Super Rugby Pacific Round 15 Preview

Thu, May 30, 2024, 11:22 PM
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson

The final round of the Super Rugby Pacific regular season is here and there's still plenty to play for.

Friday's opening game between the Crusaders and Moana Pasifika will decide which team stays in finals contention, followed by arch rivals NSW Waratahs and Queensland Reds facing off in Sydney.

Catch every game of Super Rugby Pacific LIVE, ad-free and on demand on Stan Sport.

The Drua's game against the Melbourne Rebels will decide a host of teams' finals hopes, with several teams hoping for a Rebels victory to sneak into the eight.

A top four clash between the Blues and Chiefs can have major implications on the top two, with the Hurricanes and ACT Brumbies looking to capitalise if the Blues lose as they face the Highlanders and Force respectively.

The Force have their own finals aspirations, needing a Rebels win to take the season down to the final game of the round.

Rugby.com.au previews all the action from round 15, presented by Bet365

Friday 31 May 5:05 PM AEST – Crusaders v Moana Pasifika at Apollo Projects Stadium, Christchurch, ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport
Teams

CRUSADERS (1-15): Joe Moody, Codie Taylor (c), Tamaiti Williams, Antonio Shalfoon, Quinten Strange, Cullen Grace, Ethan Blackadder, Christian Lio-Willie, Noah Hotham, Fergus Burke, Macca Springer, Ryan Crotty, Dallas McLeod, Chay Fihaki, Johnny McNicholl

RESERVES: George Bell, George Bower, Owen Franks, Jamie Hannah, Tom Christie, Mitch Drummond, Taine Robinson, Heremaia Murray

  • Ryan Crotty and Dallas McLeod start in the centres in a new look pairing
  • Tamaiti Williams slots straight in for Fletcher Newell
  • Taine Robinson and Heremaia Murray come onto the bench

PASIFIKA (1-15): Abraham Pole, Samiuela Moli, Sekope Kepu, Tom Savage, Allan Craig, Jacob Norris, Sione Havili Talitui (c), Lotu Inisi, Jonathan Taumateine, William Havili, Pepesana Patafilo. Julian Savea, Henry Taefu, Fine Inisi, Kyren Taumoefolau

RESERVES: Tomasi Maka, Ivan Fepuleai, Suetena Asomua, Ola Tauelangi, Alamanda Motuga, Aisea Halo, Christian Lealiifano, Nigel Ah Wong

  • Sekope Kepu starts in his potential final Super Rugby game at tight-head prop
  • Henry Taefu comes into the side at outside centre, with Kyren Taumoefolau retaining his spot at fullback after his late inclusion
  • Front-rower Ivan Fepuleai will potentially make his debut off the bench
Stats
  • The Crusaders have won all three of their Super Rugby Pacific matches against Moana Pasifika by an average margin of 24 points per game
  • The Crusaders have won 10 of their last 12 Super Rugby Pacific games at Apollo Projects Stadium
  • Moana Pasifika have never won back-to-back games in Super Rugby 
Key Match Up

Codie Taylor v Samiuela Moli

In a game that will decide their finals aspirations, both hookers will be essential in what will likely be a physical encounter.

Taylor’s return has spearheaded the Crusaders back to title-contending form and the hooker will be out to produce a strong performance to keep their defence alive.

The 25-year-old Moli needs to nullify his effectiveness, particularly around the set-piece, if they wish to compete on Friday.

Prediction

Crusaders by 16

Friday 31 May 7:35 PM AEST – NSW Waratahs v Queensland Reds at Allianz Stadium, Sydney, ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport
Teams

WARATAHS (1-15): Paddy Ryan, Jay Fonokalafi, Tom Ross, Jed Holloway, Miles Amatosero, Lachlan Swinton, Charlie Gamble, Langi Gleeson, Jake Gordon (c), Jack Bowen, Dylan Pietsch, Lalakai Foketi, Joey Walton, Triston Reilly, Mark Nawaqanitawase

RESERVES: Ben Sugars, Lewis Ponini, Brad Amituanai, Hugh Sinclair, Fergus Lee-Warner, Jack Grant, Tane Edmed, Izaia Perese

  • Paddy Ryan comes straight into the starting side after his Japan stint finished
  • Jack Bowen gets his debut start at flyhalf
  • Triston Reilly returns on the wing

REDS (1-15): Alex Hodgman, Matt Faessler, Zane Nonggor, Connor Vest, Seru Uru, Liam Wright (co-c), Fraser McReight, Joe Brial, Tate McDermott (co-c), Lawson Creighton, Mac Grealy, Hunter Paisami, Josh Flook, Tim Ryan, Jock Campbell

RESERVES: Josh Nasser, Peni Ravai, Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen, Ryan Smith, John Bryant, Kalani Thomas, Tom Lynagh, Taj Annan

  • Joe Brial starts at number eight against his dad’s old side
  • Connor Vest starts for the first time since Round 14 in 2023
  • Lawson Creighton returns at flyhalf after missing last week
Stats
  • The Queensland Reds have won six of their last eight matches against the NSW Waratahs in Super Rugby competitions
  • The Queensland Reds have scored 113 points in the final 20 minutes of games this Super Rugby Pacific season – the most of any team – while the NSW Waratahs have conceded 107 points in this same time which is the third-most of any team.
  • The Blues (18.1) are the only team to have missed fewer tackles per game than the Queensland Reds (19.4) and NSW Waratahs (19.9) 
Key Match Up

Lalakai Foketi v Hunter Paisami

Both centres will be pushing their Wallaby cases on Friday night, looming as key game-breakers for their respective sides.

Foketi takes on further responsibility with a young ten inside him and wants a strong night to show why he should retain his starting spot in the national side.

Meanwhile, Paisami has been the form Australian 12 in 2024 and will be out to continue his excellent season with the finals on the horizon.

Prediction

Reds by 8 

Saturday 1 June 12:05 PM AEST – Fijian Drua v Melbourne Rebels at Churchill Park, Lautoka, ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport
Teams

DRUA (1-15): Haereiti Hetet, Tevita Ikanivere, Mesake Doge, Mesake Vocevoce, Leone Rotuisolia, Etonia Waqa, Kitione Salawa, Meli Derenalagi (c), Frank Lomani, Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula, Waqa Nalaga, Kemu Valetini, Iosefo Masi, Selestino Ravutaumada, Ilaisa Droasese

RESERVES: Zuriel Togiatama, Livai Natave, Samu Tawake, Isoa Nasilasila, Motikiai Murray, Elia Canakaivata, Simione Kuruvoli, Caleb Muntz

  • Captain Meli Derenalagi returns for the must-win game at number eight
  • Frank Lomani returns from his six game suspension 
  • Haereiti Hetet starts at loosheead prop, with Leona Rotuisolia coming into the tight five

REBELS (1-15): Isaac Kailea, Jordan Uelese, Taniela Tupou, Angelo Smith, Josh Canham, Josh Kemeny, Brad Wilkin, Rob Leota (c), Ryan Louwrens, Carter Gordon, Darby Lancaster, David Feiluai, Filipo Daugunu, Andrew Kellaway, Mason Gordon

RESERVES: Ethan Dobbins, Matt Gibbon, Sam Talakai, Tuaina Taii Tualima, Maciu Nabolakasi, James Tuttle, David Vaihu, Jake Strachan

  • Taniela Tupou starts at prop in his 100th Super Rugby game
  • Mason Gordon comes in at fullback for his debut start
  • Carter Gordon returns after missing last week with a concussion
Stats
  • Each of the four previous Super Rugby Pacific games between the Fijian Drua and Melbourne Rebels have been won by the home team
  • The Melbourne Rebels have lost their last five consecutive Super Rugby Pacific games after winning their previous three in a row
  • The Fijian Drua have won just six of their 21 matches against Australian opposition in Super Rugby Pacific (L15), however they have won each of their five matches against Australian opposition on Fijian soil.
Key Match Up

Meli Derenalagi v Rob Leota

The two captains will be out to inspire their respective sides with plenty of pressure hanging on their shoulders.

Derenlagi’s return comes at the perfect time, with the freakishly skilled number eight key towards unlocking their fast-paced, offload heavy style.

As for Leota, he is tasked with galvanising his side after the events of the past 24 hours whilst looking to press his own Wallaby ambitions.

Prediction

Drua by 10

Saturday 1 June 2:35 PM AEST – Hurricanes v Highlanders at SKY Stadium, Wellington, ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport
Teams

HURRICANES (1-15): Xavier Numia, Asafo Aumua, Pasilio Tosi, James Tucker, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Devan Flanders, Du'Plessis Kirifi, Brayden Iose, TJ Perenara, Brett Cameron, Salesi Rayasi, Jordie Barrett (c), Billy Proctor, Josh Moorby, Ruben Love

RESERVES: James O'Reilly, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Tevita Mafileo, Justin Sangster, Peter Lakai, Jordi Vijoen, Riley Higgins, Bailyn Sullivan

  • Asafo Aumua returns at the perfect time after hooker Raymond Tuputupu’s suspension
  • Du’Plessis Kirifi comes back into the side in the back row
  • Salesi Rayasi starts in his 50th game on the wing 

HIGHLANDERS (1-15): Ethan de Groot (co-c), Henry Bell, Jermaine Ainsley, Will Tucker, Fabian Holland, Max Hicks, Billy Harmon (co-c), Nikora Broughton, James Arscott, Ajay Falegaga, Jona Nareki, Sam Gilbert, Matt Whaanga, Connor Garden-Bachop, Finn Hurley

RESERVES: Jack Taylor, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Saula Ma'u, Tom Sanders, Hayden Michaels, Folau Fakatava, Jake Te Hiwi, Martín Bogado

  • James Arscott starts in the halves with Folau Fakatava on the bench
  • Will Tucker comes into the second row with Fabian Holland 
  • Finn Hurley has been named for his first start at fullback
Stats
  • The Hurricanes have won nine of their last 10 matches in Super Rugby competitions against the Highlanders
  • The Highlanders have won four of their last five Super Rugby Pacific matches (L1), as many as they’d won in their previous 16 games in the competition
  • The Highlanders have won three games this Super Rugby Pacific season when they have trailed at half-time on the day, more than any other team; though, the Hurricanes have won all 10 of their games this season when they’ve led at half-time on the day.
Key Match Up

Du'Plessis Kirifi v Billy Harmon

The back row battle is crucial, with both teams loaded with talent.

Du'Plessis Kirifi has had an excellent season for the Hurricanes and has been key towards their finals push.

He goes up against Billy Harmon, shifting to openside flanker, who will take on extra responsibility around the breakdown in an inexperienced back-row

Prediction

Hurricanes by 12

Saturday 1 June 5:05 PM AEST – Blues v Chiefs at Eden Park, Auckland, ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport
Teams

BLUES (1-15): Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Ricky Riccitelli, Marcel Renata, Patrick Tuipulotu (c), Sam Darry, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papali'i, Hoskins Sotutu, Taufa Funaki, Harry Plummer, Caleb Clarke, AJ Lam, Rieko Ioane, Mark Tele'a, Stephen Perofeta

RESERVES: Kurt Eklund, Joshua Fusitu'a, Angus Ta'avao, Cameron Suafoa, Adrian Choat, Finlay Christie, Corey Evans, Cole Forbes

  • Dalton Papali’u and Caleb Clarke start after missing the defeat to the Crusaders
  • Finlay Christie returns after a groin injury that has sidelined him since round six.
  • Prop Marcel Renata will start in his 50th game for the Blues

CHIEFS (1-15): Aidan Ross, Bradley Slater, George Dyer, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Jimmy Tupou, Samipeni Finau, Luke Jacobson (c), Wallace Sititi, Cortez Ratima, Damian McKenzie, Etene Nanai Seturo, Rameka Poihipi, Daniel Rona, Emoni Narawa, Shaun Stevenson

RESERVES: Samisoni Taukei'aho, Ollie Norris, Sione Ahio, Simon Parker, Kaylum Boshier, Xavier Roe, Quinn Tupaea, Peniasi Malimali

  • Bradley Slater comes straight into the starting side
  • Jimmy Tupou returns from injury in the second row
  • Daniel Rona starts in the centres alongside Rameka Poihipi
Stats
  • The Chiefs will be aiming for back-to-back wins against the Blues in Super Rugby for the first time since April 2019
  • The Chiefs (25) and Blues (24) have scored more tries after forcing a turnover than any other teams in the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific season
  • The Blues have not lost back-to-back matches since April 2021
Key Match Up

Rieko Ioane v Daniel Rona

Rieko Ioane will be challenged to get back to his best as he takes on one of the form players in Daniel Rona.

Ioane has had an unsettled Super season, dealing with concussion on two separate occasions and is searching for his first try of the season.

He faces up against Rona, with the young centre forcing his way into contention after six tries in his seven starts in 2024.

Prediction

Chiefs by 4

Saturday 1 June 7:35 PM AEST – Western Force v ACT Brumbies at HBF Park, Perth, ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport and Nine Network
Teams

FORCE (1-15): Ryan Coxon, Tom Horton, Santiago Medrano, Sam Carter, Izack Rodda, Jeremy Williams (c), Carlo Tizzano, Reed Prinsep, Nic White, Max Burey, Ronan Leahy, Hamish Stewart, Bayley Kuenzle, George Poolman, Kurtley Beale

RESERVES: Ben Funnell, Marley Pearce, Tiaan Tauakipulu, Lopeti Faifua, Will Harris, Michael Wells, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, Sam Spink

  • Sam Carter starts in the second-row, pushing Jeremy Williams into blindside flanker
  • Max Burey starts with Ben Donaldson (groin) ruled out
  • Ryan Coxon comes into the side after a calf injury to Harry Hoopert

BRUMBIES (1-15): Blake Schoupp, Billy Pollard, Allan Alaalatoa (c), Darcy Swain, Nick Frost, Tom Hooper, Rory Scott, Rob Valetini, Ryan Lonergan, Noah Lolesio, Corey Toole, Tamati Tua, Len Ikitau, Andy Muirhead, Tom Wright

RESERVES: Connal McInerney, Harry Vella, Sosefo Kautai, Cadeyrn Neville, Luke Reimer, Harrison Goddard, Jack Debreczeni, Ollie Sapsford

  • Blake Schoupp returns to the starting team after recovering from a shoulder injury sustained in Round 10
  • Rory Scott and Connal McInerney are back in the match day 23, with Scott starting at blindside flanker
  • Nick Frost returns to the second row, moving Tom Hooper into the back row
Stats
  • The ACT Brumbies have won 15 of their last 16 matches in Super Rugby competitions against the Western Force
  • The Western Force have won four of their last five matches when hosting Australian opposition in Super Rugby Pacific
  • The ACT Brumbies have won the fewest (4.6) and conceded the second fewest (13.1) turnovers per game of any team in the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific season.
Key Match Up

Blake Schoupp v Santiago Medrano

Both teams have had well-documented scrum struggles in 2024, with the battle of the front-row vital to this clash.

Schoupp starts after his shoulder injury, looking to strengthen their set-piece game in the absence of James Slipper.

Argentinian international Medrano will be quick to put pressure on the five-cap Wallaby as they potentially fight for their finals hopes.

Prediction

Brumbies by 3

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