Super Rugby Trans-Tasman, Round Three - Teams and Predictions
AUSSIE STRUGGLERS: The Western Force are treating their first foray into New Zealand territory in four years as somewhat of a home affair as they bid to strike a much-needed blow for Australia’s Super Rugby strugglers on Friday.
The winless Force face the undefeated Hurricanes in Napier sensing a real opportunity in their quest to break the Australian duck after a collective none-from-10 start in the new Trans-Tasman tournament.
While Super AU champions the Queensland Reds, Brumbies, Melbourne Rebels and Waratahs have all suffered heavy defeats in the opening two rounds, the Force have pushed the Highlanders and Chiefs all the way to be the best performed Australian outfit.
And crossing the ditch for the first time since being booted out of Super Rugby in 2017 holds no fears for Tim Sampson’s 2021 surprise packets.
“They’re excited,” Sampson said on Thursday.
“We haven’t had the opportunity to play here for a number of years and some guys have never travelled to play against New Zealand Super Rugby teams.
“But the last couple of weeks have proven that nothing rattles our guys too much. We saw that throughout the Super Rugby AU as well.”
With former Hurricanes favourite Jeremy Thrush now on their books, as well as 2011 All Blacks World Cup winner Richard Kahui, the Force are enjoying great support in Napier, a location not so homely for the Wellington-based Hurricanes.
“We’ve been made very welcome by the locals here so it’s wonderful,” Sampson said.
“We’re going to enjoy the opportunity to play at a ground that the Hurricanes don’t play at too often. They have’t played here since February 2020.
“Hopefully the travel will upset them as well, playing away from their preferred ground and facilities.
“So we’re looking forward to playing out at McLean Park and we’re going to tap into that and try and use it as a bit of our home base because the locals here are right behind us.”
The Hurricanes boast the best-attacking record in the competition of the five NZ teams, but have also conceded the most points.
“They really enjoy playing unstructured footy so they’re very, very dangerous,” Sampson said.
“They’ve got some big bodies out there on the edges. It’s where they like to strike – [Jordy] Barrett at the back. I said to the guys he’s scored just under 50 percent of their points so far this year so they like to throw the ball around.
“Thirty-three percent of their tries this year have come from unstructured footy but we’ve been outstanding with our defence all year and we’ve got to make sure we’re very clinical again on the weekend.”
We take a closer look at Round Three’s matches!
Friday, May 28:
Hurricanes v Western Force
(McLean Park, Napier – Kick-off: 19.05; 15.05 AWST; 07.05 GMT)
The Hurricanes have won 10 of their 11 previous Super Rugby games against the Western Force (L1), including their last nine on the bounce by an average margin of 18 points per game.
The Hurricanes have won 17 of their last 18 Super Rugby games against Australian opposition (L1), including their last five on the bounce across which they have conceded 20+ points in a game only once (64-48 v Waratahs, Round One, 2021 Super Rugby Trans-Tasman).
The Western Force last won an away Super Rugby game against a New Zealand team in Round Five, 2014 (31-29 v Highlanders); they have since lost eight consecutive games in New Zealand.
The Hurricanes have made more clean breaks (22) and beaten more defenders (39) per game than any other team in the 2021 Super Rugby Trans-Tasman competition.
Kyle Godwin (Western Force) has made 27 carries from his two appearances in the 2021 Super Rugby Trans-Tasman season, the most of any back and the third-most of any player overall (Angus Bell – 35 and Fergus Lee-Warner – 31).
@rugby365com: Hurricanes by 15 points.
Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Peter Umaga-Jensen, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Salesi Rayasi, 10 Orbyn Leger, 9 Luke Campbell, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Du’plessis Kirifi, 6 Reed Prinsep (captain), 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Asafo Aumua, 1 Xavier Numia.
Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Pouri Rakete-Stones, 18 Alex Fidow, 19 James Blackwell, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Cam Roigard, 22 Billy Proctor, 23 Vince Aso.
Western Force: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Kyle Godwin (captain), 11 Jordan Olowofela, 10 Domingo Miotti, 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Tim Anstee, 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Fergus Lee-Warner, 5 Sitaleki Timani, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Feleti Kaitu’u, 17 Angus Wagner, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Ryan McCauley, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Jack McGregor, 23 Tevita Kuridrani.
Referee: James Doleman
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe, Brendon Pickerill
TMO: Mike Fraser
Saturday, May 29:
Waratahs v Crusaders
(Wollongong Showground, Wollongong – Kick-off: 15.05; 17.05 NZST; 05.05 GMT)
Seven of the last eight Super Rugby games between the Waratahs and Crusaders have been won by the home team on the day, including their last three successive encounters.
The Waratahs have lost a franchise record 10 consecutive Super Rugby games heading into this fixture; 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 Crusaders have won nine of their last 10 completed Super Rugby games away from home (L1), with a one-point defeat to the Chiefs in April 2021 (26-25) the only blemish on that record.
The Waratahs have conceded just 11 turnovers per game this Super Rugby Trans-Tasman campaign, fewer than any other team in the competition and two per game fewer than third-ranked Crusaders (13).
Richie Mo’unga (Crusaders) has scored a competition-high 42 points this Super Rugby Trans-Tasman season (4 tries, 11 con); while he has scored only four points in his last two Super Rugby games against the Waratahs, he has provided four try assists in that span.
@rugby365com: Crusaders by 22 points
Waratahs: 15 Will Harrison, 14 Jack Maddocks, 13 Izaia Perese, 12 Lalakai Foketi, 11 Alex Newsome, 10 Ben Donaldson, 9 Jake Gordon (captain), 8 Will Harris, 7 Jack Dempsey, 6 Lachlan Swinton, 5 Jack Whetton, 4 Jeremy Williams, 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 David Porecki, 1 Angus Bell.
Replacements: 16 Joe Cotton, 17 Te Tera Faulkner, 18 Darcy Breen, 19 Sam Caird, 20 Carlo Tizzano, 21 Jack Grant, 22 Tepai Moeroa, 23 Mark Nawaqanitawase.
Crusaders: 15 Will Jordan, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Dallas McLeod, 11 Leicester Fainga’anuku, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Sione Havili Talitui, 6 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 5 Scott Barrett (captain), 4 Quinten Strange, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 George Bower.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Vella, 17 Tamaiti Williams, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Samuel Whitelock, 20 Mitchell Dunshea, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Fergus Burke, 23 Manasa Mataele.
Referee: Graham Cooper
Assistant referees: Matt Kellehan, James Quinn
TMO: James Leckie
Blues v Brumbies
(Eden Park, Auckland – Kick-off: 19.15; 17.15 AEST; 09.15 GMT)
The Blues have won seven of their last nine Super Rugby games on home turf against the Brumbies (L2), including their last two on the bounce; four of their last five such encounters have been decided by a margin of seven points or fewer on the day.
The Brumbies have lost their opening two games of Super Rugby Trans-Tasman; only once in Super Rugby history they have opened a single campaign with more than two straight defeats (L3 in 1999).
The Brumbies’ 97 percent line-out success rate in the 2021 Super Rugby Trans-Tasman campaign is the highest of any team in the competition and 13 percentage points higher than that of the Blues (84 percent).
Bryce Heem (Blues) has gained 16 metres per carry from his 17 carries this Super Rugby Trans-Tasman campaign, the most of any player to have made at least three carries this season.
Solomone Kata (Brumbies) has beaten 15 defenders so far in this Super Rugby Trans-Tasman season, the most of any player in the competition and more than twice as many as any Blues player.
@rugby365com: Blues by 18 points.
Blues: 15 Zarn Sullivan, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 AJ Lam, 10 Otere Black, 9 Finlay Christie; 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Tom Robinson (captain), 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Marcel Renata, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Replacements: 16 Soane Vikena, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Jonathan Ruru, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Mark Telea.
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Solomone Kata, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Tom Wright, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Nic White, 8 Henry Stowers, 7 Tom Cusack, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Nick Frost, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Allan Alaalatoa (captain), 2 Connal McInerney, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Folau Fainga’a, 17 Harry Lloyd, 18 Sefo Kautai, 19 Tom Hooper, 20 Luke Reimer, 21 Ryan Lonergan, 22 Bayley Kuenzle, 23 Mack Hansen
Referee: Damon Murphy
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe & Lauren Jenner
TMO: Glenn Newman
Reds v Chiefs
(North Queensland Stadium, Townsville – Kick-off: 19.45 21.45 NZST; 09.45 GMT)
The Chiefs have won their last five Super Rugby games on the bounce against the Queensland Reds, conceding an average of just 10 points per game in that span.
The Queensland Reds have lost their last two Super Rugby games on the bounce, conceding 103 points in the process; the last time they lost more in succession was a four-game stretch across the 2019 and 2020 Super Rugby seasons.
The Chiefs have won 14 of their last 16 Super Rugby games against Australian opponents (L2), including their last three on the bounce across which they have not conceded more than 19 points in a game.
The Queensland Reds are the only team yet to score a try from possession begun with a scrum in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman; the Chiefs have scored three tries via this method.
Damian McKenzie (Chiefs) has made 22 kicks in general play this Super Rugby Trans-Tasman campaign, the most of any player in the competition and seven more than Queensland Reds’ best Bryce Hegarty (15).
@rugby365com: Chiefs by eight 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 Seru Uru, 20 Fraser McReight, 21 Kalani Thomas, 22 Hamish Stewart, 23 Ilaisa Droasese.
Chiefs: 15 Kaleb Trask, 14 Bailyn Sullivan, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 Chase Tiatia, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber (captain), 8 Luke Jacobson, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Pita Gus Sowakula, 5 Tupou Vaa’i, 4 Mitchell Brown, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Bradley Slater, 1 Aidan Ross.
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Reuben O’Neill, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Zane Kapeli, 20 Liam Messam, 21 Xavier Roe, 22 Quinn Tupaea, 23 Shaun Stevenson.
Referee: Nic Berry
Assistant referees: Reuben Keane, Brett Cronan
TMO: Ian Smith
Sunday, May 30:
Highlanders v Melbourne Rebels
(Leichhardt Oval, Sydney – 15.00; 17.00 NZST; 05.00 GMT)
The Rebels have won their last two Super Rugby games against the Highlanders, more than they had won in all their seven meetings prior (W1, L6).
The Highlanders have won their opening two games of the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman season and will be looking to log three successive victories in Super Rugby for the first time since April 2018.
The Rebels have won only one of their last six Super Rugby games (L5), scoring more than 20 points in a game only once in that period.
The Highlanders have won 19 turnovers throughout the 2021 Super Rugby Trans-Tasman campaign, more than any other team in the competition.
Marika Koroibete (Rebels) has not scored a try in any of his last 10 Super Rugby games, the longest tryscoring drought of his career in the competition; in fact, he has never scored a try against the Highlanders in Super Rugby (four games).
@rugby365com: Highlanders by 14 points.
Highlanders: 15 Josh Ioane, 14 Patelesio Tomkinson, 13 Michael Collins, 12 Scott Gregory, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith (co-captain), 8 Hugh Renton, 7 James Lentjes, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ethan De Groot.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon (co-captain), 17 Ayden Johnstone, 18 Jeff Thwaites, 19 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 20 Kazuki Himeno, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Ngatungane Punivai, 23 Billy Harmon
Melbourne Rebels: 15 George Worth, 14 Lachie Anderson, 13 Campbell Magnay, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Carter Gordon, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Michael Wells, 6 Robert Leota, 5 Trevor Hosea, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Cabous Eloff, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Cameron Orr.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Matt Gibbon, 18 Lucio Sordoni, 19 Steven Cummins, 20 Richard Hardwick, 21 Frank Lomani, 22 Stacey Ili, 23 Andrew Kellaway.
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant referees: Brendon Pickerill, James Doleman
TMO: Mike Fraser
Source: AAP & SANZAAR
Statistical information provided by Opta Data