It’s the penultimate round of Super Rugby Pacific as Aaron Smith prepares to say goodbye to Forsyth Barr. It isn’t only the legend’s farewell home game, but there is a scrap to secure playoff spots in Super Rugby. Bet Central looks at the key battle in this weekend’s clashes.
Rebels vs Force: Fullback Bring Dynamism
Chase Tiatia was once a promising fullback playing for the Hurricanes before he moved offshore, he returned to Super Rugby with the Western Force. This season he has aided the Force’s attack and brought a different dynamic as they re-establish themselves in Super Rugby.
Tiatia is a strong runner and a good decision-maker and will look to counter the abilities of the dynamic Andrew Kellaway who has added an attacking impetus to the Rebels since his return from injury. Kellaway’s time on the ball is his biggest asset to add to his impressive speed.
They offer different strengths but also bring a level of composure that has helped the newer Australian teams in Super Rugby, it should be an intriguing battle.
Fijian Drua v Moana Pasifika: Captains Look To Inspire
The new boys who have punched way above their weight this season will clash in the 2nd last round of the league season, Fijian Drua have done slightly better than Moana Pasifika and as the home team seeking to get the win over Solomone Funaki’s side, they will have to bring the A-game.
Key in getting over the line for Drua, Meli Derenalagi will have to show his quality as a leader and as a player, an athletic presence who shows physicality in the tight phases. Since his return from his injury, he has elevated the Drua course.
Solomone Funaki is the opposition leader and talisman of the smaller of the 2 sides, Pasifika should try and get one over the more established, stable side and if they are to do so, Funaki will be important.
Crusaders v Waratahs: X-factors Wingers On Display
Mark Nawaqanitawase is one of the Waratahs’ best offensive weapons, similarly, Leicester Fainganuku’u is a great attacking talent for the Crusaders and both have been dynamic for their sides this season.
They will clash on the one side of the wing in the Aussie-New Zealand clash that will see their respective nations’ 2nd fiddle sides go head-to-head in Christchurch and Nawaqanitawase’s pace and Fainganuku’u’s power will be in direct opposition.
The clash should be one for the ages out wide.
Blues v Hurricanes: All Blacks 8thmen On Collision Course
It is hard to say whether the player who has blocked Hoskins Sotutu from truly occupying the All Blacks no.8 jersey is Sam Cane or Ardie Savea, but what is established is that Ardie Savea is the incumbent 8 and Hoskins Sotutu is the next-in-line in that jersey.
This weekend presents the clash of the Titans between those 2 players as Sotutu looks to get the edge over the abrasive Savea who is a wrecking ball with ball-in-hand. Sotutu has lacked in certain elements in the tight phases, unlike Savea who is a full package.
Both 8thmen will add to the All Blacks’ assault later in the year, but for now, they need to clash and give their respective sides an edge in a titanic clash at Eden Park.
Brumbies v Chiefs: 10s Fighting To Regain National Colours
In the last of the weekend’s clashes, Australia’s best take on the New Zealanders’ finest side as both teams look to cement their playoffs in the playoff berths. In the flyhalf battle looms the fight to regain their status as national no.10s.
Josh Ioane was once a highly-regarded flyhalf in the New Zealand rugby circles, he became a capped All Black and looked destined to become an important part of the All Black future. He somehow fell out of favour and the All Blacks begin to enter a new era next year. He could be looking to establish himself in the new era, but for now, he will look to help the Chiefs maintain their near-perfect record
Opposite him will be the equally-talented Noah Loselio, but another who struggles for consistency in the Wallabies setup. Loselio was not even included in the Eddie Jones training camp. He has looked a lot better since and he will look to get one over the talents of Ioane.