The final regular season round of Super Rugby Pacific throws up interesting match-ups with some seedings for the finals already locked in.
The Auckland-based Blues making mass changes for the visit to Sydney for a game that has no effect on their No.1 seeding is a time-honoured banana skin. What can the upbeat NSW Waratahs make of this?
We found a nice $2.40 winner last round with Jock Campbell’s Anytime Try for the Queensland Reds and three others winners to boot.
Where is the value this week?
Super Rugby Pacific Round 15 Betting Tips
Crusaders v Queensland Reds
Fri, May 27, OrangeTheory Stadium, Christchurch 5.05pm (AEST)
First thing, can the Reds win without James O’Connor’s direction, Taniela Tupou disrupting the Crusaders scrum and hitman Hunter Paisami levelling attackers in the midfield?
The Reds are going to fire some shots and have a real crack at playing their game. They have loaded the outside backs with all their attacking artillery. Jordan Petaia will be in the game at outside centre. Suliasi Vunivalu, Filipo Daugunu and Jock Campbell are the wings and fullback. If the Reds treasure the ball and build phases they can score some tries.
No team has made more turnover tackles (44) in the competition which is a good stat to take into a match against the Crusaders.
Nine straight wins over the Reds since losing the 2011 Super Rugby final is the Crusaders’ dominance in this fixture. Plus, no Reds team has won in Christchurch since Tim Horan and Toutai Kefu were part of a strong win in 1999.
No Wallabies in the tight five of the pack means the Reds might just not have the cattle up front.
They will enjoy Richie Mo’unga not playing this game because he carved up the Reds last year. The Crusaders have to win to lock in second spot and a potential home semi-final so that will be enough to keep minds on the job.
Fijian Drua v Chiefs
Sat, May 28, Churchill Park, Lautoka, Fiji 1pm (AEST)
The Fijians have been a joyous team to follow this season with their style of play even though it has produced just two wins.
They all but upset the Highlanders when losing 27-24 in their first game on home soil in Suva. This is another chance and the crowd will be right into it.
The Chiefs must win to lock in a home quarter-final. They will be on but the Fijians have a shot.
Moana Pasifika v Brumbies
Sat, May 28, Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland 5.05pm (AEST)
The Brumbies should win this one easily on the road. The Moana Pasifika players are spent and a second game in five days will take the edge off them again. All Moana Pasifika’s frailties are in an inconsistent scrum and lineout which is why they have lost 10 straight games. They rank bottom two for both facets competition-wide and these areas will be targets for the Brumbies.
Getting hardworking flanker Jahrome Brown back is a plus for a near-full strength Brumbies. The Brumbies have a top four spot locked up. If they win, they might get a 3 v 6 quarter-final against the Waratahs which would suit them just fine.
NSW Waratahs v Blues
Sat, May 28, Leichhardt Oval, Sydney 7.45pm (AEST)
This is a classic match-up of a sky-high, confident Waratahs side against an understrength Blues side with not one thing to gain from this match.
It’s evident in the Blues making 15 changes to the starting side. Coach Leon MacDonald is almost pleading for it not to be taken as disrespect but we will still treat it as such.
If an Australian side did the same going to NZ, the Kiwis would howl and be slapping their flip-flops together at the lack of disrespect so we’ll stay consistent.
No Beauden Barrett, Tuivasa-Sheck, Dalton Papalii, Hoskins Sototu and others diminishes the Blues substantially. No one will ever call the replacement outfit weak but they will have to fight the odds to extend the team’s 12-match winning streak.
It’s unlikely that even a win will shift the Waratahs from sixth spot but they could go as high as fourth if other results were to fall their way.
Pairing Jed Holloway and Ned Hanigan as locks is extra punch for the Waratahs but the real pack factor for them is flanker Charlie Gamble who has won more turnovers (13) than any other player in the comp.
That slowing down of opposition ball has allowed the Waratahs defence to reset and perform. Backrow partner Michael Hooper will be urging another scalp for the Waratahs.
Western Force v Hurricanes
Sat, May 28, HBF Park, Perth 10pm (AEST)
The Force would have been in the quarter-finals if they’d strung even two wins together. A 3-10 season is poor from them.
This is their second game in five days after a morale-boosting midweek win over Moana Pasifika. A too little, too late burst of performance would still be good to see.
We won’t know the focus of the Hurricanes until the Chiefs result is in. If the Chiefs lose, the Hurricanes are playing for an advantageous top four spot. If the Chiefs win, the ‘Canes have less to play for and will be more vulnerable. Captain Ardie Savea is on the bench and will play very little if the ‘Canes are not chasing a top four spot.
This might be the last time in a Force jersey for 36-year-old former All Black Richard Kahui, who has been huge for the club.
It will likely be the swansong for popular coach Tim Sampson as well. There is some Force energy to grab for but they have deceived so often this year.
Melbourne Rebels v Highlanders
Sun, May 29, AAMI Park, Melbourne, 2pm (AEST)
Not much to get excited about in this match between the 10th-placed Rebels and the eighth-placed Highlanders.
The Highlanders will grab the last of the finals spots with a 5-9 record if they win this. It’s a flaw in the finals formula that you can lose that often and still be in the hunt. That needs to be fixed next year.
There’s no Sam Gilbert for the Highlanders. He copped a five-week ban for his lifting tackle on Michael Hooper last weekend.
The Highlanders are vulnerable if the Rebels come to play. One who does every week is flanker Brad Wilkin, who was rewarded with a new two-year contract this week.
The Rebels miss more tackles per game (30) than any other team and there’s a fundamental reason why even their good play is not rewarded by full-time.
It may be a tough one for the Rebels against a Highlanders side which loves to attack.