Super Rugby Pacific Round Nine Preview

Thu, Apr 18, 2024, 6:17 AM
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson

Round Nine of Super Rugby Pacific is filled with crucial matches that will shape the race to the finals.

It opens with the ladder-leading Hurricanes travelling to Suva to face the Fijian Drua on Friday.

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This is followed by the Queensland Reds and Highlanders battling it out as both teams look to rectify a poor run on form.

The ACT Brumbies return to action after the bye with the daunting task of facing the Blues in Auckland whilst the Western Force welcome the Crusaders to Perth.

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

Friday 19 April 5:05 PM AEST – Fijian Drua v Hurricanes at HFC Bank Stadium, Suva, ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport
Teams

DRUA (1-15): Haereiti Hetet, Tevita Ikanivere (c), Mesake Doge, Isoa Nasilasila, Leone Rotuisolia, Vilive Miramira, Kitione Salawa, Elia Canakaivata, Simione Kuruvoli, Isikeli Rabitu, Epeli Momo, Kemu Valetini, Iosefo Masi, Selestino Ravutaumada, Ilaisa Droasese

RESERVES: Zuriel Togiatama, Livai Natave, Samu Tawake, Mesake Vocevoce, Meli Derenalagi, Peni Matawalu, Michael Naitokani, Junior Ratuva

  • Fijian international Isoa Nasilasila returns in the second row for the first time since round two
  • Simione Kuruvoli starts at scrumhalf after Frank Lomani's suspension.
  • He is joined in the halves by Isikeli Rabitu, with Kemu Valetini named at centre

HURRICANES (1-15): Tevita Mafileo, James O'Reilly, Pasilio Tosi, Ben Grant, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Brad Shields (c), Du'Plessis Kirifi, Devan Flanders, TJ Perenara, Aidan Morgan, Salesi Rayasi, Jordie Barrett, Billy Proctor, Kino Naholo. Josh Moorby

RESERVES: Asafo Aumua, Xavier Numia, Siale Lauaki, Caleb Delany, Peter Lakai, Richard Judd, Ruben Love, Bailyn Sullivan

  • Queenslander Ben Grant debuts in the second row
  • Aidan Morgan and Salesi Rayasi start in the backline
  • Bailyn Sullivan returns via the bench after missing the past six months with a shoulder injury
Stats
  • Fijian Drua have won eight of their last nine Super Rugby Pacific matches in Fiji
  • The Hurricanes have won their last five Super Rugby Pacific matches away from Sky Stadium, scoring 39.4 points per game across that span
  • Fijian Drua have won three of their last four Super Rugby Pacific matches against New Zealand teams in Fiji
Key Match Up

Iosefi Masi v Billy Proctor

Masi has been electric in 2024, scoring seven tries across his last five appearances at home.

With no Apisalome Vota, the centre will have to be at his brutal best if they want to cause an upset, especially against a Maori All Black in Proctor.

The 24-year-old has become the glue that keeps the Hurricanes' backline together and must disrupt Masi's ball if they are to succeed.

Prediction

Hurricanes by 4

Friday 19 April 7:35 PM AEST – Queensland Reds v Highlanders at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport
Teams

REDS (1-15): Alex Hodgman, Matt Faessler, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Cormac Daly, Ryan Smith, Liam Wright (c), John Bryant, Harry Wilson, Kalani Thomas, Tom Lynagh, Mac Grealy, Hunter Paisami, Jordan Petaia, Suli Vunivalu, Jock Campbell

RESERVES: Josh Nasser, Peni Ravai, Sef Fa'agase, Angus Blyth, Joe Brial, Louis Werchon, Lawson Creighton, Tim Ryan

  • Kalani Thomas and John Bryant replace the suspended Tate McDermott and Fraser McReight
  • Jordan Petaia shifts to centre after Josh Flook's shoulder injury
  • Cormac Daly gets his first Super Rugby start in the second row

HIGHLANDERS (1-15): Ethan de Groot, Ricky Jackson, Saula Ma'u, Hugo Pummer, Pari Pari Parkinson, Oliver Haig, Sean Withy, Billy Harmon (c), James Arscott, Cameron Millar, Jona Nareki, Sam Gilbert, Tanielu Tele'a, Timoci Tavatavanawai, Connor Garden-Bachop

RESERVES:  Henry Bell, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Rohan Wingham, Will Stodart, Nikora Broughton, Folau Fakatava, Ajay Faleafaga, Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens

  • Ethan de Groot and Ricky Jackson have been elevated into the starting front-row
  • Folau Fakatava and Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens will start the game from the reserves
  • Cameron Millar comes into the starting side at flyhalf, his first appearance since round four.
Stats
  • The Highlanders have won their last six matches in Super Rugby competitions against the Queensland Reds 
  • Each of the last 10 games in which the Queensland Reds have hosted the Highlanders in the Super Rugby Pacific have been decided by a margin of eight points or fewer 
  • The Highlanders have lost five of their last six away games against teams from Australia 
Key Match Up

Harry Wilson v Billy Harmon

The two number eights will dictate how the game will be decided on Friday.

Wilson has been consistent all year but needs to find another level to press his Wallabies claims and turn around their season.

As for Harmon, he will have to lead the way in a game that will shape their season, with Clarke Dermody swinging the axe

Prediction

Reds by 2

Saturday 20 April 5:05 PM AEST – Blues v ACT Brumbies at Eden Park, Auckland, ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport

BLUES (1-15): Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Ricky Riccitelli, Marcel Renata, Patrick Tuipulotu (c), Laghlan McWhannell, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papali'i, Hoskins Sotutu, Taufa Funaki, Harry Plummer, Caleb Clarke, Bryce Heem, Rieko Ioane, Mark Tele'a, Cole Forbes

RESERVES: Kurt Eklund, Joshua Fusitu'a, Angus Ta'avao, Sam Darry, Adrian Choat, Sam Nock, Lucas Cashmore, AJ Lam

  • Mark Tele'a is a big inclusion on the wing, joined by Caleb Clarke and Cole Forbes in the back three
  • Ricky Riccitelli starts at hooker, with Kurt Eklund back on the bench after a month out with illness
  • Sam Darry returns via the reserves after overcoming a knee injury

BRUMBIES (1-15): James Slipper, Billy Pollard, Sefo Kautai, Darcy Swain, Cadeyrn Neville, Rob Valetini, Jahrome Brown, Charlie Cale, Ryan Lonergan (c), Noah Lolesio, Corey Toole, Tamati Tua, Hudson Creighton, Ollie Sapsford, Tom Wright

RESERVES: Connal McInerney, Blake Schoupp, Rhys Van Nek, Nick Frost, Tom Hooper, Luke Reimer, Harrison Goddard, Jack Debreczeni

  • Cadeyrn Neville & Jahrome Brown return to the starting forward pack
  • Ryan Lonergan has overcome an ankle injury to start and re-gain the captaincy
  • Blake Schoupp will come off the bench, his first game back after his shoulder injury in Round 4
Stats
  • The ACT Brumbies will be aiming for back-to-back wins against the Blues in Super Rugby for the first time since April 2014
  • The Blues have won their last nine consecutive home games in the Super Rugby Pacific while the ACT Brumbies have won three of their four games away from GIO Stadium
  • The Blues (1.3) and ACT Brumbies (2.1) have conceded fewer points per opposition entry into their 22m zone than any other teams 
Key Match Up

Mark Tele'a v Corey Toole

The type of clash to make any Rugby fans excited.

Both are arguably the top two wingers in Super Rugby Pacific and can change a game with a single carry.

Toole has the pace to disrupt the Blues' outside backs but his defence will be tested against one of the deadliest in World Rugby

Prediction

Brumbies by 3

Saturday 20 April 7:35 PM AEST – Western Force v Crusaders at HBF Park, Perth, ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport
Teams

FORCE (1-15): Ryan Coxon, Tom Horton, Santiago Medrano, Sam Carter, Thomas Franklin, Will Harris, Carlo Tizzano, Reed Prinsep, Nic White (c), Ben Donaldson, Chase Tiatia, Hamish Stewart, Sam Spink, Bayley Kuenzle, Kurtley Beale

RESERVES: Ben Funnell, Marley Pearce, Tiaan Tauakipulu, Izack Rodda, Michael Wells, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, Max Burey, Henry O’Donnell

  • Kurtley Beale starts in his first game for the Western Force
  • Will Harris returns to the starting side in the backrow
  • Izack Rodda plays his first game of the season, joined by Michael Wells on the bench

CRUSADERS (1-15): Joe Moody, Brodie McAlister, Owen Franks, Quinten Strange, Jamie Hannah, Ethan Blackadder, Tom Christie (c), Christian Lio-Willie, Mitch Drummond, Riley Hohepa, Macca Springer, Dallas McLeod, Levi Aumua, Sevu Reece, Chay Fihaki

RESERVES: George Bell, George Bower, Fletcher Newell, Dominic Gardiner, Cullen Grace, Noah Hotham, Rivez Reihana, Ryan Crotty

  • Macca Springer starts on the wing after a finger injury to Johnny McNicholl
  • Joe Moody, Brodie McAlister and Owen Franks form a brand-new starting front-row
  • Christian Lio-Willie starts at number eight after his late try against the Waratahs
Stats
  • The Crusaders have won eight of their last nine matches in Super Rugby competitions against the Western Force, including each of their last six
  • No other team has scored fewer tries in the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific season than the Western Force (19) and Crusaders (20)
  • The Western Force have won seven of their last 10 Super Rugby Pacific games at HBF Park, winning every game in which they scored 20+ points on the day in that stretch.
Key Match Up

Kurtley Beale v Chay Fihaki

All eyes will be on the former Wallaby on his debut for the Force

Beale has not played in Super Rugby since 2020, eager to impress his new side as they look to keep their finals hopes alive.

As for Fihaki, he needs to recapture the form he has shown in patches in 2024 to turn around the Crusaders' season

Prediction

Crusaders by 5

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