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Opinion

Super Rugby Week 9: The ultimate pen round

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Expert
5th August, 2020
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You’re going to hear a lot of talk about ultimate pens this weekend, being the second-last week of competition in Super Rugby Aotearoa.

And I’ll admit, it’s a strange topic that only seems to come up in the second-to-last round of tournaments.

Every other week previous, and seemingly the final week that follows, pens are in abundant supply. But in this one particular week of the season, they’re not. Or they are, but none of the others are good enough.

This is the ultimate pen round. Accept no substitutes. There ain’t no second prize. Or second pen.

Last week: fours all round. Except Digger, who picked the Highlanders. And Geoff, who also picked the Highlanders. And also the Reds.

Overall: Harry and Brett 21, Digger and The Crowd 20, Nobes and Dan 19, Geoff 18.

Harry
Tips: Brumbies, Hurricanes, Reds, Crusaders

SRAU is just SARU with money. SRA is SRAU minus knock-ons. SANZAAR is rugby malpractice: seriously asinine nincompoops zapping Argentina and Rassie. Nobes and I are happy we have been grandfathered in (I’m his grandpa).

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This week, I’ll take the rumbling, tumbling Brumbies over the Victorian Rebels, because they finish well. I’m sure Brumby Brett will copy me.

The Chiefs have forgotten how to not lose. Warren Gatland brought a Northern Hemisphere attack to a series of Kiwi derbies and forgot those whispered, defensive secrets Shaun Edwards told him in a Cardiff pub.

Plus, their best player is named Cane. Canes by a plenitude. Jordie amazes. This is probably the game Brett flubs.

The Reds have red arses after that loss to the horsemen. Just as your best drives in golf come angry after missed gimmes, the Tahs will catch Queensland in a bad mood. Queensland by many JOC passes: some to a Tah, more to a Red.

The Crusaders have a swordsman engraving their dread name on the new trophy. They don’t let go of silverware.

Sure thing: The All Blacks’ depth chart at 15, 13, 11, 8, and 6 is as confusing as Mr Kearns’ commentary.

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Brett
Tips: Brumbies, Hurricanes, Reds, Crusaders

So Harry and I remain joined at the hip in a tipping sense, and I’m OK with that if it keeps us both on top of the log.

This week looks worryingly straight forward, which then gives reasons to look at where the upset might come from.

The Rebels don’t look cohesive enough across the park to mount a challenge against the Brumbies, who ominously don’t think they’ve played near their best rugby across the first five rounds. And it’s not just cohesion that’s the issue for the Rebels, they don’t have the gears to run with the Brumbies either.

The Chiefs are suffering similar issues, funnily enough. Roles that were once familiar and comfortable are suddenly foreign and ill-fitting, and that’s no way to try and break a duck. And just when the Highlanders will think they’re back within arm’s length of the Crusaders, the latter will grow more arms.

And there isn’t any way Queensland will blow a lead again. There just isn’t.

Sure thing: Two of the four aforementioned teams written off this weekend will not just win, but win handsomely. Maybe even by plenty.

Chris Feauia-Sautia

Chris Feauia-Sautia of the Reds (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

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Dan
Tips: Brumbies, Chiefs, Reds, Crusaders

Nice as it would be to see the Brumbies be a little more varied in attack than pounding away with the rolling maul, it’s awfully effective, and will be so once again against the Rebels.

The Chiefs have been the disappointment of the Super Rugby Aotearoa season, failing to be half as dangerous in attack as they should be, and have led to many a missed tip by yours truly. Not sure where I was going with that. Anyway I’ve tipped them one last time because we’re set for an upset after a week of results going to script and they are the most due team that has ever been due a win. Plus, they surely can’t lose every game this season, right?

Penalties cost the Reds against the Brumbies – and not just in the final minutes – but against the similarly ill-disciplined Waratahs there’s nothing to suggest Brad Thorn’s men won’t pick up a win.

That leaves me with three away tips from as many games. It won’t be four though, because you don’t tip against the Crusaders at home. While we’d all like a Highlanders win to keep the final round interesting, I can’t see anything but a victory for the hosts to seal the title with a week to spare.

Sure thing: One of the above predictions not coming to fruition. No prizes for guessing which one.

Nobes
Tips: Brumbies, Hurricanes, Crusaders, Reds

There are two novelties that leave me calm. First, I have a grandfather who takes care of me and second, that I am much younger than I thought. Granpa, only we know what it is to suffer from poverty, but this grandson you have can give you a piece of advice: never associate with people richer than you because when you no longer serve them and are a hindrance to their objectives, they will abandon you and leave you back in poverty.

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For this penultimate round I only have one doubt since the Hurricanes and Crusaders have been proving to be above their opponents on duty whether in players, set pieces, and mental state. While the Reds should go for everything and beat the Waratahs who, except for a sporadic party, have not shown the cohesion necessary to win games.

While the rolling maul is a valid move, the Brumbies should take the game against Melbourne. The Rebels must be extremely cautious in not committing penalties that allow their opponents to place themselves in scoring position near their in-goal, giving the ACT players the possibility of using their best weapon.

Sure thing: I will not be burned by the Blues this weekend.

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Digger
Tips: Brumbies, Hurricanes, Reds, Crusaders

After all that hard work, the enigmatic SAFFA panellist and our resurgent resident ACT correspondent have slipped from my grasp. No matter, plenty of time yet.

The Brumbies have failed to convince, but I am convinced they know how to win and should do again against the Rebels. The Reds look too much to handle up front for the ‘Chookatahs’.

As much as I would like to see it, I cannot conceive of any possible way the Highlanders can win in Christchurch, though they won’t die wondering. In a twist of fate, Aaron Cruden is playing his last game for the 007 where it all started for him – pity it will be Canes by plenty.

Sure thing: As sure as anything, given the Chiefs season and luck to date, you can count your bottom dollar the Hurricanes will cop a refereeing shocker this Saturday.

Geoff
Tips: Rebels, Hurricanes, Reds, Crusaders

Filipo Daugunu and Alex Mafi have a lot of ground to cover to make it back on to my Christmas card list. After sinking both the Reds and my tipping resurrection last week, there’s not much they can now do to save themselves – the damage has been done!

That fubar leaves me scratching for Hail Marys to make up ground, which means that it has to be the Rebels to upset the Brumbies, even if my only real chance is if Highlanders’ concise analysis of the Brumbies line-out maul-law transgressions have found their way to the RA ref’s bunker and precipitated a clampdown.

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Despite improving last week, the Chiefs are staring at a white-out. Canes by plenty. Reds by plenty. Crusaders by plenty. No ground to be made up there.

Sure thing: Hamish McLennan’s masterstroke in bringing Phil Kearns into the Rugby Australia tent as executive director for the 2027 World Cup bid shows how the promise of some pointy-end travel and a few gin and tonics with chairman Bill in Dublin is just the thing to settle the concerns of a few ex-captains.

Get your votes in now – The Crowd’s tips will be revealed Friday afternoon (AEST).

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Brett Geoff Nobes Digger Harry Dan The Crowd
REB v BRU BRU REB BRU BRU BRU BRU BRU
HUR v CHI HUR HUR HUR HUR HUR CHI HUR
WAR v RED RED RED RED RED RED RED RED
CRU v HIG CRU CRU CRU CRU CRU CRU CRU
Overall 21 18 19 20 21 19 20
Last week 4 2 4 3 4 4 4