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Making its return, we bring you Super charged, in which we preview the main talking points ahead of the next round of Super Rugby Pacific action.
Games to watch
These teams have enjoyed identical records having both won five of their eight games in positive starts to the tournament. However, the reality is very different, with both sides only having played their local counterparts, including newcomers Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua, respectively.
The Chiefs’ pack has improved and is functioning well, benefitting from an extended run from captain Sam Cane. Their forwards may offer greater mobility and athleticism than the Waratahs, but the battle up front still needs to be won, with young Waratahs prop Angus Bell hitting his straps recently.
It will be interesting to see how quickly the Chiefs adjust to a positional shift for Quinn Tupaea, who starts on the wing, as he has been a solid component of their midfield structure throughout. Fly-half Bryn Gatland will also be looking to continue his good form following fine showings over the last fortnight.
Meanwhile, the Waratahs have grown in confidence with each game, and the full return of talisman Michael Hooper is a tremendous boost as the rugby world is very aware of the supreme qualities he can add to a side. Fly-half Tane Edmed looked promising last time out against the Force and maintains his partnership with captain Jake Gordon, while Alex Newsome moves to the wing after scoring a brace of tries last weekend.
The table is going to change radically over the next couple of rounds. These two teams are supposedly operating on similar levels, but this weekend’s clash will offer a more accurate indication of where they are at.
Highlanders v Brumbies
New Zealand’s bottom-placed side face the leading Australian one in the Super Round in what will be a perfect gauge of where the Australian teams measure up to their trans-Tasman rivals.
The Highlanders have only won one of their eight games in the competition thus far but are by no means a weak side, with five of their losses being within seven points. The Dunedin-based team also has a number of All Blacks in their ranks and will be looking to turn their season around.
The Brumbies have enjoyed a glittering start to their season, just losing one game and are subsequently sitting near the top of the table. However, the men from Canberra have only played against their fellow Australians. The big test will come against the faster-paced New Zealand style, looking to protect its dominant record against Australian sides in recent years.
Highlander Marty Banks faces up to the Brumbies’ Noah Lolesio in the battle of the pivots, which will be crucial in terms of tactical kicking and, particularly for Lolesio, controlling the game’s pace.
A sumptuous battle up front will be vital in determining who offers the better platform for the fly-halves, with the respective packs able to call upon All Blacks and Wallabies in their ranks.
Player to watch – Jack Goodhue (Crusaders)
After a lengthy 12-month spell on the sidelines due to a knee injury, the All Blacks centre will make his long-awaited return when the Crusaders take on the Melbourne Rebels on Sunday.
Goodhue makes his comeback after undergoing surgery and a lengthy rehab after damaging ligaments in his left knee while attempting to tackle an opponent in a Super Rugby Aotearoa clash against the Hurricanes last year.
It wasn’t the first time that he’s had major knee surgery as he also damaged the ligaments in his right knee in 2015. When on song Goodhue is one of the world’s best players in his position and he will be determined to hit the ground running against a Rebels side who have shown signs of improvement in recent weeks, after a slow start to the competition.
The 26-year-old is capable of playing at inside and outside centre and will make his return in the number 12 jersey. After fellow New Zealand centre Anton Lienert-Brown was recently ruled out of the upcoming international season with a serious shoulder injury, All Blacks fans will be hoping that Goodhue returns to his best form soon for the Crusaders in order to make a successful return to the Test arena later this year.
One-v-one battle to watch – Ardie Savea (Hurricanes) v Harry Wilson (Reds)
The Super Round offers an intriguing battle between two tremendously hard-working players who seem to cover every blade of grass on the pitch and are constantly looking to impact the game.
Savea has grown tremendously since being handed the captain’s armband in 2021, and leadership responsibilities seem to bring out the best of his tireless running and robust nature.
Nothing has changed this season as the All Black has been a huge presence on the field, with his complete skill-set and frightening turn of pace adding to his massive frame.
Savea is class. He is a game-breaker and has long been a core member of the Hurricanes squad. The number eight will be looking to physically impose himself on the game and will undoubtedly be a try threat to the Super Rugby AU champions. Expect the loose forward to run himself into the ground for his side.
The Reds’ Wilson has been sublime thus far in 2022 and looks to be a player who is absolutely loving the game at the moment. Wilson easily tops the carry charts with 119 carries, with the next best lower than 100. His work rate and tireless nature are a cornerstone of the Reds pack’s success against fellow Australian sides. His partnership, particularly with Fraser McReight, has been a joy to watch.
Expect more of the same from Wilson, who will run himself ragged for the cause.
Subplot to watch – Australian teams facing New Zealand counterparts
After showing some good form in their local derbies, Australia’s Super Rugby Pacific teams face the acid test when they welcome their trans-Tasman rivals to their country this weekend.
10 of the tournament’s 12 teams will be in action in the Super Round in Melbourne with matches set to be played on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. All 12 teams were initially scheduled to face off in Melbourne this weekend but Moana Pasifikia’s clash with the Western Force was postponed due to a Covid-19 outbreak in the Force camp.
That is a real pity as the Force would’ve fancied their chances in that fixture as the Auckland-based Moana Pasifika outfit have found the going tough in Super Rugby Pacific. They are currently languishing at the bottom of the standings with just one victory registered from eight matches played.
Judging from last year’s Super Rugby Trans Tasman matches, Australian sides face an uphill task against their counterparts from the land of the long white cloud. That competition was dominated by New Zealand teams with Kiwi sides winning 23 out of the 25 matches played against Australian opposition and the final was contested between eventual winners the Blues and Highlanders.
A similar scenario will not augur well for Super Rugby Pacific’s future as it is important that teams from both countries are competitive and it all starts this weekend when Australian sides will have to deliver improved performances against their Kiwi visitors.
READ MORE: Super Rugby Pacific: Beauden Barrett to captain the Blues against the Fijian Drua
The article Super charged: Big games, Jack Goodhue’s return and back-row battle appeared first on Planetrugby.com.