The 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season provided the biggest shock in years in Round 3 as the vaunted Crusaders lost by a point to upstart Fijian Drua. The Drua will be looking to back that win up as they face the Reds in Queensland, while the Crusaders travel to the Blues in a repeat of last year’s final.
Here is a look at some of this week’s games with odds from BetXchange.
Hurricanes VS Waratahs – Sky Stadium, Wellington
The fourth-placed Hurricanes host the seventh-placed Waratahs in Wellington in the first Super Rugby Pacific match of the weekend. The ‘Canes are on 10 points and will be looking to recover after losing their first match of the season against the Blues in Auckland last time out. The ‘Tahs also lost last weekend, going down in Melbourne against a Rebels side that was winless going into the contest.
The ‘Canes will welcome back Ardie Savea after his one-game suspension for an inappropriate gesture was served against the Blues. His return at No. 8 is one of three changes to the starting XV, with Asafo Amumua coming in to hook and Dane Coles looking to pick up the pace from the bench.
The ‘Tahs will be starting Ben Donaldson at No. 10, but their most interesting change comes at fullback. Max Jorgensen – a player of who much is expected – comes back into the run-on side, and he will look to provide a spark against one of the best teams in the comp.
I don’t expect it to be nearly enough and fancy the Hurricanes to hold serve. However, I think the ‘Tahs keep it close enough to cover.
Blues VS Crusaders – Eden Park, Auckland
It might not yet be at crisis levels in Christchurch, but it is getting close. The Crusaders sit eighth on the log, where they have no recent experience heading into Round 4. Their defeat at the hands of the Drua was stunning, and now they have to try to knock off the Blues on their own patch to try to kickstart their season.
The Blues recovered from their own slip when they lost to the Brumbies in Round 2 with an impressive win on the road against the ‘Canes last weekend. They are in third place on the log and would love nothing better than to plunge the Crusaders deeper into the mire.
The teams will start a stunning 20 All Blacks between them, with these two squads being the backbone of the New Zealand squad. They don’t like each other, which should lead to a big and intense encounter, given what is on the line even this early in the season. Beauden Barrett against Richie Mo’unga at first-five is always entertaining, and I like Beaudy and the Blues to beat the Crusaders by a try.
Reds VS Drua – Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
The bookies don’t think that the Drua can back up and win their third of the season after taking down the Crusaders. They travel to face the Reds in Queensland, a Reds squad that has a couple of defeats already this year, including last week against the Brumbies
The Reds do have a monster win – they battered for force 71-20 in Perth – but I like the momentum of the Drua to push them into a cover here.