The log stage of the season has finished and Super Rugby Pacific moves on to its first finals round this weekend. There are four games on tap in the quarterfinals, with all five New Zealand teams having made it to face off with three from Australia. BetXchange is running its R3000 Max special again in Super Rugby, with the match between Crusaders and Reds paying 1/1 on each team with the line set at the Crusaders -20.5. Read on to see who we like in that and the other contests.
Crusaders VS Reds – Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch
The 10-time champions Crusaders have bolstered their ranks for this quarterfinal. All Blacks Codie Taylor, Richie Mo’unga, and Jack Goodhue all return and their backline looks as dangerous as it has all season with Will Jordan at fullback and gas on both wings. This is the second time they have played in as many weeks and the Crusaders won 28-15 last time with less on the line. I like the Crusaders -20.5 here as they finally have their best team on the park and it feels like they have been building to this point for the entire 15-week season.
Chiefs VS Waratahs – FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton
The Chiefs came on strong late, winning three on the bounce to end the season in third place. The ‘Tahs were consistently inconsistent, never putting a strong enough run of results together to challenge for a home quarterfinal but also never looking like they were going to fall out of the finals picture. The Chiefs welcome back Brodie Retallick to give them some much-needed experience at lock and wing Jonah Lowe will be licking his lips after scoring four in a game against the Waratahs earlier this year. The Chiefs win and easily cover the 10.5 here.
Blues VS Highlanders – Eden Park, Auckland
The Blues put out a youthful team last weekend but the heavy hitters are back to face a Highlanders’ side that did everything it could this season to fail make the finals. In a game where they had to pick up at least a losing bonus point against a Rebels team out of the running, a bonus point was all the Highlanders could muster. With their season on the line, that is not exactly great Both Ioane’s are back – watch for Reiko to star here – as the Blues have changed their entire starting XV. The line is 15.5 but given the way these teams have been playing it could be double that and I would still take the home side.
Brumbies VS Hurricanes – GIO Stadium, Canberra
The only Aussie team given the favorite tag this weekend is the Brumbies after they finished fourth on the log to secure a home quarterfinal against the fifth-placed Hurricanes. TJ Perenara will bring up his 150th for the ‘Canes in this one, with Ardie Savea and Jordie Barrett both back after sitting out the defeat at the hands of the Western Force in Round 15. The Brumbies were second in Round 12 but then lost three on the bounce and are heading into the finals out of form. They are, however, much better at home and I think they can win this outright without covering the 3.5 they are laying.