We have reached Round 9 of the fifteen-round Super Rugby Pacific season for 2023. The top eight (of 12 teams) make the playoffs, so the battle for those spots is heating up. There are important matches at the top of the log, too, with the higher seed getting to host matches throughout the finals.
It is worth noting that this is the last week of the season with byes involved, so there are no matches for the Hurricanes, Brumbies, Moana Pasifika, and Reds.
Here is a look at the key games this week with odds from BetXchange.
Chiefs VS Fijian Drua – FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton
When: Friday, April 21
This is the Chiefs’ chance to put pressure on the chasing pack. They are currently level on points with the Brumbies at the top of the log with 31 points each, but the Brumbies have played a game more. A bonus point win here would give the Chiefs a five-point cushion at the top, and it would begin to look more and more like the finals will be heading through Hamilton.
The Drua have playoff dreams of their own. They are currently sitting in the final playoff spot, and reaching the finals would be an incredible achievement in their second year of Super Rugby. They finished 11th last year and were miles off the pace, but their improvement into 2023 has been swift and a wonderful story.
This is a free hit for the Drua. There are no expectations on them, and even sneaking a bonus point would be considered a win within the camp. The Chiefs roll, but the Drua have enough about them to cover the spread.
Rebels VS Crusaders – AAMI Park, Melbourne
When: Friday, April 21
The Crusaders may be fourth on the log and eight points behind the Chiefs, but anyone counting them out simply hasn’t watched enough Super Rugby over the years. They had a rough start to the season, but they have won four on the bounce and are looking more like their usual machine. This will only continue to be the case as they keep getting players back from injuries.
The Rebels shouldn’t be counted out o playoff contention, but they need to start winning in a hurry. There are in tenth with 10 points, three adrift of the Drua in the final playoff spot. They need to start picking up points quickly, but that isn’t happening here. The Crusaders win this one by 20+.
Blues VS Waratahs – Eden Park, Auckland
When: Saturday, April 22
Last season’s ladder winners have had a weird season in 2023. They are still bang in contention with 21 points and in the fifth spot, but they haven’t won two games in a row all year. Their defeats to the Brumbies, Crusaders, and Chiefs have come by a combined 19 points, so this squad is still as dangerous as they come and one no one will want to face in first-round finals play.
The ‘Tahs have been disappointing in 2023. It is a squad that doesn’t seem to have the right balance of top-end talent and youth to compete with the big boys, and as a result, they are in ninth and tied with the Drua on 13 points. Traveling to Auckland is always tough, and this is another team that would be content with a bonus point in defeat in Round 9.
Based on their win-loss-win-loss-win-loss-win record in 2023, it would seem like the Blues are due to lose on Saturday. Realistically, that is unlikely, and I like them to roll over the ‘Tahs and cover the 20.5