COMMENT: Super Sunday to sort Trans-Tasman contenders from pretenders

Wed, Feb 28, 2024, 11:30 PM
Lachlan Grey
by Lachlan Grey
Highlights of Charlie Cale's performance v Rebels | Round 1 | SRP 2024

COMMENT: Rugby nuts are set for six cracking Super Round games in Melbourne but even fairweather fans should be clearing their Sunday schedules for the main event - a Trans Tasman double header featuring Brumbies-Chiefs and Reds-Hurricanes.

That’s no knock on Friday's Blues v Highlanders Kiwi derby or a Rebels v Force crunch match could prove season-defining for both Aussie clubs.

Read Super Rugby's Offical Program for Super Round HERE

Meanwhile, Saturday's Battle of the Pacific (Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika) is guaranteed entertainment and there's plenty to like about a Rob Penney-coached Crusaders tackling the wounded Waratahs.

But it's Sunday that will filter the genuine contenders from Trans Tasman pretenders in 2024. Here's why:

Brumbies v Chiefs

Brumbies v Chiefs is fast becoming one of Super Rugby's great rivalries and both sides are well placed after bagging derby wins last week.

They'll meet at AAMI Park having never lost at Super Round encounter and with plenty to prove.

Few Brumbies fans will forget consecutive losses to the Waikato men in 2023, including a 21-32 loss at their GIO fortress and a 19-6 semi final defeat, while the Chiefs are yet to forgive a shock 38-28 home defeat that torpedoed their top-two hopes in 2022.

Speaking to media on Wednesday, Wallabies and Brumbies hooker Lachlan Lonergan admitted his desire to "get one up" over the Chiefs and predicted a "physical battle" against last year's beaten finalists.

He's been named in a largely unchanged side to tackle the Chiefs, who've also rolled out a star-studded lineup including Damian McKenzie, Anton Lienert-Brown and Shaun Stevenson.

Titles aren't won in Round 2 but with many pundits predicting a Chiefs-Brumbies decider this year, it's time to see which Trans Tasman heavyweight has the goods early in 2024.

Reds v Hurricanes

Forget the Reds' 10-year Hurricanes hoodoo - it's been a lean few seasons against Kiwi opposition entirely for the Ballymore faithful.

While the Brumbies hold a 8-11 record against their Kiwi rivals since 2021, Queensland are two wins and 14 losses against NZ Super Rugby sides over the same timeframe.

Nevertheless there's real optimism in the Queensland camp with winger Suliasi Vunivalu unconcerned with his side's poor record against the Hurricanes and eager to roll on from last week's 40-22 win over NSW Waratahs.

"We were reviewing the Hurricanes game just now and I didn't actually know about that (record) until you told me," Vunivalu told rugby.com.au.

"I don't remember much from last year, didn't travel for that game. This (weekend) will be our first NZ game so it'll be good to test ourselves. Everyone's looking forward to the competition."

Reds assistant coach Zane Hilton highlighted Canes prop Tyrel Lomax as a key threat and tipped a fiery contest up front on Sunday evening.

"Around the forwards, we're really happy with the set piece but we've got to go to another level," Hilton said.

So whichever side of the Tasman you set, clear your Sunday afternoon and settle in - it's going to be a humdinger.

Share
Super Rugby Pacific Round Nine Preview
New Wallabies assistant Geoff Parling is ready to turn around the team's fortunes. Photo: Nick Holland/RA Media
‘We can have a great force’: Parling eager to bring best out of Wallabies ahead of potential Lions reunion
Vale Dick McGruther: A Respected Administrator, Innovator and Friend of Rugby
Bryant backed to fill backrow void as Reds embrace Highlanders challenge