Super Rugby Trans-Tasman, Round four - Teams and Predictions
THE RARE DOUBLE: Brad Thorn is demanding the Queensland Reds resolve their defensive shortfalls as they chase rare back-to-back Super Rugby wins over New Zealand opposition.
The Reds host the Blues on Friday at Suncorp Stadium bidding to become the first Australian team to score successive wins over Kiwi rivals in six years.
Not since the Rebels beat the Chiefs 16-15 in round 12 at AAMI Park in 2015, then thrashed the Blues 44-22 also in Melbourne the following week has any side achieved the feat.
The Reds haven’t managed it since 2013, when they took down the Chiefs 31-23 at Waikato Stadium in round nine, then edged the Blues 12-11 in Brisbane two weeks later.
Thorn’s men have the chance to repeat the effort against the same two teams after downing the Chiefs last Saturday to finally break Australia’s 2021 Trans-Tasman duck.
But to have any hope of doing so, and upsetting the table-topping Blues, Thorn knows the Reds must stop leaking points, having conceded an alarming 137 in the first three rounds.
Even in beating the Chiefs, the Reds conceded 34 points at home at the weekend, prompting Thorn to make the shock call to dump Wallaby-in-waiting back-rowers Fraser McReight and Seru Uru.
The no-nonsense coach has shown in the past he’s willing to make big selection calls in pursuit of success – just ask Quade Cooper, Karmichael Hunt and James Slipper.
Thorn is making no apologies, saying the Reds have been exposed defensively far too often during the tournament.
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“Forty points [conceded] against the Highlanders, 60 against the Crusaders,” the former All Black said on Thursday.
“If you look at all the Australian sides who have played the Kiwis over the last few weeks the big thing has been there’s been points in teams, there’s points in us – we scored 28 points against the Crusaders and had three over the tryline that we didn’t get down.
“It’s not the attacking side of the game. It’s the other side of the game where Australian teams are getting challenged. We’ve been the same.
“We’re up against a high-quality attacking side who can hurt you if you give them the opportunity.
“That last defensive side of the game, that last 15-20 minutes, that was disappointing. Credit to the Chiefs they came back well.”
Thorn said it wasn’t the end of the world for young players like McReight and Uru to “have a break”.
“Seru, I’ve been trying to challenge him around his physicality,” he said.
“He is an outstanding football player but there’s the physical side of the football game as well – it’s not touch football.
“If he gets that physical side of the game, he can be a great player cause he has all that other stuff.”
Friday’s other game pits the winless Western Force against the unbeaten second-placed Crusaders in Christchurch.
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We take a closer look at Round four’s matches!
Friday, June 4:
Crusaders v Western Force
(Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch – Kick-off: 19.05; 15.05 AWST; 07.05 GMT)
The Crusaders have won five of their last six Super Rugby matches against the Western Force, including their last three in succession – the longest winning run by either side in the history of this fixture.
The Crusaders have scored 50+ points in each of their last two Super Rugby matches; only twice in Super Rugby history has any team scored 50+ points in three consecutive games (Bulls – 3 games in 2009/2010; Lions – 3 games in 2017).
The Western Force have scored <10 points in each of their last two Super Rugby away matches; although, they have never been kept to under double figures in three consecutive away games.
The Crusaders have scored 49 points per game in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman, the most of any team; the Western Force are ranked last in this category.
Kane Koteka (Western Force) has hit 88 rucks in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman this season, more than any other player in the campaign
@rugby365com: Crusaders by 15 points.
Crusaders: 15 Will Jordan, 14 Manasa Mataele, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 David Havili, 11 Leicester Fainga’anuku, 10 Fergus Burke, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Sione Havili Talitui, 6 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 5 Mitchell Dunshea, 4 Scott Barrett (captain), 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Tamaiti Williams.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Vella, 17 Isileli Tu’ungafasi, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Tom Sanders, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Dallas McLeod, 23 Josh McKay.
Western Force: 15 Jake Strachan, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin (captain), 11 Richard Kahui, 10 Domingo Miotti, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Ollie Callan, 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Fergus Lee-Warner, 5 Sitaleki Timani, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Feleti Kaitu’u, 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Angus Warner, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Ryan McCauley, 20 Tim Anstee, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Jack McGregor, 23 Jordan Olowofela.
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant referees: James Doleman, Brendon Pickerill
TMO: Chris Hart
Queensland Reds v Blues
(Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane – Kick-off: 19.45; 21.45 NZST; 09.45 GMT)
The Queensland Reds are undefeated in their last five Super Rugby home matches against the Blues, despite trailing at halftime on the day in each of the last three games in that span.
The Queensland Reds will be aiming for back-to-back wins over New Zealand teams in Super Rugby for the first time since April 2013, following their 40-34 victory over the Chiefs last time out.
Each of the Blues’ last two Super Rugby matches in Australia have been decided by a double figure margin on the day, after doing so only once in their eight such fixtures prior.
The Blues have scored 40 points in the third quarter of their games in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman, the most of any team; in addition, they are only side to have conceded zero points during this period.
Liam Wright (Queensland Reds) has won seven turnovers in the 2021 Super Rugby Trans-Tasman campaign, the most of any player in the competition.
@rugby365com: Reds by 7 points.
Reds: 15 Bryce Hegarty, 14 Suliasi Vunivalu, 13 Hunter Paisami, 12 Isaac Henry, 11 Filipo Daugunu, 10 James O’Connor (co-captain), 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Liam Wright (co-captain), 6 Angus Scott-Young, 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4 Ryan Smith, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Feao Fotuaika.
Replacements: 16 Josh Nasser, 17 Dane Zander, 18 Zane Nonggorr, 19 Angus Blyth, 20 Sam Wallis, 21 Moses Sorovi, 22 Hamish Stewart, 23 Ilaisa Droasese.
Blues: 15 Zarn Sullivan, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 Mark Telea, 10 Otere Black, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Replacements: 16 Soane Vikena, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Jacob Pierce, 20 Hoskins Sotutu, 21 Jonathan Ruru, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 AJ Lam.
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant referees: Nic Berry, Jordan way
TMO: Brett Cronan
Highlanders v NSW Waratahs
(Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin – Kick-off: 19.05; 17.05 AEST; 07.05 GMT
The Highlanders defeated the NSW Waratahs (49-12) in their most recent meeting in Super Rugby (Round 18, 2019) – the biggest win by either side in the history of this fixture.
The Highlanders have won their last five Super Rugby home matches on the bounce against the NSW Waratahs after winning only one of their first seven meetings prior on home turf.
The NSW Waratahs have lost their last 11 Super Rugby matches; only once in the history of the competition has any Australian team endured a longer losing streak (Rebels – 12 games from April 2011 to March 2012).
The NSW Waratahs have scored four tries starting possession from a scrum in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman, the second most of any team (Blues – 6).
Aaron Smith (Highlanders) has provided six try assists in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman this season, the most of any player in the competition and double the tally of NSW Waratahs’ best Jake Gordon (3).
@rugby365com: Highlanders by 13 points
Highlanders: 15 Josh Ioane, 14 Sio Tomkinson, 13 Michael Collins, 12 Scott Gregory, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Kayne Hammington, 8 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Billy Harmon, 6 James Lentjes, 5 Bryn Evans, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Ash Dixon (captain), 1 Ethan de Groot.
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Josh Dickson, 20 Hugh Renton, 21 James Arscott, 22 Sam Gilbert, 23 Teariki Ben-Nicholas.
Waratahs: 15 Jack Maddocks, 14 Alex Newsome, 13 Izaia Perese, 12 Lalakai Foketi, 11 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 10 Will Harrison, 9 Jake Gordon (captain), 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Carlo Tizzano, 6 Lachlan Swinton, 5 Jack Whetton, 4 Jeremy Williams, 3 Darcy Breen, 2 David Porecki, 1 Andrew Tuala.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Chris Talakai, 18 TBC, 19 Sam Caird, 20 Will Harris, 21 Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, 22 Jack Grant, 23 Tane Edmed.
Referee: Damon Murphy
Assistant referees: James Doleman, Jono Brendin
TMO: Chris Hart
Brumbies v Hurricanes
(GIO Stadium, Canberra – Kick-off: 19.45 21.45 NZST; 09.45 GMT)
The Hurricanes have won three of their last four Super Rugby matches against the Brumbies, including a 43-13 win in their most recent meeting (Round 3, 2019).
The Brumbies have lost their last four Super Rugby matches, as many defeats as they logged in their 21 games prior.
The Hurricanes have won 11 of their last 13 Super Rugby matches in Australia; however, each of those two defeats have come against the Brumbies.
The Hurricanes have averaged 17m 14s in possession per game in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman, the most of any team; the Brumbies (13m 46s) are ranked last in this category.
Darcy Swain (Brumbies) has won 26 lineouts (incl. 2 steals) in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman this season, over 10 more than any other player in the competition
@rugby365com: Hurricanes by 12 points
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Solomone Kata, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Bayley Kuenzle, 11 Mack Hansen, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Ryan Lonergan, 8 Henry Stowers, 7 Luke Reimer, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Nick Frost, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Allan Alaalatoa (captain), 2 Lachlan Lonergan, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Folau Fainga’a, 17 Harry Lloyd, 18 Sefo Kautai, 19 Tom Hooper, 20 Tom Cusack, 21 Nic White, 22 Irae Simone 23 Tom Wright
Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Julian Savea, 13 Billy Proctor, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Salesi Rayasi, 10 Ruben Love, 9 Luke Campbell, 8 Ardie Savea (captain), 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Devan Flanders, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Xavier Numia.
Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Pouri Rakete-Stones, 18 Alex Fidow, 19 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 20 Brayden Iose, 21 Gareth Evans, 22 Cam Roigard, 23 Wes Goosen.
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant referees: Reuben Keane, James Quinn
TMO: James Leckie
Sunday, June 6
Chiefs v Melbourne Rebels
(Leichhardt Oval, Sydney – Kick-off: 15.00; 17.00 NZST; 05.00 GMT)
The Chiefs have a 100 percent winning record at home against the Rebels in Super Rugby (W3); they are one of four sides the Chiefs have not lost against on home turf (Western Force, Cheetahs and Cats).
The Chiefs will be looking to avoid back-to-back defeats against Australian teams in Super Rugby for the first time since July 2014, following their 40-34 loss to the Queensland Reds last time out.
The Rebels have lost each of their first three games in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman; the last and only time they have begun a single campaign on a longer losing run was a five-match span in 2017.
The Rebels have gained the fewest metres per game (295) of any team in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman, and 230 per game fewer than the Chiefs (525).
Lachlan Boshier (Chiefs) has made 52 tackles in the 2021 Super Rugby Trans-Tasman season, the most by any player in the campaign and 23 more than Rebels’ best Michael Wells (29).
@rugby365com: Chiefs by five points
Chiefs: 15 Kaleb Trask, 14 Shaun Stevenson, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Quinn Tupaea, 11 Bailyn Sullivan, 10 Bryn Gatland, 9 Xavier Roe, 8 Luke Jacobson, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Pita Gus Sowakula, 5 Tupou Vaa’i, 4 Josh Lord, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1 Reuben O’Neill.
Replacements: 16 Bradley Slater, 17 Oliver Norris, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Mitch Brown, 20 Zane Kapeli, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Alex Nankivell, 23 Chase Tiatia.
Melbourne Rebels: 15 George Worth, 14 Lachie Anderson, 13 Stacy Ili, 12 Matt To’omua, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Carter Gordon, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Michael Wells, 5 Trevor Hosea, 4 Rob Leota, 3 Cabous Eloff, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Cameron Orr.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Matt Gibbon, 18 Rhys Van Neck, 19 Ross Haylett-Petty, 20 Michael Icely, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Andrew Kellaway, 23 Frank Lomani.
Referee: Graham Cooper
Assistant referees: Brendon Pickerill & Ben O’Keeffe
TMO: Shane McDermott