Make or break: it feels like a funny thing to say about a competition only six weeks in, but this week really does feel like an important one for Super Rugby Pacific.
With five rounds down, the list of postponed games still to be played sits at five – though one of those will be played next Tuesday, when Moana Pasifika and the Blues finally get to play what would have been their season-opening game.
Four of these are waiting to be rescheduled. And the further we get into the season, the harder it is going to be to fit them all in. Any more games postponed from here will make it even harder again. The ability for New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia to maintain competition integrity probably rests on getting through this weekend, when you think about it.
It’s going to be fascinating to see how it plays out from here for any number of reasons.
Last week: Brett and The Crowd 4; Harry, Geoff, Digger 3
Overall: Brett 21, Harry and The Crowd 20, Digger 19, Geoff 18
Another note on this week’s tips, we’ve all tipped the Moana Pasifika-Blues game on next Tuesday, but obviously it’s pretty hard to lay much-informed comment with so much to happen between now and then.
Hurricanes, Drua, Brumbies, Blues, Crusaders, Reds, Blues
There’s obviously a large degree of assumption this week that the COVID-hit teams over the ditch are indeed in a position to fill a matchday squad and, more importantly, that no games are suddenly postponed between our time of writing and your time of reading. Fingers crossed on all fronts.
To kick things off, the Hurricanes will be well rested from last week, and that alone should be enough to take care of Moana Pasifika. Similarly, the Brumbies have gone down the ‘active workload management’ route but should still have a bit too much – ahem – firepower for the Force.
The Blues just need to beat the Highlanders if they want to be seriously considered, and I’m not just speaking personally here. Similarly, I can’t see the Crusaders dropping a second game to the Chiefs, and the COVID situations mean the two sides remain pretty well matched.
And the Blues will do it pretty comfortably on Tuesday too in the delayed but still inaugural Auckland derby.
The Reds at home will be a bridge too far for the Waratahs missing a few, which just leaves the toss of the coin for the round.
The Rebels have shown signs and the Drua have shown signs. Home-ground advantage should mean something, but the Fijians are on permanent tour, so it’s hard to see them being worried about it.
It feels like it’s going to come down to who wants it more, and at the moment that feels like the Fijian Drua.
The Blues will leave me without fingernails on Saturday, which means I should be reaching the wrist region by the hour mark on Tuesday.
Hurricanes, Drua, Brumbies, Blues, Crusaders, Reds, Blues
The Drua broke my heart! They had that in the bag. Then the cat got out of the bag. Fair play, and a well-taken winner by the Force 12. But that really hurt. I had Laidlaw on the ropes and a perfect round by the tail.
This week a lot of visitors will win.
The medium-strength Hurricanes will blow through Auckland. The beautiful Drua will smash Melbourne. No let-up this time. Ruthless!
The workmanlike Brumbies will break down the stubborn Force in Perth because they have a pack and it packs a wallop. The Blues will domesticate the wild Highlanders in Dunedin because they can score anywhere at any time.
The Crusaders go to Hamilton in what I predict will be the match of the round. Something like 34-32 with a kick to decide it. Saders, I suppose. Maybe not. Yeah, sure. Saders by a droppie.
The first home team to win will be the mighty, mighty, mighty Reds over the sort of mighty Tahs. They’ll be steaming over the fact more Tahs are in the Wallabies squad than Reds.
Finally, the Blues will win again in an intriguing derby.
If the Drua let me down, I am through with them, I tell you!
On The Roar Rugby Podcast last week we worked through the Wallabies 15 conundrum. I used the 6N as a template. Hugo Keenan, Melvyn Jaminet and Liam Williams, the faster, trickier, slighter built fullbacks, ended up tops. I’d suggest that’s a good omen for Jordan Petaia at No. 15, who looked fine versus the poor man’s Stuart Hogg last week.
This week, the Wallabies loosie situation may be better sorted. I’m looking forward to Tahs-Reds in that context. Things will be clearer.
Hurricanes, Rebels, Brumbies, Blues, Chiefs, Reds Blues
Great to see rugby back on the agenda in New Zealand, even if it feels like momentum for the competition will have to be built again from scratch.
The Hurricanes will surely be too classy for Moana Pasifika before the Drua get the chance to double up against the Rebels. On current form it’s the Drua all the way, but the gap between the sides is narrow, and the Rebels are due some luck. I certainly don’t want to be caught jumping off them while they’re even a slight chance of jagging a win.
In the late game from Perth the Brumbies look too polished. As do the Blues down in Dunedin.
The match of the round comes from Hamilton, where the Chiefs are fresh off a win against the Crusaders away from home. With the Crusaders’ selection looking a wee bit patchy this week, there’s no reason to drop off the Chiefs.
Taniela Tupou’s free to play, so the Reds will beat the Waratahs. Even if he’d been suspended the Reds would still have won.
The Blues will win on Tuesday, too.
On Saturday I’ll be celebrating A Day in Union by taking in three Super Rugby matches and putting some rugby paraphernalia out on the front doorstep for the neighbours to puzzle over: an old ‘Otago Shags’ rugby jersey, my book, my Athletic Rugby Club under-13s ‘most improved player’ trophy and a jockstrap that looks like a relic from old rugby days but then again may well have been purchased from the merch desk at an underground establishment in Berlin.
Hurricanes, Drua, Brumbies, Blues, Chiefs, Reds, Blues
This round feels like a bit of a lottery for tipping over this side of the pond without any transparency on how some squads and teams will be shaping up this weekend.
I cannot see Moana Pasifika breaking their duck this weekend, though they may fancy their chances against a backing-up Blues outfit.
I will stick with tipping the Drua this week against the currently untippable Rebels, and I expect the Brumbies to do it tough in Perth, but do it they shall.
The Blues should be too good for a misfiring Highlanders side, and in the big clash the Chiefs at home with their current form and momentum are too good to ignore after what will have been a somewhat disrupted build-up for the Crusaders.
The Reds at home should have too much in the end for the southern foe.
With two games this weekend, Brett will be positively agonising over those Blues this weekend.
|Round 6||Harry||Geoff||Digger||Brett||The Crowd|
|MOA v HUR||Hurricanes||Hurricanes||Hurricanes||Hurricanes||Hurricanes|
|REB v DRU||Drua||Rebels||Drua||Drua||Rebels|
|FOR v BRU||Brumbies||Brumbies||Brumbies||Brumbies||Brumbies|
|HIG v BLU||Blues||Blues||Blues||Blues||Blues|
|CHI v CRU||Crusaders||Chiefs||Chiefs||Crusaders||Crusaders|
|RED v WAR||Reds||Reds||Reds||Reds||Reds|
|MOA v BLU (Rd.1)||Blues||Blues||Blues||Blues||Blues|
Get your votes in now. The Crowd’s tips will be revealed Friday afternoon AEDT.