Before the 14th round of the inaugural Super Rugby Pacific competition, we bring you Super Charged, our preview of what you can expect this weekend.
Games to watch
Brumbies vs Blues
This weekend, a thrilling battle for the top spot between the other Brumbies and the uncontrollable Super Rugby Pacific leaders, the Blues, awaits.
The Brumbies are Australia’s best-placed team, having enjoyed a very positive season and leading the attack in an effort to close the gap in New Zealand. However, their title hit last time when they lost 37:26 to the Crusaders, who now have the same number of points as the Canberry men.
At this stage, the Brumbies are likely to secure a home playoffs where their inability to fight the biggest teams is at stake. By this time, the Crusaders were gaining strength again. Nevertheless, if the Brumbies want to consider themselves title contenders, there must be sharp decisions at key moments and game management must be perfect.
For Canberry, this is a great opportunity to prove against the Blues that they have learned and gained experience against larger teams, because they will have to be perfect in the playoffs, otherwise they will face elimination.
The Brumbies are a well-established rugby party that gives outside defenders such as Tom Wright a chance to be in space and use defensive lines. The young half-flying Noah Lolesio has a great responsibility against Blues superstar Beauden Barrett, who needs no further introduction.
Indeed, the Blues sparkle. Barrett was his best lightning bolt and plays with the vigor of a player who is around 20 years old. Stephen Perofet’s useful back, meanwhile, is certainly the All Black Bolter, comfortable with half and extreme defenders, while sharing the responsibilities of creating a game with Barrett, which is to the benefit of the wings of Mark Telea and Caleb Clarke.
Captain Dalton Papalia must be responsible for this, who is great with a sleeve tape and his attack package works as a collective unit.
This blues side has a viscous potential with its fast, high-octane rugby full of creativity and taste. It is an absolute pleasure to look at them and certainly a team that can be defeated. It will be difficult for the Brumbies on Saturday.
– Stan Sport Rugby (@StanSportRugby) May 14, 2022
Highlanders vs. Waratahs
The Highlanders appear to have started after a difficult start to the season and are in eighth place in the table after two strong wins against the Reds and the Western Force.
Shifting Sam Gilbert from the wing to the half of the flight proved to be a master move, as this 23-year-old rider took a step. However, Gilbert benefits from the highest service of Captain Aaron Smith, who is beginning to prove his worth as a leading skill.
The replacement scrum Folau Fakatava was a revelation from the bench, it brought speed from the ground late in the match and it looks like a real prospect for the future.
The forward pack also found some coherence in the set-up time of the match, which paid off. This is crucial because the platform set by the attackers is crucial to the quality and time spent on the ball for the players in the back line.
Meanwhile, the Waratahs looked sharp this season, and although they narrowly lost to the Hurricanes last weekend, the New South Wales party had the New Zealanders on the ropes in the scrum in the first half before the Hurricanes swapped the front row.
The forward package will have to re-produce this performance to cover the Highlanders side. The return of veteran and talisman Michael Hooper is a monstrous boost. Hooper’s consistent performances at all levels make him one of the best who has ever worn a Wallaby jersey.
Alex Newsome is moving to the center this week and is once again showing off his versatility across the back line, having already played wings and outboard defender this season.
It won’t be easy for Smith’s Highlanders, but their turnaround and confidence builds are a danger to the Waratahs. Expect the classic Trans-Tasman derby.
Player to watch – Leicester Fainga’anuku (Crusaders)
Crusaders wing Fainga’anuku is the top Super Rugby Pacific scorer with nine scores after a quick hat-trick against Western Force in the 12th round.
The Tongan-born express seems to have a complete set of skills; a sharp turn in pace, excellent maneuverability and an instinct for endings that cannot be learned.
At just 22, Fainga’anuku looks like a bright future. Whether completing a well-executed team move or leaving a defender on its heels, the flyer is poisonous and can be relied upon to produce goods.
The scary thought is that teammate George Bridge is probably the first choice for coach Scott Robertson on the left, which underscores the absolute depth of the team. The frantic nature of the schedule this season due to Covid’s downtime has forced the coaches to step deep into their team.
Fainga’anuku’s form is a benefit of the spin, and only time will tell to what extent Tongan will contribute to the playoffs.
Expect the young star to light up again, and he will no doubt be a threat to the attempts as he tries to expand his lead at the top of the attempts ranking.
Air Leicester! ✈️✈️
Fainga’anuku has a hat-trick in the first half – but this one was the best of all! 🤩
– Stan Sport Rugby (@StanSportRugby) May 7, 2022
One-on-One Duel to Watch – Tom Wright (Brumbies) vs. Caleb Clarke (Blues)
A big battle awaits on the wing when the two best teams of the competition compete on the weekend.
Brumbies wing Wright is second in the ranking with eight attempts. For the Canberrans, he was electric, showing his amazing running and solid ball skills. Last weekend, the Australian Crusaders turned Richie Mo’ung upside down on a clean break and scored.
There is no doubt that the fastman will want to get on the scoreboard to catch up with Fainga’anuk. However, the robust figure of Clark stands in his way. Wing Blues is extremely strong and fast off the mark with a desire to overcome lime.
Clark’s form in the initial stages of the season did not meet his high standards, but the wing found its groove in the beautifully functioning back line of the Blues. The attributes of a 23-year-old player have the potential to be groundbreaking if used in the right space and at the right stage of the game.
The Blues flyer may have physical characteristics like Wright’s, but the line requires a complete set of skills to excel.
Expect a battle of lightning that hits the wide channels, both of them want to stay defensive on the ground and at the same time they are always ready to sniff out any half chance.
Sub-drawing to watch – The Cultural Round celebrates the cultural diversity of the competition
Sport is one of the basic components of culture and cultural identity. It is a celebration of talent through competitive optics, which attracts people to forget about everyday problems and worries and simply live in the present moment.
The Pacific Islands are very patriotic and respectful. For many years, these islands have produced dozens of world-class players, but few have shown their highest talent in the colors of their home nations.
Of course, all this is changing. The change in the World Rugby Eligibility Act allows players who have played less than 100 tests and been three years apart from Test Rugby to represent another country.
Imagine Tonga with Israel Folau, Malakai Fekito, Ngani Laumap and Charles Piutau rebelling at the Rugby World Cup in 2023. It’s definitely a tempting prospect.
Super Rugby Pacific adding Moan Pasifik and Fijian Dru to the fold was another monumental step forward for Pacific rugby.
With these teams comes the cultural richness, passion and willingness of these players to give their bodies to each other. These players go to war together; that is their bond, that is their goal.
Last week’s war dances before the Pacific derby between Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua were another cultural show. Respectfully put up a challenge and then go fight for 80.
Then the teams knelt together in prayer. It was a moment and it is necessary to admit the competition for the valuable assignments of these teams.
This is special 🙌
– Stan Sport Rugby (@StanSportRugby) May 14, 2022
The Cultural Round is a celebration not only of new teams and Pacific heritage, but also of the original heritage in Australia and New Zealand.
A fantastic initiative of the most culturally rich competition in the rugby world.
READ MORE: Michael Hooper is one of several key players to return to the Australian side