Round 8 of Super Rugby AU is upon us and the ladder shows the top four teams separated by just four points. This means the games this weekend that see the Western Force hosting the Reds on the Gold Coast and the Brumbies taking on the Waratahs in the capital will be crucial in helping determine which three of the four sides still in contention will make the playoffs. The Rebels – currently sitting in fourth – will watch from afar as the teams above them battle to create some distance for the Melbourne franchise to overcome.

Here is a look at the two games:

Western Force vs. Reds

Friday, August 21 – Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast

The Force are the one team out of the running for the title as they have just two points from their five games to date in Super Rugby AU and they are dead last in the table 12 points adrift of the Rebels. They have had some close defeats – such as the 31-24 game they played against the Reds earlier in the year, but there were some really worrying signs as to where their season is headed in the 20-point defeat by the Waratahs last time out.

The Reds are in second place as things stand with 16 points from their six games. This puts them one ahead of the ‘Tahs and two above the Rebels. They are also two points behind the Brumbies, though the Canberra team has a game in hand. Their 19-3 win over the Rebels last week was a huge result.

There are minor changes in both squads. The Force will have Ollie Atkins in the second row and Fergus Lee-Warner shifting from lock to the flank to provide some extra height. The Reds are replacing the injured Hunter Paisami with Josh Flock entering the team at No. 13 and Jordan Petaia staying on the wing. The pack remains the same and there are a couple of changes on the bench that see Harry Hoopert and Moses Sorovi coming into the 23.

There is zero value in the 0.20 price for the Reds with BetXChange but it would take a brave man to back a Force team that seems to be wilting under the Super Rugby AU tempo and pressure. Take the Reds minus the 10.5 spread at 0.95.

Reds vs. Rebels

Saturday, August 22 – GIO Stadium, Canberra

The Brumbies are playing with house money as the teams below them – who have all played a game more (minus the Force) – are trading wins with one another. This is how the ACT side has stayed top of the pile and how they are the squad in pole position to get the first-round playoff bye and slide straight into the final.

The Waratahs have made a solid comeback after an indifferent start to the comp and they are now squarely in the fight for second and third. They sit in third place on 15 points, one ahead of the Rebels and one behind the Reds. Any result here would be a massive – if unexpected – boost to their chances of playing rugby beyond the end of the regular season.

The Brumbies will see the return to Super Rugby of Wallaby half-back Nic White when he enters the fray off of the bench here. Other key changes see Solomone Kata playing at 13 with Tevita Kuridrani out injured in a move that sees Tom Wright starting on the wing. Starting No. 9 Joe Powell is missing so Ryan Lonergan will start the game before the inevitable entry of White.

The Waratahs stick with most of the squad that saw them to back-to-back wins for the first time in 16 months. Joey Walton will start at center, Ned Hanigan in at lock, and Harry Johnson-Holmes starting at prop.

The Waratahs might not have enough about them to beat the Brumbies straight up, but there is enough change in the Brumbies team to back the visitors at +6.5 (0.90) with BetXChange if you like to play the spread.

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