We’ve finally had the big upset! Probably should have had a second but for some pesky breakdown and scrum infringements.
But upsets are back, baby, and Super rugby Pacific is all the better for them. Long may they continue, etc etc.
And we’ve probably had our run of streaks for the season too, with the Hurricanes’ loss to the Drua bringing Digger (and everyone) undone last weekend, and just barely enough games remaining for someone to mount a run of 27 straight tips or more.
Which means we’re really only left with one streak to bring down over the remaining four rounds: the Chiefs’ unbeaten run in 2023.
Only the 2002 Crusaders have gone through the regular season unbeaten, and they obviously kept going through the finals to claim that year’s title, too. But the Chiefs on current form, and with even with a couple of curly ones among their remaining four games – the Reds, Hurricanes, Brumbies, and Force – there’s a decent chance they could get through to the playoffs unblemished.
And their current form really hasn’t given us reason to tip against them either, which means they’ve been coping with our weekly blatherings just fine.
It feels like we should all be saying #GoChefs for the rest of the year, but can they actually stay hot all season? And what’s that about handling heat in the kitchen again?
LAST WEEK: Digger 5, Christy 5, Geoff 4, Brett 4, Harry 4; The Crowd 5.
OVERALL: Digger 51, Brett 49, Christy 49, Geoff 47, Harry 42; The Crowd 49.
TIPS: CHIEFS, FORCE, HURRICANES, CRUSADERS, WARATAHS, BRUMBIES
Well, that upset finally turned up and of course, it had to be the Hurricanes who obliged, no wonder Bart Simpson thinks the way he does.
Will we see some more this week? I am not convinced but a number of fixtures look tricky to pick with any confidence.
Chiefs at home is certainly a no brainer, while the Drua are capable but are also clearly not the same force away from home. Nor do I think they have developed the weekly consistency required; Force seem the right tip.
Biggest issue for Moana Pasifika is that the Hurricanes will be very motivated this week after a disappointing outing last week so I do not see another upset on the cards here, while the Brumbies at home should be too much for the travelling Highlanders.
Two toughest picks this round to me are the Crusaders and Blues and Waratahs and Rebels.
I give the Blues more credit than most and if not for a few quirks, could easily have had the scalps already of the Crusaders and Chiefs under their belt this season. I will side with the ‘safety’ of the Crusaders at home and while the Blues do seem to have a loose screw or two under pressure, an away win would not ultimately surprise me.
The Waratahs and Rebels is tough to settle on. Two evenly matched sides, I think I will back the Waratahs to reverse the Round 3 result and triumph at home.
SURE THING: Clearly, no one should be taking tipping advice from Bart Simpson.
TIPS: CHIEFS, DRUA, HURRICANES, CRUSADERS, REBELS, BRUMBIES
Only one franchise is out of the finals reckoning. That says something about the competition format, but it’s also a pointer to the final weekend of the regular season in early June.
No franchise’s hopes will end this week, but their season could be made.
Chiefs by plenty to start with. The Reds have some players playing for World Cup spots, which will help, but there’s too many clubs footballers in their side against the premiership favourites.
The Force’s season could come down to Friday against the Drua. It shapes as a cracker. The Force are unbeaten at home, but their three victories have come against three of the bottom four sides. I’m tipping the Drua, just, although the return of Tom Robertson and Folau Fainga’a will help the home side.
Hurricanes will respond against Moana Pasifika. The Blues should have beaten the Crusaders earlier in the season, but now the Crusaders are starting to find their feet. They’ll be too strong.
The Rebels’ set-piece and Carter Gordon’s form, coupled by the maturity of Andrew Kellaway, has me thinking they’ll come out on top in Sydney.
As for Sunday’s final match, the Brumbies will be out to deliver a complete performance. They will.
SURE THING: The Reds’ clash against the Chiefs will drive debate about what Super Rugby stands for. It’ll also turn the focus on their season – and what’s ahead.
TIPS: CHIEFS, FORCE, HURRICANES, CRUSADERS, REBELS, BRUMBIES
Four days on and I’m still dirty on big Cabous Eloff for parking himself over the try-line like he did against the Brumbies – too high – costing me an opportunity to gain a valuable point on the whole field. Never mind, what else can you do but dust yourself off, chomp into a wad of Biltong and have another crack?
With the Chiefs and the Reds both having their eye on bigger prizes, there’s low expectations for the Hamilton match. Chiefs, surely. There’s also a whiff of the Drua picking and choosing their matches too. The Force will want this one a bit more and should be good enough.
I can’t envisage the Hurricanes being as kind to Moana Pasifika again, and they’ll also welcome the temperature change. The Crusaders owe the Blues one and, back at home, with some quality players back on deck, they should be good enough.
The late game from Sydney should be a fierce contest. While flawed, the Waratahs are better than what many credit them for. But surely the Rebels are due to deliver a complete performance? If they do, they win. As will the Brumbies, at home against the Highlanders.
SURE THING: With the Roosters said to be getting jack of Joseph Sua’alii’s form, and “high powered sources” at Rugby Australia convinced it’s a sign he’s already moved on, expect frantic negotiations to deliver Sua’alii in a sky blue Tahs jumper in time for the second half against the Rebels. Or not.
TIPS: CHIEFS, FORCE, HURRICANES, CRUSADERS, WARATAHS, BRUMBIES
We’re back to same place we’re often at this week: the round looks too easy, which can only mean more upsets are coming.
It won’t be in Hamilton, though. #GoChefs. I don’t think it’ll be in Perth, either, though this is exactly the kind of game the Drua need to start winning as a true sign as their vast improvement as a Super Rugby entity. Start winning fourteen time zones away from home after a full day of travel, and they become a very dangerous side.
I don’t think it will be in Wellington, but holy moly, imagine if it was. It could genuinely trigger a finals freefall, which if he wasn’t already changing jobs next year, might put the coach’s job in the spotlight. ‘Canes not by plenty, but by enough.
It won’t be in Christchurch. And it won’t be in Canberra, either.
But it could definitely be in Sydney. It’s actually easier making a case of the Rebels on current form, but the Waratahs have been showing enough gradual improvement that it’s still hard to pick against the home side in a 50/50 contest. Definite Golden Point candidate, though.
SURE THING: Nowhere near enough attention was paid to my Sure Thing of last week, in which I said of the beyond-late upset, “it’s on, there will be a shock result this weekend. It’s well and truly due”.
TIPS: CHIEFS, FORCE, HURRICANES, CRUSADERS, REBELS, BRUMBIES.
The gap is seven. Seven choices. Seven decisions Brett has made which were better than mine.
He is seven degrees better at tipping this year than I am. The seven-year history matters not (I am sure he has a spreadsheet, hung with care on the backside of the door in his shed). It is this year, and now.
As I start each week with Laidlaw (our pod records on my Monday mornings, early) he is fond of using the number seven.
“Ready, Harry? Seven, six, five …” he counts. “So, seven segments this week?” he smirks. “Seven minutes to go,” he types in the chat. When he kicks to me, he tells the guest: “I’ve known Harry for seven years.”
He sends me a package in the post with a jersey. Number seven.
Here we go. I want to explore the number six. If I can nip one game off Brett a week, this is doable. I cannot wait to talk to him about zero. Nought. Zip.
The Reds’ tight five is too loose and their back ten are too tight. Chiefs by seven.
The Drua are on the up! The Force are down. But there could be a hangover effect. Piru will be drunk either way, but I will guess that Laidlaw will get too happy about the Drua because he is a Drua-head. Force by seven inches, Geoff Parkes’ fondest figure.
The dangerous Pasifika go to Wellington this week. The Hurricanes have the better seven. Canes by a little less than plenty. The Blues and the Crusaders face each other as all their coaches plot 2024 together. I expect seven tries but more of them by the Saders.
The 2023 Rebels are a better team than the 2023 Waratahs. That sounds odd. But it is true. I will put seven dollars on that proposition, which gets you two packets of sauce at the Allianz.
Also, Brett is a secret ‘Tah backer. He’s anti-Melbourne for cricket reasons, I believe.
The number two Brumbies will take a huge number two on the Highlanders.
SURE THING: At the end of this weekend, I will be six or less behind. That’s what she/they said.
|CHI v RED
|FOR v DRU
|HUR v MOA
|CRU v BLU
|WAR v REB
|BRU v HIG