Super Rugby Pacific Round Two Preview

Thu, Feb 29, 2024, 5:00 AM
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
The Best Tries of Round 1 | Super Rugby Pacific 2024

Super Rugby Pacific converges on Melbourne as all 12 teams ramp up their preparations for Super Round.

There are rivalry matches across the first two days with the Fijian Drua facing Moana Pasifika whilst the Melbourne Rebels take on the Western Force.

Don't miss Super Round 2024 in Melbourne from March 1-3. Get your tickets now! 

The Crusaders face the Waratahs ten years on from their epic 2014 Super Rugby Final as the Blues open the round against the Highlanders.

However, Sunday shapes as the pick of the days with four undefeated teams facing off as the Brumbies take on the Chiefs and the Reds face the Hurricanes.

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

Friday 1 March 6:00 pm AEDT – Highlanders v Blues at AAMI Park, ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport
Teams

HIGHLANDERS (1-15): Ethan de Groot, Henry Bell, Jermaine Ainsley, Pari Pari Parkinson, Max Hicks, Sean Withy, Billy Harmon (c), Hugh Renton, Folau Fakatava, Rhys Patchell, Jona Nareki, Sam Gilbert, Tanielu Tele'a, Timoci Tavatavanawai, Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens

RESERVES: Ricky Jackson, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Saula Ma'u, Fabian Holland, Nikora Broughton, Nathan Hastie, Ajay Faleafaga, Jonah Lowe

  • Ethan de Groot returns to the side, joined in the starting XV by Jermaine Ainsley
  • Max Hicks comes into the team to join Pari Pari Parkinson at lock
  • Ajay Faleafaga is the new face on the bench alongside backs reserves Nathan Hastie and Jonah Lowe

BLUES (1-15): Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Ricky Riccitelli, Marcel Renata, Laghlan McWhannell, Sam Darry, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papali'i (c), Hoskins Sotutu, Taufa Funaki, Stephen Perofeta, Caleb Clarke, Bryce Heem, AJ Lam, Mark Tele'a, Zarn Sullivan

RESERVES: Soane Vikena, Joshua Fusitu'a, Angus Ta'avao, Josh Beehre, Adrian Choat, Sam Nock, Harry Plummer, Cole Forbes

  • Rieko Ioane and Finlay Christie are unavailable due to 'load management'
  • In their place, Taufa Funaki and Bryce Heem start in the backs, joined by AJ Lam
  • Ofa Tu'ungafasi and Akira Ioane start in their first game of the season
Key Match Up

Ethan de Groot v Ofa Tu'ungafasi

Two returning looseheads with a point to prove heading into 2024 as they look to impress new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson

de Groot's omission last week was a wake-up call for the All Black after starting in the World Cup.

It'll have the chasing pack of All Blacks looseheads nipping at his heels, with Tu'ungafasi leading the way after Tamati Williams' injury.

Stats
  • The Blues have won nine of their last ten games against the Highlanders, including their 2021 Super Rugby Aotearoa Final clash
  • The Highlanders have lost their last 16 matches against NZ teams by an average of 16 points
  • The Highlanders (173) and Blyes (167) are in the top three for most made tackles of any team in Round One.
Prediction

Blues by 12

Friday 1 March 8:10 pm AEDT – Melbourne Rebels v Western Force at AAMI Park, ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport
Teams

REBELS (1-15): Matt Gibbon, Alex Mafi, Taniela Tupou, Josh Canham, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Josh Kemeny, Brad Wilkin, Rob Leota (c), James Tuttle, Carter Gordon, Filipo Daugunu, David Feliuai, Matt Proctor, Lachie Anderson, Andrew Kellaway

RESERVES: Jordan Uelese, Isaac Kailea, Sam Talakai, Tuaina Taii Tualima, Vaiolini Ekuasi, Ryan Louwrens, Jake Strachan, Nick Jooste

  • Alex Mafi and Taniela Tupou start in the front row after coming off the bench in round one.
  • James Tuttle starts at scrumhalf, with centre Matt Proctor to make his Rebels debut
  • Filipo Daugunu moves to the wing after filling in at outside centre.

FORCE (1-15):  Ryan Coxon, Tom Horton, Santiago Medrano, Jeremy Williams, Thomas Franklin, Michael Wells, Carlo Tizzano, Will Harris, Nic White, Ben Donaldson, Chase Tiatia, Hamish Stewart, Sam Spink, Harry Potter, Max Burey

RESERVES: Feleti Kaitu’u, Charlie Hancock, Tiaan Tauakipulu, Tim Anstee, Lopeti Faifua, Ollie Callan, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, George Poolman

  • Ryan Coxon has been rushed into the starting side after Marley Pearce's suspension
  • Jeremy Williams captains the side after missing last week with a concussion
  • Hooker Feleti Kaitu'u comes off the bench after a strong season with Tasman
Key Match Up

Andrew Kellaway v Max Burey

Both players are essential links to their respective teams' attacks and are the key towards unlocking their potential.

Kellaway is the Wallabies incumbent and knows a strong game will inch him ever so closer towards securing that starting spot come July.

As for Burey, a strong game against the Rebels can take him into bolter status as he adjusts to life following a stint at flyhalf in 2023.

Stats
  • The Melbourne Rebels have won two of their last three Super Rugby Pacific matches against the Western Force
  • The Western Force have lost their last eight Super Rugby Pacific matches away from HBF Park, conceding 45 points per game across that span
  • The Melbourne Rebels made 42 tackle breaks in Round 1 of the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific season – the most of any team in the competition - despite only scoring three points
Prediction

Rebels by 10

Saturday 2 March 5:00 pm AEDT – Moana Pasifika v Fijian Drua at AAMI Park, ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport

PASIFIKA (1-15): Abraham Pole, Sama Malolo, Sione Mafileo, Tom Savage, Allan Craig, Jacob Norris, Sione Havili Talitui, Lotu Inisi, Ereatara Enari, William Havili, Viliami Fine, Julian Savea, Henry Taefu, Nigel Ah Wong, Danny Toala

RESERVES: Samiuela Moli, Sateki Latu, Sekope Kepu, Ola Tauelangi, Irie Papuni, Aisea Halo, Christian Lealiifano, Kyren Taumoefolau

  • Allan Craig and Jacob Norris start after strong debuts off the bench.
  • Sione Havili Talitui makes his first appearance for the club since joining from the Crusaders
  • Henry Taefu partners with Julian Savea in the centres

DRUA (1-15): Livai Natave, Tevita Ikanivere, Mesake Doge, Mesake Vocevoce, Isoa Nasilasila, Etonia Waqa, Ella Canakaivata, Meli Derenalagi (c), Frank Lomani, Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula, Selestino Ravutaumada, Apisalome Vota, Iosefo Masi, Epeli Momo, Isikeli Rabitu

RESERVES: Mesulame Dolokoto, Haereiti Hetet, Jone Koroiduadua, Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, Vilive Miramira, Simione Kuruvoli, Kemu Valetini, Junior Ratuva

  • Mesake Vocevoce starts in the second row alongside Isoa Nasilasila
  • Junior Ratuva comes onto the bench for his potential debut
  • Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta and Haereiti Hetet provide experience on the reserves
Key Match Up

Epeli Momo v Viliami Fine

Momo continues the tradition of returning Fijian wingers dominating SRP with a great debut game that included a competition-high three line breaks.

The former French-based winger provides the necessary power and speed to break open a game and get the Drua on a roll.

It'll be up to Fine to contain him in just his second start after a great stint with NPC side Southland, eager to make his own name in Super Rugby.

Stats
  • Fijian Drua have won all three matches between the side, although two of those have been decided by less than three
  • The Drua have lost their last nine games outside of Fiji, conceding 41 points per game in that span
  • Moana Pasifika conceded five penalties in their opener, the fewest in Super Rugby Pacific.
Prediction

Drua by 2

Saturday 2 March 7:35 pm AEDT – Crusaders v NSW Waratahs at AAMI Park, ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport and the Nine Network
Teams

CRUSADERS (1-15): George Bower, George Bell, Fletcher Newell, Scott Barrett (c), Quinten Strange, Dominic Gardiner, Tom Christie, Cullen Grace, Noah Hotham, Taha Kemara, Macca Springer, David Havili, Levi Aumua, Sevu Reece, Chay Fihaki

RESERVES: Quentin MacDonald, Joe Moody, Owen Franks, Jamie Hannah, Christian Lio-Willie, Mitchell Drummond, Ryan Crotty, Dallas McLeod

  • Taha Kemara starts at flyhalf after an injury to Rivez Rahima
  • Tamaiti Williams is ruled out, replaced by All Black Fletcher Newell
  • David Havili returns to the starting side in the centres

WARATAHS (1-15): Angus Bell, Mahe Vailanu, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Jed Holloway, Hugh Sinclair, Fergus Lee-Warner, Charlie Gamble, Langi Gleeson, Jake Gordon (c), Tane Edmed, Dylan Pietsch, Joey Walton, Harry Wilson, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Max Jorgensen

RESERVES: Julian Heaven, Hayden Thompson-Stringer, Dan Botha, Miles Amatosero, Ned Hanigan, Teddy Wilson, Mosese Tuipulotu, Triston Reilly

  • Mark Nawaqanitawase starts on the wing but must overcome a hamstring concern
  • Hugh Sinclair starts in the second row, pushing MIles Amatosero to the bench
  • He is joined by Ned Hanigan, who will make his first appearance
Key Match Up

Levi Aumua v Harry Wilson

Levi Aumua comes to the Crusaders with plenty of hype after two great years with Moana Pasifika.

With the Waratahs centres' stocks depleted, it's up to Harry Wilson to shut him down.

Wilson has largely been used as an outside back but a strong night against Aumua and the Crusaders will cement his spot in the Waratahs squad

Stats
  • The Crusaders have won six of their last eight matches in Super Rugby competitions against the NSW Waratahs
  • The NSW Waratahs have won only one of their last eight Super Rugby Pacific matches against New Zealand teams
  • The Crusaders have won six of their seven Super Rugby matches at AAMI Park, their 86% win rate is the joint best of any current Super Rugby Pacific side at the Melbourne venue in Super Rugby history
Prediction

Crusaders by 14

Sunday 3 March 2:00 pm AEDT – Chiefs v ACT Brumbies at AAMI Park, ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport
Teams

CHIEFS (1-15): Ollie Norris, Bradley Slater, George Dyer, Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Tupou Vaa'i, Samipeni Finau, Kalyum Boshier, Luke Jacobson (c), Xavier Roe, Damian McKenzie, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Rameka Poihipi, Anton Lienert-Brown, Liam Coombes-Fabling, Shaun Stevenson

RESERVES: Samisoni Taukei'aho, Jared Proffit, Reuben O'Neill, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Simon Parker, Cortez Ratima, Josh Ioane, Daniel Rona

  • Manaaki Selby-Rickit starts at lock alongside Tupou Vaa'i
  • Damian McKenzie has overcome a rib complaint to be fit to start at flyhalf
  • Rameka Poihipi replaces Quinn Tupaea at starting centre

BRUMBIES (1-15): James Slipper, Lachlan Lonergan, Sosefo Kautai, Nick Frost, Tom Hooper, Rob Valetini, Luke Reimer, Charlie Cale, Ryan Lonergan (c), Noah Lolesio, Corey Toole, Ollie Sapsford, Len Ikitau, Andy Muirhead, Tom Wright

RESERVES: Billy Pollard, Blake Schoupp, Rhys Van Nek, Cadeyrn Neville, Jahrome Brown, Harrison Goddard, Declan Meredith, Tamati Tua

  • Sosefo Kautai starts at tighthead, swapping with Rhys Van Nek
  • Harrison Goddard comes onto the bench as Stephen Larkham keeps a consistent side from their win over the Rebels
Key Match-up

Shaun Stevenson v Tom Wright

The two fullbacks are amongst some of the most electric players in the game, critical towards their respective teams' hopes on Sunday

Stevenson backed up his breakout year with a great performance against the Chiefs and will be eager to add to his lone cap.

Wright comes into the contest as almost the forgotten man in the race for the fullback jersey, eager to remind selectors of his talent

Stats
  • The Chiefs have won three of their last four matches in Super Rugby competitions against the ACT Brumbies 
  • The ACT Brumbies have won four of their last five Super Rugby Pacific matches in Australia against New Zealand teams (L1); their only defeat in that span was a 31-21 loss to the Chiefs  in 2023
  • The ACT Brumbies conceded 18 attacking 22m entries in Round 1 of the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific season, the most of any team in the competition
Prediction

Chiefs by 3

Sunday 3 March 4:30 pm AEDT – Hurricanes v Queensland Reds at AAMI Park, ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport
Teams

HURRICANES (1-15): Xavier Numea, Asafo Aumua (co-c), Tyrel Lomax, Caleb Delany, Isaia Walker-Leawere, TK Howden, Peter Lakai, Brayden Iose, Cam Roigard, Brett Cameron, Kini Naholo, Jordie Barrett (co-c), Billy Proctor, Josh Moorby, Ruben Love

RESERVES: James O'Reilly, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Pasilio Tosi, Justin Sangster, Veveni Lasaqa, Jordi Viljoen, Riley Higgins, Salesi Rayasi

  • Cam Roigard moves into the starting side despite Jordi Viljoen's great debut
  • Brayden Iose starts, pushing Peter Lakai to flanker
  • TK Howden completes the back-row, with Veveni Lasaqa set for his debut

REDS (1-15): Alex Hodgman, Matt Faessler, Zane Nonggorr, Seru Uru, Ryan Smith, Liam Wright (co-c), Fraser McReight, Harry Wilson, Tate McDermott (co-c), Tom Lyngah, Jock Campbell, Hunter Paisami, Josh Flook, Suli Vunivalu, Jordan Petaia

RESERVES: Josh Nasser, Peni Ravai, Sef Fa'agase, Cormac Daly, John Bryant, Kalani Thomas, Harry McLaughlin-Phillips, Mac Grealy

  • Jock Campbell comes into the starting side on the wing
  • It pushes Mac Grealy to the bench in their lone change from last week's win over the Waratahs
Key Match-up

Jordie Barrett v Hunter Paisami

Jordie Barrett will be pivotal towards the Hurricanes hopes in 2024, but is tasked with shutting down a red-hot Hunter Paisami.

Barrett is playing in his 100th game for the club, an incredible reward for one of the Hurricanes' finest.

However, Paisami will be out to spoil the party, knowing a strong game against Barrett thrusts him firmly in contention for a Wallabies recall

Stats
  • The Hurricanes have won 12 of their last 13 matches in Super Rugby competitions against the Queensland Reds
  • The Queensland Reds won the most mauls of any team in Round 1 of the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific season (6)
  • The Queensland Reds have won only one of their last 14 matches in Super Rugby competitions against New Zealand teams
Prediction

Reds by 2

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