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Super Rugby tipping panel week 5: Hastily rescheduled

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16th March, 2022
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Just when we thought we were getting somewhere on the rescheduling front, COVID rears its ugly head again, wiping out two of the three New Zealand games this weekend and forcing a sensible rescheduling of the other.

With the Highlanders out of action, Moana Pasifika were staring down the barrel of a fourth postponed game in five rounds. Some curses don’t strike that often.

But rather than add yet another game to the postponement list, New Zealand Rugby sensibly pulled Moana Pasifika’s Round 2 game against the Chiefs off the shelf and plonked it down at Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland.

If they let even just a few fans in, it would feel like their season is finally starting properly.

As for when these other postponed games can be replayed, well that remains anyone’s guess in a closing window.

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Last week: Harry 4, Geoff 4, Brett 4, The Crowd 4, Digger 3.

Overall: Harry, Brett 17; Digger, The Crowd 16; Geoff 15

A note on this week’s tips
Harry and Digger had both sent their tips through before the NZ games were postponed. Their words for the affected games have been removed, but the tips remain in Harry and Digger’s segments for the sake of keeping record.

My grateful thanks to both of them for quickly resending some lines through for the rescheduled Moana Pasifika versus Chiefs game.

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Harry
Brumbies, Drua, Chiefs, Waratahs (postponed: Highlanders, Crusaders, Hurricanes)

In the non-Covidian conference, there is one huge clash: Nic White’s finely tuned Brumbies in the citadel facing James O’Connor and Jock Campbell and the cardiac kids of Queensland.

There might be rugby union in New Zealand. Might not. Moana have turned into No-ana.

The Reds might sneak a rare win at the fortress of GIO (Get In and Out) because Jocks win battles. But then again, the Brumbies don’t lose in the capital nowadays. Brumbies by a Rob Valetini.

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The Drua will notch their second win over the centrifugal Force. Yes.

The Chiefs will win. Maybe big? I feel sad for NZ rugby folks.

The resurgent Tahs will quell the Rebels, but not until the second half.

Sure thing: On the Roar Rugby Pod, Laidlaw and I chatted with the wise and eminent Iain Payten (watch all the vowels) about 15s in Australia. I like Jordan Petaia as a Liam Williams project. But Jock Campbell looks like a proper fullback. This week, Tom Banks will either end that argument or open it up for debate.

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Brett
Brumbies, Force, Chiefs, Waratahs

Well, the week we’ve probably all thought might arrive at some point has put down the anchor in Round 5. With New Zealand essentially at the same stage Sydney and Melbourne were at before Christmas, we should definitely ready ourselves for more postponements too – which is rightly going to raise questions about where and how on earth five (and counting) postponed games in New Zealand are going to be shoe-horned in.

The fixturing consultants are about to earn their daily rates, I suspect.

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Of the games that remain, there are some rippers among them.

The Brumbies and Reds is the biggest game on the Australian calendar this season, only to be rivalled by the return leg in a fortnight’s time up in Brisbane. There was between them last year and that’s still the case now, though I think the Brumbies are playing with just that little bit more control in their game this year.

And a bit more control on top of home-ground advantage is probably enough in a game that I can’t see being decided by much more than a try.

Robbie Valetini of the Brumbies passes during the round two Super Rugby Pacific match between the Brumbies and the Fiji Drua at GIO Stadium on February 26, 2022 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

 (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

The Drua versus Force clash now shapes as another cracker, and I’ve genuinely flipped a coin on this one. The coin came down for the Force and I’m still not sure about it.

The Drua are starting to play exactly like we all thought and hoped they might, but the Force will be stinging from a performance that seemed well behind what they’d shown the three weeks previous.

The Chiefs will be too good for Moana Pasifika, but it was a smart decision to get one of the postponed games played this weekend. They’ll just be sweating on their scheduling curse not bringing down the Hurricanes next week.

And that just leaves the Waratahs, who will also be too good for the Rebels, but hopefully by not as big a margin as it currently feels it might be.

Sure thing: There almost certainly has to be an upset in here somewhere, now. It feels like that sort of weekend.

Geoff
Brumbies, Force, Chiefs, Rebels

It seems that life is a Merengue dance: one step forward (thank you Chiefs), one step backwards (no thank you, Force).

The Chiefs will be on the winners list again this week, courtesy of a reshuffle aimed at letting Moana Pasifika actually play rugby instead of just talking about it. Let’s hope they bring more of what they showed against the Crusaders, even though it won’t be enough for a maiden victory.

Lotu Inisi of Moana Pasifika celebrates after scoring a try during the Super Rugby pre season trial match between Moana Pasifika and the Chiefs at Mt Smart Stadium on February 04, 2022 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

The clash of the Australian heavyweights is beautifully set up. The Reds’ edge is that they have discovered the art of winning, no matter how untidy things often get.

The Brumbies’ edge is that they are always well organised, and their scrum won’t be the millstone it was against the Reds last year. It’s tight, but I’m picking that this time, Allan Alaalatoa will be extra “proud of the boys”.

Saturday brings us another dubious ‘home’ match for the Drua, given that it isn’t actually in Fiji. They were terrific against the Reds, just as the Force were poor against the Tahs. I expect Tim Sampson will drill his boys into playing tightly and that might be enough to keep the flying Fijians at bay.

There were some tiny green shoots for the Rebels last week; emphasis on tiny. They’ll be better again this week, and while everyone knows the Tahs have improved, they’re still no world beaters. Maybe the Rebels by a whisker, but only if they scrum better.

Sure thing: Watch out for some more terrific Super W action. It’s far from the finished product, but it’s turning into a great little competition. The standard has definitely jumped up a notch, and watch out for some bone-jarring physicality and intent.

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Digger
Brumbies, Drua, Chiefs, Waratahs (postponed: Highlanders, Crusaders, Chiefs)

Well, it seems Moana Pacifica do get a bit of a break with their match rescheduled for round five against the Chiefs though in all honesty, I think this may benefit the Hurricanes more who can now look forward to a more solid and thorough preparation for when their match eventuates next week.

It’s difficult not to see anything other than a comfortable Chiefs win here though MP have shown they are not to be underestimated but the Chiefs look to have far too much up front for MP to deal with over 80 minutes.

Brodie Retallick.

(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

To Australia and what promises to be the match of the round, I will land on the Brumbies to get it done over the Reds based purely on home-ground advantage and a more structured and comfortable game plan, at least to my eye.

Meanwhile, I will back the mighty Tahs to get up to two in a row over the Rebels.

And after two weeks of backing the Force and being let down, it is time for me to make my first tip for the Drua (no, it is not out of spite, mostly) who I think will simply have too many points in them for the Force to keep up.

Sure thing: I am expecting a large number of largely unknown players being parachuted into squads on game day here in NZ (hopefully not with Russian parachutes), which will make many gamblers rather nervous/excited as the TAB odds fluctuate like a COVID spike and leave many more flummoxed than whether or not a red card is indeed the fault of the offending player or refs/NZ Rugby/Australian rugby/SAANZAAR/World Rugby/the north in general.

Round 5HarryGeoffDiggerBrettThe Crowd
Overall1715161716
Last week44344
BRU v REDBrumbiesBrumbiesBrumbiesBrumbiesBrumbies
DRU v FORDruaForceDruaForceForce
MOA v CHI (Rd.2)ChiefsChiefsChiefsChiefsChiefs
WAR v REBWaratahsRebelsWaratahsWaratahsWaratahs

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

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