Porecki, 1 Angus Bell.
Replacements: 16 Tom Horton, 17 Te Tera Faulkner, 18 Archer Holz, 19 Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, 20 Michael Hooper, 21 Teddy Wilson, 22 Jamie Roberts, 23 Triston Reilly.
Referee: Reuben Keane
Assistant referees: Nic Berry & Jordan Way
TMO: Brett Cronan
Saturday, April 2
Blues v Moana Pasifika
(Eden Park, Auckland – Kick-off: 19.05; 06.05 GMT)
This will be the second Super Rugby match between the Blues and Moana Pasifika; the Blues triumphed in their inaugural meeting (32-19, 29 March 2022).
The Blues have won 11 of their last 12 Super Rugby matches (L1), including their last four on the bounce; they have scored exactly 32 points in each of the last three games in that span.
The Blues are undefeated in their last nine Super Rugby home matches against teams from outside New Zealand (W8, D1); their last defeat in such fixtures was a 20-10 loss to the Melbourne Rebels (2 June 2018).
This is set to be Moana Pasifika’s first Super Rugby match as the away team on the day; they have won only one of their four games in the competition so far (L3), a 24-19 victory against the Hurricanes (25 March 2022).
Moana Pasifika have scored three tries starting possession from a turnover won this Super Rugby Pacific season, the joint-most of any team in the competition via this method (also Brumbies – 3).
The Blues have an 81% tackle success rate in the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season, the best of any team in the competition and two percentage points higher than Moana Pasifika (79%).
Only the Crusaders (109) have gained more metres per game from kick returns than the Blues (108) and Moana Pasifika (83) in the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season.
Moana Pasifika have made 164 tackles per game in the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season, the most of any team in the
competition and 34 per game more than the Blues (130).
Fine Inisi (Moana Pasifika) has won two turnovers per 80 minutes in the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season, the most of any player in the competition (min. 85 minutes played).
Bryce Heem (Blues) has made 1.5 line breaks per 80 minutes in the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season; only one other player to log at least 90 minutes has made more in the campaign (Mark Nawaqanitawase – 2).
@rugby365com: Blues by five points.
Blues: 15 Zarn Sullivan, 14 AJ Lam, 13 Bryce Heem, 12 Corey Evans, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Stephen Perofeta, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Anton Segner, 7 Dalton Papalii (captain), 6 Cameron Suafoa, 5 Tom Robinson, 4 James Tucker, 3 Marcel Renata, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Replacements: 16 Soane Vikena, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe/Jordan Lay, 18 Ofa Tuungafasi, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Adrian Choat, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Tanielu Tele’a, 23 Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepens.
Moana Pasifika: 15 William Havili, 14 Timoci Tavatavanawai, 13 Fine Inisi, 12 Solomone Kata, 11 Anzelo Tuitavuki, 10 Christian Leali’ifano, 9 Ereatara Enari, 8 Henry Time-Stowers, 7 Solomone Funaki, 6 Sione Tu’ipulotu, 5 Michael Curry, 4 Veikoso Poloniati, 3 Sekope Kepu (captain), 2 Samiuela Moli, 1 Ezekiel Lindenmuth.
Referee: James Doleman
Assistant referees: Jono Bredin & Angus Mabey
TMO: Chris Hart
Reds v Brumbies
(Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane -Kick-off: 18.45; 08.45 GMT)
The Brumbies will be aiming for back-to-back victories against the Queensland Reds in Super Rugby for the first time since August 2020, following their 16-12 win in their most recent meeting (March, 18 2022).
The Queensland Reds have won their last six Super Rugby home matches on the bounce against the Brumbies, after winning only two of all their 12 such meetings prior(D1,L9).
The Brumbies have won their last six Super Rugby matches on the bounce; the last time they enjoyed a longer winning run in the competition was a seven-match span from February to August in 2020.
The Queensland Reds have won their last 12 Super Rugby home matches on the bounce against fellow Australian teams, their longest winning run in such fixtures; their last defeat at home in an Australian derby was a 32-40 loss to the NSW Waratahs (May 18, 2019).
Only the Crusaders (23) have retained possession on more kicks in play than the Brumbies(21) and Queensland Reds(17) in the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season.
The Brumbies (17) and Queensland Reds (12) have scored more tries starting possession from a line out than any other teams in the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific campaign.
The Queensland Reds (19) and Brumbies (16) have made more tackles resulting in a turnover won than any other teams in the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season.
The Brumbies have won 14 lineouts per game(inc.steals) this Super Rugby Pacific season, the most of any team in the
competition and two per game more than the Queensland Reds(12).
Harry Wilson (Queensland Reds) has made dominant contact on 28 carries in the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season, the most of any player and 12 more than the Brumbies’ best TomBanks (16).
Nick Frost (Brumbies) has won 34 lineouts (inc.5steals) in the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season, the most by any player in the competition and 13 more than the Queensland Reds’ best Ryan Smith (21).
@rugby365com: Redns by three points.
Reds: 15 Jordan Petaia, 14 Josh Flook, 13 Hunter Paisami, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Filipo Daugunu, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Liam Wright, 5 Angus Blyth, 4 Ryan Smith, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Josh Nasser, 1 Harry Hoopert.
Replacements: 16 Richie Asiata, 17 Feao Fotuaika, 18 Zane Nonggorr, 19 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 20 Tuaina Taii Tualima, 21 Kalani Thomas, 22 Isaac Henry, 23 Lawson Creighton.
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Tom Wright, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Andy Muirhead, 10 Rod Iona, 9 Ryan Lonergan, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Jahrome Brown, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Nick Frost, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Allan Alaalatoa (captain), 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Lachlan Lonergan, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Sefo Kautai, 19 Tom Hooper, 20 Ed Kennedy, 21 Nic White, 22 Hudson Creighton, 23 Cam Clark.
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant referees: Damon Murphy & Graham Cooper
TMO: James Leckie
Hurricanes v Chiefs
Sky Stadium, Wellington – Kick-off: 15.35; 02.35 GMT)
The Chiefs have won each of their last two Super Rugby matches against the Hurricanes; they will be aiming for a
third consecutive victory against them for the first time in the history of the competition.
The Chiefs defeated the Hurricanes in their most recent away meeting in Super Rugby (35-29 – March 20, 2021) snapping a four-match losing run in such fixtures; they will be aiming for consecutive wins on the road against the Hurricanes for just the second time in the history of the competition (W3, February 1997 to May 2001).
The Hurricanes have won three of their last four Super Rugby matches against fellow New Zealand teams (L1), after
winning only one of their eight New Zealand derbies prior (L7).
The Chiefs have won each of their last two Super Rugby away matches; the last time they recorded a longer winning run on the road in the competition was a three-game span from January to March in 2020.
The Hurricanes have a 90% success rate on their lineout throws this Super Rugby Pacific season, the best rate of any team in the competition and four percentage points more than the Chiefs (86%).
The Chiefs have made five offloads resulting in a try scored this Super Rugby Pacific season, more than any other team in the competition and three more than the Hurricanes (2).
The Hurricanes have made dominant contact on 35 carries per game in the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season, the most of any team in the competition and six per game more than the Chiefs (29).
The Chiefs (76) and the Hurricanes (68) have crossed the gainline on more carries per game than any other teams in the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season.
Peter Umaga-Jensen (Hurricanes) has provided four try assists in the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season, the joint-most by any player (James O’Connor – 4); he has scored two tries in his four Super Rugby matches against the Chiefs.
Samisoni Taukei’aho (Chiefs) has a 94% success rate on his lineout throws (34/36) in the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season, the best of any player in the competition (min. 8 throws)
@rugby365com: Hurricanes by five points.
Hurricanes: 15 Ruben Love, 14 Julian Savea, 13 Billy Proctor, 12 Jordie Barrett, 11 Wes Goosen, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Ardie Savea (captain), 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Asafo Aumua, 1Pouri Rakete-Stones.
Replacements: 16 James O’Reilly, 17 Xavier Numia, 18 Tevita Mafileo, 19 Caleb Delany, 20 Devan Flanders, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Bailyn Sullivan, 23 Josh Moorby.
Chiefs: 15 Emoni Narawa, 14 Alex Nankivell, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Quinn Tupaea, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Brad Weber (captain), 8 Pita Gus Sowakula, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Kaylum Boshier, 5 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 4 Tupou Vaa’i, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1 Aidan Ross.
Replacements: 16 Tyrone Thompson, 17 Atu Moli, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Laghlan McWhannell, 20 Luke Jacobson, 21 Cortez Ratima, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Chase Tiatia.
Referee: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant referees: Paul Williams & Angus Mabey
TMO: Glenn Newman