Super Rugby Pacific is at its business end, with the league phase done, the all-important playoffs begin this weekend with the quarter-finals. Bet Central looks at some of the key battles in this round’s fixtures.
Chiefs v Reds: Outside Centres Take Aim
As Anton Lienert-Brown edges towards the twilight of his career, injuries have begun to bother him a lot more than usual. It is a testament to a body that has been bruised and battered as Lienert-Brown was an integral part of the All Blacks and Chiefs cause over the last 8 years.
On his worst day, the 28-year-old is a 6 out of 10 player and historically has been one of the most consistent players in world rugby. Perhaps the injuries have slowed him down a bit but the All Blacks centre still has so much to offer. His game intelligence stands out amongst a plethora of qualities. Up against him on Saturday morning will be Filipo Daugunu.
The 5 Test Wallaby is usually on the wing but will run out at 13 in the quarterfinal clash against the Chiefs, he brings speed and incredible physicality in midfield to counter the efforts of Lienert-Brown. The battle will be one of great intrigue.
Crusaders v Fijian Drua: Hookers Enjoying Good Form
Tex Ikanivere is a hooker that shows incredible promise and it has been most evident in his exploits for Fijian Drua this year. He hasn’t only stepped up as a leader in the absence of regular skipper Meli Derelenalagi but has been exemplary at the set-piece while being a constant contributor on defence and attack with ball-in-hand.
Elsewhere Codie Taylor is no longer the force he once was as he continues to grow older, but is still a wily old warhorse who can get the better of his younger counterpart. He has however shown improved form this season after an unflattering last 2 years for the veteran hooker.
The battle between these 2 dynamic front rowers promises to be a good one. Can the master teach the student a couple more new tricks or will the youngster be able to show that he is more than match for the old head? It remains to be seen in this tasty battle at hooker.
Brumbies v Hurricanes: Slipper Looking To School Lomax
The Wallabies captain found a new lease on life last year under former coach Dave Rennie in the national setup. James Slipper not only solidified his place in the team but thrived as the Wallabies showed progress despite a lengthy injury list that bordered on a nightmare for Rennie.
On Saturday he goes to battle for the Brumbies for the right to a place in the last 4 of Super Rugby and will have no easy matchup as he goes directly against the All Blacks 1st choice tighthead prop Tyrel Lomax.
Lomax hasn’t hit the heights of 2022 this season, but he has been steady enough and he will look to get a bit more to get the better of Slipper. His engine is incredible and his work rate around the park is undoubted, it’s in the scrums where he will have to bring his A-game to dominate Slipper and ultimately propel his team to the semis.
ed 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.