Michael Hooper’s return for the NSW Waratahs and another Reds-Brumbies blockbuster are the main events for this round of Super Rugby Pacific. The action gets underway on Friday night with the Fijian Drua taking on the Waratahs from 7.45pm.
Let's take a closer look at Round 7.
Super Rugby Pacific Round 7 Betting Tips
Fijian Drua v NSW Waratahs
Fri, Apr 1, Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast 7.45pm (AEDT)
The Fijians are a different side to the one beaten 40-10 in the wet by the NSW Waratahs in Round One. They’ve found more composure, decided on their best flyhalf in Teti Tela, they are scoring more points and they have confidence in their game style, Probably, just as big is the discipline they have found so they are not regularly playing with 14 men.
The Drua actually give away fewer penalties (12) per game than the Waratahs (14).
The stats reflect everything we have been watching. The Drua have doubled their average points (20) per game, they offload (9) for breaks more than any other team and they are scoring more tries (4) from tap penalties than the rest of the competition combined.
The Fijians will scare the Waratahs in this one because NSW halves Jack Grant and Tane Edmed are not yet experienced enough to starve them of chances like they should.
Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper is a wonderful stabiliser should things start going wrong for the Tahs. He’ll play off the bench at flanker in his first game since November. Healing a foot injury and contractual time-off are the reasons for his Round Seven lift-off but he’s in tip-top shape.
The return of centre Izaia Perese is big for the Waratahs because he just adds so much punch to the attack.
You can imagine a high-scoring match but it’s still a Waratahs win.
Queensland Reds v ACT Brumbies
Sat, Apr 2, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane 7.45pm (AEDT)
It’s 4-all over the past two years in clashes between these two dominant sides. Let’s dive a bit deeper.
The Reds have won this clash on the last six occasions that the Brumbies have visited Brisbane. That’s quite a record and evidence of how the Reds have rebuilt Suncorp Stadium as a fortress.
The unbeaten Brumbies won 16-12 when the teams met in Canberra on March 18. It was another super close one. In fact, seven of the last eight clashes between these sides have been decided by five points or less.
What do we make of the team changes? Tom Banks was cleared at the judiciary but his facial fracture means his attacking punch is missing. Veteran Jesse Mogg is a more than handy replacement. No Noah Lolesio at flyhalf puts the playmaking in the hands of steady journeyman Rodney Iona.
Banks and Lolesio are two big outs.
The Reds have lost two of their best to injury with winger Jock Campbell (hand) and impact forward Seru Uru (ankle) out. The Reds are lucky they can call on two Wallabies, Filipo Daugunu and Liam Wright, as replacements.
Losing prop Dane Zander (suspension) just makes the Reds more vulnerable at scrum time.
The scrums were an unstable mess when the sides last played as scrum penalties flew both ways. The Brumbies will do their best to limit the impact of scrum titan Taniela Tupou but keeping him out of the game is impossible. They'll try to torment Harry Hoopert at loosehead instead.
There is plenty of feeling to this clash so expect emotions to charge a physical, high-quality contest.
The Reds lineout has been ordinary. That’s so costly because so many of their attacks are launched from there. The Brumbies will pressure this facet.
Equally, the Brumbies couldn’t score a second half try against the Reds in Canberra recently so the Reds will back their defence to always keep them in the contest.
Tight but go the home team.
Crusaders v Highlanders - Highlanders +15.5 ($1.83 at TAB)
Hurricanes v Chiefs - Hurricanes +5.5pts ($1.83 at Ladbrokes)