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Super Rugby Pacific: Start of the new era

PREVIEW, ROUND ONE: Super Rugby Pacific is set to get underway this weekend as the 12 teams battle for the title.


The defending champions Crusaders and Chiefs get the season underway on Friday, February 23.

Labbleed as the grudge match last year’s finalist will set the tone for a very entertaining campaign at the Waikato Stadium in Hamilton.

The New Zealand derby is followed by the Australian affair as Melbourne Rebels host the Brumbies, while Western Force take on the Hurricanes in Perth.

On Saturday, the Blues and Fijian Drua head to Whangarei to open their season.

The Highlanders welcome the Moana Pasifika to Dunedin for their opening round clash, with the Queensland Reds and NSW Waratahs adding another chapter to their fierce rivalry to finish the round.

Time for a new chief?

Since recording a record 12th Super Rugby title, a lot has changed at Crusaders.


They head into the season without coach Scott Robertson and talisman Richie Mo’unga, who were vital in landing their seventh consecutive Super Rugby title last season.

The vast changes could have a major impact on the team, however, new coach Rob Penney stated it is a new season, a new group and an opportunity for the side to make a good start to their campaign.

The coach opted to hand the former Chiefs player Rivez Reihana the responsibility of filling the void left by Mo’unga.

He gets the nod over Taha Kemara.


“They are both outstanding young men with great leadership qualities and skill sets. Rivez has a little more maturity and more experience at this level,” Penney said.

“There will be opportunities for both of them in the future. We’ve given the nod to Rivez at this point, and he’s grasped it with both hands over the last 10 days and led the group well. We’re excited about what he’s going to provide us.”

Commenting on his selection, Reihana said: “I’m going to be excited and nervous as well.

“I’m really just keen to get out on the field. All the stuff leading up to it is a bit more nerve-wracking than the actual playing.”

Reihana knows there is no love lost between the sides, but the Crusaders had always been the benchmark.

“It’s a bit different being on the other side,” the flyhalf said, adding: “It’s going to be fireworks and it’s going to be all-out war.

“So, I’m looking forward to it.”

For Chiefs, without captain Sam Cane and stalwart Brodie Retallick, Friday’s outing is a measurement of leadership for the new captain Luke Jacobson.

Heading into a new campaign, Jacobson said there was a lot of excitement in the camp, not only because it was round one but because they were continuing their rivalry with the Crusaders.

“Regardless of who we’re playing this weekend, a win is important to get our campaign underway. It’s not the be-all and end-all, but we’ve put a lot of effort into our pre-season so that we’re in the right spot for round one.”

This was the fixture that opened last year’s competition as well, with the Chiefs handing the Crusaders a record 31-8 loss in Christchurch.

All the teams and predictions for Round One: 

Friday, February 23:

Chiefs v Crusaders
(Waikato Stadium, Hamilton – Kick-off: 19.05; 06.05 GMT)


@rugby365: Chiefs by nine points


Chiefs: 15 Shaun Stevenson, 14 Liam Coombes-Fabling, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Quinn Tupaea, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Xavier Roe, 8 Luke Jacobson (Captain), 7 Kaylum Boshier, 6 Samipeni Finau, 5 Tupou Vaa’i, 4 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 3 Reuben O’Neill, 2 Bradley Slater, 1 Aidan Ross
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Ollie Norris, 18 George Dyer, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Simon Parker, 21 Cortez Ratima, 22 Josh Ioane, 23 Daniel Rona

Crusaders: 15 Chay Fihaki, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Levi Aumua, 12 Dallas McLeod, 11 Macca Springer, 10 Rivez Reihana, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Dominic Gardiner, 5 Quinten Strange, 4 Scott Barrett (Captain), 3 Tamaiti Williams, 2 George Bell, 1 George Bower.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Owen Franks, 19 Jamie Hannah, 20 Christian Lio-Willie, 21 Noah Hotham, 22 Taha Kemara, 23 Ryan Crotty

Referee: Nic Berry
Assistant Referees: Jordan Way, Reuben Keane

Melbourne Rebels v Brumbies
(Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, Melbourne – Kick-off: 19.35; 8.35 GMT)


@rugby365com: Brumbies by five points


Melbourne Rebels: 15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Lachie Anderson, 13 Filipo Daugunu, 12 David Feliuai, 11 Glen Vaihu, 10 Carter Gordon, 9 Jack Maunder, 8 Rob Leota (ca[tain), 7 Brad Wilkin, 6 Josh Kemeny, 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4 Josh Canham, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Matt Gibbson
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Isaac Kailea, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Tuaina Taii Tualima, 20 Vaiolini Ekuasi, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Jake Strachan, 23 Nick Jooste

Brumbies: 15 Tom Wright, 14 Andy Muirhead, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Ollie Sapsford, 11 Corey Toole, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Ryan Lonergan (captain), 8 Charlie Cale, 7 Luke Reimer, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Tom Hooper, 4 Nick Frost, 3 Rhys Van Nek, 2 Lachlan Lonergan, 1 James Slipper
Replacements: 16 Billy Pollard, 17 Blake Schoupp, 18 Sefo Kautai, 19 Cadeyrn Neville, 20 Jahrome Brown, 21 Klayton Thorn, 22 Declan Meredith, 23 Tamati Tua

Referee: Angus Gardner

Assistant Referees: Matt Kellahan, George Myers

Western Force V Hurricanes
(Perth Rectangular Stadium, Perth – Kick-off: 19.00; 22.00 NZT; 11.00 GMT)


@rugby365com: Hurricanes by 10 points


Western Force: 15 Max Burey, 14 Harry Potter, 13 Sam Spink, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Chase Tiatia, 10 Ben Donaldson, 9 Nic White, 8 Will Harris, 7 Carlo Tizzano, 6 Michael Wells, 5 Izack Rodda, 4 Tom Franklin, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Tom Horton, 1 Marley Pearce
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Charlie Hancock, 18 Tiaan Taukipulu, 19 Lopeti Faifua, 20 Tim Anstee, 21 Ollie Callan, 22 Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, 23 George Poolman

Hurricanes: 15 Ruben Love, 14 Josh Moorby, 13 Billy Proctor, 12 Jordie Barrett, 11 Kini Naholo, 10 Brett Cameron, 9 Jordi Viljoen, 8 Peter Lakai, 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Devan Flanders, 5 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 4 Caleb Delany, 3 Pasilio Tosi, 2 Asafo Aumua, 1 Xavier Numea.
Replacements: 16 James O’Reilly, 17 Pouri Rakete-Stones, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Justin Sangster, 20 Brayden Iose, 21 Cam Roigard, 22 Riley Higgins, 23 Salesi Rayasi

Referee: Damon Murphy
Assistant Referees: Graham Cooper, Jordan Kaminski

Saturday, February 24:

Blues v Fijian Drua
(Semenoff Stadium, Whangārei – Kick-off; 16.35, 15.35 FJT; 03.35 GMT)


@rugby365com: Blues by 12 points


Blues: 15 Zarn Sullivan, 14 Mark Tele’a, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Harry Plummer, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Stephen Perofeta, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papali’i (captain), 6 Anton Segner, 5 Josh Beehre, 4 Sam Darry, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Joshua Fusitu’a
Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Jordan Lay, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Laghlan McWhannell, 20 Adrian Choat, 21 Sam Nock, 22 AJ Lam, 23 Cole Forbes

Fijian Drua: 15 Isikeli Rabitu, 14 Epeli Momo, 13 Iosefo Masi, 12 Apisalome Vota, 11 Selestino Ravutaumada, 10 Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula, 9 Frank Lomani, 8 Meli Derenalagi (captain), 7 Ella Canakaivata, 6 Etonia Waqa, 5 Leone Rotuisolia, 4 Isoa Nasilasila, 3 Mesake Doge, 2 Tevita Ikanivere, 1 Livai Natave
Replacements: 16 Mesulame Dolokoto, 17 Emosi Tuqiri, 18 Jone Koroiduadua, 19 Mesake Vocevoce, 20 Vilive Miramira, 21 Peni Matawalu, 22 Kemu Valetini, 23 Tudraki Samusamuvodre

Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant Referees: Stu Curran, Jackson Henshaw

Highlanders v Moana Pasifika
(Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin – Kick-off: 19.05; 06.05 GMT)

@rugby365com: Highlanders by seven points


Highlanders: 15 Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, 14 Timoci Tavatavanawai, 13 Tanielu Tele’a, 12 Sam Gilbert, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Folau Fakatava, 8 Hugh Renton, 7 Billy Harmon (captain), 6 Sean Withy, 5 Fabian Holland, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 3 Saula Ma’u, 2 Henry Bell, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown
Replacements: 16 Jack Taylor, 17 Ayden Johnstone, 18 Jermaine Ainsley, 19 Oliver Haig, 20 Nikora Broughton, 21 Nathan Hastie, 22 Cameron Millar, 23 Jonah Lowe

Moana Pasifika: 15 Danny Toala, 14 Nigel Ah Wong, 13 Pepesane Patafilo, 12 Julian Savea, 11 Viliami Fine, 10 William Havili, 9 Ere Enari, 8 Lotu Inisi, 7 Alamanda Motuga, 6 Miracle Faillagi, 5 Samuel Slade, 4 Tom Savage, 3 Sione Mafielo, 2 Sama Malolo, 1 James Lay (captain)
Replacements: 16 Samiuela Moli, 17 Abraham Pole, 18 Suetena Asomua, 19 Allan Craig, 20 Jacob Norris, 21 Aisea Halo, 22 D’Angelo Leuila, 23 Anzleo Tuitavuki

Referee: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant Referees: James Mabey, Marcus Playle

Queensland Reds V NSW Waratahs
(Suncorp Stadium, Queensland; 19.05; 09.05 GMT)

@rugby365com: Reds by five points


Reds: 15 Jordan Petaia, 14 Suliasi Vunivalu, 13 Josh Flook, 12 Hunter Paisami, 11 Mac Grealy, 10 Tom Lynagh, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Liam Wright, 5 Ryan Smith, 4 Seru Uru, 3 Zane Nonggorr, 2 Matt Faessler, 1 Alex Hodgman
Replacements: 16 Josh Nasser, 17 Peni Ravai, 18 Sef Fa’agase, 19 Cormac Daly, 20 John Bryant, 21 Kalani Thomas, 22 Harry McLaughlin-Phillips, 23 Jock Campbell

Waratahs: 15 Joey Walton, 14 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 13 Izaia Perese, 12 Lalakai Foketi, 11 Dylan Pietsch, 10 Tane Edmed, 9 Jake Gordon (captain), 8 Langi Gleeson, 7 Charlie Gamble, 6 Fergus Lee-Warner, 5 Miles Amatosero, 4 Jed Holloway, 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 Mahe Vailanu, 1 Angus Bell
Replacements: 16 Theo Fourie, 17 Hayden Thompson-Stringer, 18 Daniel Botha, 19 Sam Thomson, 20 Hugh Sinclair, 21 Teddy Wilson, 22 Harry Wilson, 23 Max Jorgensen

Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant Referees: Dan Waenga, Mike Winter

*Additional Source: @SuperRugbyPacific 


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