We still have a pair of unbeaten teams as we head into Round 5 of the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season. Can the Chiefs and Brumbies keep their runs going, or will they be pegged back by the chasing pack this weekend?
Here is a look at some of this week’s games with odds from BetXchange.
Crusaders VS Brumbies – Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch
The New Zealand teams – and the Crusaders in particular – are so highly thought of (especially at home) that they are 1/12 favorites against the Brumbies even though they have lost two games in 2023, and the ACT side is undefeated.
Part of this is because the Crusaders got back on the horse last weekend in Auckland when they beat the Blues 34-28 in a battle between last year’s two finalists. The other is that the Brumbies haven’t been blasting other teams off of the park, winning their first three games by less than a converted try before smashing Moana Pasifika last time out.
One massive change sees the inspirational Sam Whitelock out of the side, with Zach Gallagher getting his first start of the season at lock in his stead. The Crusaders will be looking for No. 10 Richie Mo’unga to continue the form he showed against the Blues.
The Brumbies haven’t won at this venue since 2000 and have lost 11 straight, regardless of location, against the Crusaders. They are also sending a team shorn of top talent across the Tasman, with the likes of James Slipper, Nic White, and Rob Valentini being rested for Wallabies reasons. I can’t back the Brumbies to win, but their toughness could force a cover of that massive spread.
Highlanders VS Fijian Drua – Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
The Highlanders picked up their first win of the season last time out and got off the bottom of the log in the process as they beat the Western Force 43-35 in Invercargill. It was an impressive attacking display, but the Highlanders’ defense is still a massive worry as they have a league-worst -90 point differential after four rounds.
The Drua sit seventh in the table with two wins and two defeats after running the Reds close in a 27-24 reverse in Brisbane in their last match. Their unique style and incredible physicality make the Drua a nightmare for the more well-established side in the comp this season.
The ‘Landers get back their starting second rowers with Pari Pai Parkinson and Josh Dickson back in the starting XV. Their size will be crucial against the Fijians. The Highlanders won this one 27-24 away from home last season, and I expect it to be close again. A Drua win wouldn’t shock me at all, and I like them to cover the 9.5.
Rebels VS Reds – AAMI Park, Melbourne
From a betting perspective, this is the tightest game of the week as the 10th-placed Rebels host the sixth-placed Reds in Melbourne. As mentioned above, the Reds snuck past the Drua at the weekend, but the Rebels come into this on the back of a 44-25 defeat at the hands of the competition-leading Chiefs.
The Reds have loaded up here with Hunter Paisami and Jordan Petaia both returning to their backline. The forward pack is unchanged for the fourth week running, with the coaching staff pleased with their cohesiveness. I think the Reds win and cover comfortably here.