Well, it would seem Geoff’s reign at the top of Super Rugby tipping can best be described as a good time, rather than a long time.
On the other hand, Digger has claimed a significant milestone: the panel’s first full six-game perfect round with last week’s selection of Blues, Highlanders, Waratahs, Brumbies, Crusaders and Hurricanes, the last of those with the added cherry on top of “by plenty”.
This week is another really interesting round though, with a clear majority of the games looming as genuinely tough to pick. Coins have been flipped and darts have been thrown.
Confidence is way lower than anything suggested below.
Round 11 saw a record four disputed tips among the panel, and I did think that might be beaten in Round 13. The question then becomes: will it be lucky or unlucky for some? I have a bad feeling about some upsets, and I reckon five games could be decided by the bounce of the ball.
Of course if the Rebels somehow find the right rein to pull that allows them to challenge the Chiefs for 80-plus minutes on Sunday arvo, then we’re in for a really exciting weekend of Super Rugby Pacific.
Even if it will be bloody hard to pick winners.
Digger: 6, Brett and the Crowd: 5, Harry: 4, Geoff: 3.
The Crowd: 51, Harry and Brett: 49, Digger and Geoff: 48.
Highlanders, Crusaders, Drua, Blues, Hurricanes, Chiefs
So, I have managed to find some momentum at the right part of the season. Let’s see if I can keep it up.
I will start with the games I see as straightforward. The Force have struggled a bit at home, so there is no reason to suggest they can pull up their socks in Dunedin. The Blues at home should have far too much for a disappointing Reds to deal with. The Chiefs have more than enough guns to handle the Rebels and of course Hurricanes.
Okay, so perhaps it’s not that straightforward, but the mighty, mighty Tahs are Machooka’s team, so Canes by plenty it simply has to be, as disagreeable that will be to some.
The top-of-the-table clash this Friday will be essential viewing. You simply have to admire how the Brumbies have gone about their work, and certainly this has not been a ‘vintage’ Crusaders season based on what we have come to expect from them. The Brumbies will rightly fancy their chances at home, but I have watched the Crusaders more often than not rise to the challenge and then some, and they’ll be walking into this game with eyes wide open and arguably with a bit more ‘big game’ experience to call on, so I’ll tip the visitors to scratch out a win.
This just leaves the match-up between our two newest franchises in a game I have been really looking forward to: Drua versus Moana Pasifika. I simply cannot make up my mind one way or another.
I do like that MP appear a little more settled structure-wise and certainly have some very experienced personnel to guide them, but I keep going back to the difficult-to-watch post-match interview with the Drua captain Meli Derenalagi and how bitterly disappointed he and clearly his side were after their match against the Hurricanes. My gut is telling me they will likely bounce back hard this weekend. I will run with the gut feeling, so Drua to snatch it.
I knew the regret would hit me, but it has arrived much earlier than anticipated this week for not organising myself to head over to Leichhardt this weekend, and this in turn will no doubt lead to some unintended grumpy exchanges between Mrs Diggercane/Junior Diggercanes and myself over the next few days.
Highlanders, Brumbies, Moana Pasifika, Blues, Waratahs, Chiefs
So as you all know, the guys send their tips through ahead of time, and the tyranny of distance and magic of time zones mean that some of them might have seen teams trickling through and others won’t have. And generally speaking, we try and ignore team talk for this reason, but it’s natural that it can affect tips.
This week is an interesting one, though, because the Highlanders dropped their team early yesterday morning, which included the nugget that this was the week for them to shift a wing/centre to flyhalf. And then, because I work in news, I often see team lists ahead of time, and when some significant news landed about the No. 10 jersey for an Australian team, I had a choice to make. Do I tell the guys in the interests of fairness or do I keep it for myself?
I told the guys. Interestingly, no-one changed their tip when offered. And now I don’t know whether I’ve done the right thing or wasted my time!
The clear ones for me are the Highlanders, Blues and Chiefs. The Force suddenly have a ‘dead team walking’ feel about them, and for all the talk about wanting to play the season out properly for Tim Sampson, it now looks like a few players might have got the tap on the shoulder too. That cusp of greatness won’t be achieved this week.
The Blues look a bit strong in the battle of the primary colours. Queensland desperately need to break this string of losses, but I don’t think Eden Park is the place for that to happen. And the Rebels are equally desperate for a win – their playoff hopes aren’t completely dead yet, but the Chiefs’ own desperation looks a bit good for them.
The rest are way harder. If the Drua were hosting Moana Pasifika in Round 6 rather than Round 13 or in Suva rather than Western Sydney, I’d have had more confidence in them, but they look a bit stunned at the moment. And the Hurricanes are playing decent enough rugby, even before they ran in 11 tries last week against the aforementioned Drua, but I don’t know, they still look flaky enough to me that the Waratahs at Leichhardt is a strong enough argument.
And that just leaves the Brumbies-Crusaders tomorrow night. I don’t know whether the Brumbies set piece is solid enough to cancel out the Crusaders’ back three threats. I don’t know whether the Crusaders’ experience from one to 15 is enough to cancel out their relative inexperience from 16 to 23. And I don’t know if the Brumbies’ relative defensive stability is enough to cancel out the Crusaders’ opportunism.
All I know is the Brumbies are at home, and in big games that tends to mean something.
I do still have a gut feeling about upsets, plural. I thought there might have been more discrepancy this week, so could we be in for the lowest scoring week of the season?
Highlanders, Crusaders, Moana Pasifika, Blues, Waratahs, Chiefs
Joined at the hip, bound by a weekly pod (now number one in Australia in union), Brett and I are also deadlocked on the tipster log, week in and week out. But as I warned, here comes mean lean Digger like a mountain dog to the rescue in the Southern Alps.
I reckon this is the pivotal round. Let my aim be true, like Elvis (Costello).
The Force go to Dunedin. They have the most dangerous back in the competition. Even more lethal than Will He Or Will He Won’t Oh Yes He Bloody Will Jordan. But I don’t think Manasa Mataele is enough, as the Highlanders find their feet with a one-two punch at screaming halfback.
The Brumbies are very, very good. Their whole pack was basically the Aussie pack of the week except for Angus Bell. They even have a bomb squad, a proper one, allowing them to play 80-plus minutes at peak level. But I think the Crusaders will score too many points in short little bursts, and the Kiwi edge at 10 and 15 will prove decisive.
Springboks prop Frans Malherbe joined The Roar rugby experts Brett McKay and Harry Jones to talk about his unusual rugby origin story, what surprised him about the United Rugby Championship coming out of Super Rugby, and Rassie Erasmus’ call for a specialist scrum referee.
The Drua-Moana match is one I’ve been looking forward to all year! Moana look better prepared (by calm coach Aaron Mauger) in the tight loose, with the seated lounge singer Sekope Kepu rolling back the years and gain line monster Henry Time-Stowers showing how Roar pod appearances spike careers.
The Blues look ominous with the Rieko Ioane and Akira Ioane in tandem. The Reds look unsure.
The match of the round might end up being Tahs versus Canes! Bell and Izzy Perese – the sickest player out there last weekend — will bring happy days to the Sydney faithful. Sorry, Digger!
The Chiefs might shatter the Rebels. The Chiefs are capable of making teams look bad. The Rebels aren’t that good this year yet.
Australian rugby is on the up. There’s far too much barometer watching of each round. The whole thing is improving. It doesn’t mean there’s ditch parity yet. A couple of the New Zealand teams – the Blues and the Chiefs – also improved. But Aussie rugby is a bit more up than New Zealand is up. Both up!
Highlanders, Crusaders, Moana Pasifika, Blues, Hurricanes, Chiefs
Last week was like a jockey slowing to change the whip from the right hand to the left. A couple of lengths were lost but the final charge to the finish line is still to happen.
Now that the Highlanders have found some momentum, it’s hard to see them being rolled at home by the Force. It’s also hard to tip against the Brumbies at home, although a third of their deadly loose forward trio will be missing. Because it’s the big third, and because, you know, Will Jordan, I’ll go for the Crusaders.
The much-awaited newbie derby should go the way of Moana Pasifika. They just look better organised and a bit starchier than the Drua. Meanwhile, in Brisbane, it’s hard to get excited about the Reds pack. Blues by a few.
The late game is the hardest to tip this week. A dewy Leichhardt and a determined Tahs brought the Crusaders undone a fortnight ago, and the free-running Hurricanes won’t get the same space they enjoyed last week. If the Canes get their tactics right, they’ll win, but there’s no guarantee of that at all. It should be a great match.
With the best tackle laid on an Aucklander last week made by a security guard and not a Rebels player, expect a humbled side to be better this week – but with the re-Guzzlered Chiefs on the rebound, only so much better!
I can’t get Twiggy’s great pronouncement out of my head. “The Force are on the cusp of greatness.” Damon Murphy is on the cusp of being a great referee. Rassie is on the cusp of being a great waterboy. One or all of those things will come true.
|Round 13||Harry||Geoff||Digger||Brett||The Crowd|
|HIG v FOR||Highlanders||Highlanders||Highlanders||Highlanders||Highlanders|
|BRU v CRU||Crusaders||Crusaders||Crusaders||Brumbies||Crusaders|
|DRU v MOA||Moana Pasifika||Moana Pasifika||Drua||Moana Pasifika||Drua|
|BLU v RED||Blues||Blues||Blues||Blues||Blues|
|WAR v HUR||Waratahs||Hurricanes||Hurricanes||Waratahs||Waratahs|
|REB v CHI||Chiefs||Chiefs||Chiefs||Chiefs||Chiefs|
Get your votes in now. The Crowd’s tips will be revealed Friday afternoon.