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Opinion

Super Rugby tipping Week 8: Preview round

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7th April, 2021
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It’s getting serious now. Three rounds to go in Super Rugby AU, but this Round 8 more than any other on the run home will have the biggest impact on the final standings.

The Reds-Brumbies blockbuster makes this the weekend that has been pencilled in since way back… well, only about a month ago, when they met in Canberra.

It’s a mouth-watering clash with huge ramifications for the table, but it’s not the only one: if the Force could beat the Rebels, then the race for third definitely heats up over the remaining rounds.

In New Zealand, the Highlanders and Chiefs will catch up for a post-match beer and compare tales of off-field atrocity, while the Crusaders will be looking to seek untold levels of vengeance from last week’s loss on a Hurricanes side that has been lamenting the bad luck of the draw ever since.

Last week: Harry, Dan, Geoff and The Crowd 3; Brett and Digger 2.

Overall: Harry and Dan 21, Geoff 20, The Crowd 19, Brett 18, Digger 17.

Harry

Rebels, Highlanders, Reds, Crusaders
Often, I’m asked: “Why is nobody better than you at tipping Super Rugby 2021 on The Roar?” (“Often” meaning three times, by Brett.)

It’s hard to explain. Mostly I try to think: “What would a smart guy do?” Or “Who seems like the better team?” And “Who has the best pack, halves, and fullback?”

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This week, the Force will fail, again. Pretty good fullback. But that’s it.

The Highlanders bring a better pack, the Chiefs are de-caned, and there’s the best nine in the world (at passing precisely, hard, and fast).

The Reds have a better halfback combo but the Brumbies are hard to beat. Reds. Don’t overthink.

The Crusaders have red arses this week. Canes to lose by plenty.

Sure thing: The longer you think, the wronger you’ll tip.

Aaron Smith of the Highlanders charges forward

Aaron Smith (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

Dan

Rebels, Highlanders, Reds, Crusaders
Of all last week’s underdogs, Melbourne was the side most expected to run their more-fancied opposites close, and yet they were the only ones who didn’t show up. Expect a comprehensive turnaround this round at home against the Force.

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I’m resigned to never being able to tip a game involving the Chiefs accurately. So, without putting too much thought into this one, I’ll take the hosts. Sorry, Highlanders fans.

Saturday night should be a belter, although we’ll be lucky indeed if it matches the reverse fixture from earlier in the season. The Reds deserve favouritism in this one partly because they’re at home, partly because of last week’s results, and partly because they’re the only undefeated side on either side of the ditch.

And on Sunday, it’ll be the Canes by negative-plenty. Which is to say, the Crusaders by a lot.

Sure thing: With the New Zealand travel bubble essentially giving Super Rugby Trans-Tasman the green light, comparisons between sides in Australia and Aotearoa will be flying thick and fast up until Round 1.

Codie Taylor of the Crusaders runs towards the try line

Codie Taylor. (Photo by Dianne Manson/Getty Images)

Geoff

Rebels, Chiefs, Reds, Crusaders
Rebels versus Force matches are always highly competitive, and with both sides needing to win to stake a claim for the third finals position, this one will be no exception. The home side were a touch off the pace last week, but I don’t think they’ll be offering up so many friendly intercepts this time around.

You can make a strong case for both the Highlanders and the Chiefs, and with Sam Cane out of business, and a number of sides struggling coming off the bye, it’s tempting to take the Highlanders. But not quite tempting enough.

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Just when I thought the Reds were a wee bit vulnerable last week, they threw in what was their most complete performance of the season. Back at home, high on confidence, they’ll go on with it and cement a home run for the finals.

Finally, you have to feel for the Hurricanes, with the Highlanders getting in first and upsetting the Crusaders. Awful timing.

Sure thing: Sky Sports commentator Joe Wheeler will have had a big week in front of the big screen, enjoying the movies Lost in Translation, The King’s Speech and Dumb and Dumber.

Hamish Stewart of the Reds passes the ball

Hamish Stewart. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

Brett

Rebels, Highlanders, Brumbies, Crusaders
All of these games are must-win for both combatants, plus whatever the Hurricanes can serve up against the Crusaders.

The Force really didn’t need the bye last week after a disappointing performance against the Brumbies, and worse, now they have to cop a Rebels side who in the words of their own coach, “got a real smack” last week. So I’d genuinely love to see the Force spring this upset – and the race for third in AU will be bloody great if they can – but the problem is I just don’t think they can.

The Highlanders will be bulletproof for the next few weeks after winning in Christchurch, so good luck Chiefs.

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The Reds-Brumbies return leg could seriously be anything. Obviously the two best teams, one playing a touch better and touch more consistently, but not so far ahead that they can afford an off night. And the implications of the result are huge: Reds win, and they finish top and earn the home final. But a Brumbies win might not even be enough to regain the competition lead!

The Brumbies haven’t won in Brisbane since 2015 but have won more games in Brisbane overall! It’s going to be an absolute ripper, hold my calls.

A tip? Oh, sorry, I was rambling… Brumbies. But probably not by plenty.

And good luck Hurricanes. About the only positive about hosting the previously unbeaten Crusaders in their first match after a loss is that at least the Canes will get to sleep in their own beds.

Sure thing: The Auckland-based primary colours will still find a way to burn me this weekend, and they can kiss my arse in advance.

Allan Alaalatoa of the Brumbies leads out players

Allan Alaalatoa. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Digger

Rebels, Highlanders, Brumbies, Crusaders
This week’s rounds present a kinder surprise feel about it with the cheap chocolate of Friday and Sunday’s games surrounding the promise of an exciting and unexpected present in the middle on Saturday.

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Melbourne’s Friday night does promise to be entertaining but I suspect the Rebels will win comfortably enough in the end, motivated by a disappointing last outing.

Saturday shapes up with a couple of potential crackers, two seemingly rejuvenated sides in the Highlanders and Chiefs chasing down the Blues for a spot in this season’s final, it’s a must-win match. The Highlanders will certainly be full of confidence after dismantling the Crusaders last weekend but sometimes such a performance can be difficult to replicate two weeks in a row. I will settle on the Highlanders due to Sam Cane’s absence and a better set of halves.

Another exciting prospect follows with the two best sides in Australia duking it out for top-dog status. The ‘safe’ choice seems to be the unbeaten Queenslanders, but I suspect the Brumbies, after a fumbling performance last weekend and dropping their previous clash against the Reds at home, will be extremely motivated. The Brumbies will snatch this.

Oh, and the Crusaders.

Sure thing: Further officiating fun should be expected this weekend and the Hurricanes to remain top of the yellow card count, further increasing their lead this Sunday.

Harry Brett Dan Digger Geoff The Crowd
REB v FOR REB REB REB REB REB REB
HIG v CHI HIG HIG HIG HIG CHI HIG
RED v BRU RED BRU RED BRU RED RED
HUR v CRU CRU CRU CRU CRU CRU CRU
Overall 21 18 21 17 20 19
Last week 3 2 3 3 2 3

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

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