The quarterfinals of Super Rugby Pacific produced the type of finals footy we all wanted to see. The games were far from perfect – the last match of the weekend that saw the Brumbies overcome the Hurricanes was downright ugly at times – but the level of passion and determination on show was something that we don’t always see in an average Super Rugby round.
Here is a look at the two semifinal matches that are coming up this weekend.
Crusaders VS Chiefs – Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch
The Crusaders are 8.5-point favorites against the Chiefs in Christchurch but they will be wary of their New Zealand rivals in this one. The only change to their team from their 37-15 domination of the Reds last time out is that Tom Christie is in the starting XV replacing Ethan Blackadder. Blackadder has been ruled out of the rest of the Super Rugby Pacific season through injury at the worst time possible after dislocating his shoulder one week ago.
The Chiefs also make one change to their starting XV for this repeat of the Super Rugby Aotearoa Final of 2021. While they would love to have fullback Damian MacKenzie available – he is currently plying his trade in Japan – they will instead have the talented Josh Ioane in the No. 15 shirt. This will give the Chiefs plenty of options for playing out the back as Ioane is a capable pivot playing in this role.
The Crusaders should win this as their pack will overpower the Chiefs. I do like the Hamilton-based side to cover though as I think the winning margin will be less than a try.
Blues VS Brumbies – Eden Park, Auckland
The second semifinal sees the Blues enter as a 12.5-point favorite against the Brumbies. The Brumbies are the lone Australian team left in the comp after they used the weather and their tactics of keeping the ball out of their opponents’ hands to take down the Hurricanes one week ago.
The all-conquering Blues have made three changes for this one, showing the strength in depth of their squad. Ofa Tuungafasi and lock James Tucker both drop to the bench, with Nepo Laulala coming in at prop and Josh Goodhue entering in the second row. THeir other changes see Bryce Heem stepping down and AJ Lam coming in on the wing after the former failed to recover from an injury picked up early against the Highlanders in the quarterfinals of this competition.
The Brumbies have made two changes with the return of Rob Valentini being the most important. He will be joined in the run-on side by midfielder Ollie Sapsford, a player that is more of a need than a decision after Len Ikitau was suspended for his high shot last weekend after not being able to beat the judiciary committee.
I don’t know how the Brumbies upset the Blues here. The way they play relies on the kicking game of Nick White and their work around the paddock. I just feel like the Blues have too much talent and style and they will cruise past the 12.5 points BetXchange is giving them here.