It’s semi-finals time in Super Rugby Pacific, and what a weekend of rugby we have coming up.
Crusaders vs Chiefs in Christchurch on Friday night, followed by Blues vs Brumbies at Eden Park 24 hours later. It doesn’t get much better than this!
Last weekend’s quarter-finals were a clean sweep for the home sides. As sad as it is to see the last of the Reds, Waratahs, Hurricanes and in Super Rugby Pacific 2022, there’s no denying that the best four teams have made it through to this penultimate round of the competition.
Let’s take a look at how each of these matches are shaping up, and our predictions for who will be back next week.
Crusaders vs Chiefs
This match-up is quickly becoming one of the fiercest rivalries in Super Rugby Pacific.
The two teams have met twice in 2022, sharing the honors with a win each. Interestingly, both victories have gone to the away teams each time—24-21 to the Chiefs in Christchurch, and 34-19 to the Crusaders a few weeks later in Hamilton. This is a trend the Chiefs will be looking to keep alive as they make the trip across Cook Strait to take on the Crusaders at home.
One big obstacle stands in the Chief’s way: The Crusaders’ finals record. Over the past 27 years, the Crusaders have played 26 home final matches, and won all 26. That’s a formidable streak, which when combined with the fact that the Crusaders have won a record 12 Super Rugby titles, makes the Chiefs significant underdogs going into this one. Although the Chiefs have beaten the Crusaders twice in finals rugby, they have only won 2/11 of away finals they’ve played in their history.
Both sides have been in great form, with the Crusaders boasting the competition’s three top try scorers—Will Jordan (10), Leicester Fainga’anuku (10) and Sevu Reece (9). The Chiefs have plenty of game-breakers themselves, thriving on broken play, off-loads, and high-tempo rugby. Watch for the battle upfront though—of the 21 All Blacks featuring in this match, four of them are starting at lock, so this one should be a good physical contest.
Statistically and historically, this is the Crusaders’ match to lose, something that we just can’t see them doing.
Crusaders by 7.
Blues vs Brumbies
You have to rewind the clock 18 years to come across the last time one of these two teams lifted a Super Rugby title.
Both the Blues and the Brumbies will hope that’s no longer the case in ten days’ time.
While Crusaders vs Chiefs has the potential to be a free-flowing, high-scoring affair, don’t be surprised if this match is quite the opposite. Blues vs Brumbies in a semi-final is about as close to a Test match as we’re going to get in Super Rugby Pacific, and there’s every chance this will be a tight, nail-biting game of rugby.
Last time they met, it was exactly that, with the Blues coming away victors 21-19 courtesy of an 81st-minute drop-goal. The Blues have won 5/6 of the last meetings, and both of their finals clashes—albeit, these were a while ago. In terms of form, both sides overcame wobbles last week—the Blues taking 25 minutes to get on top of eighth-placed Highlanders, and the Brumbies comeback from a ten-point second-half deficit against the Hurricanes.
Few are giving the Brumbies a chance in this one, but expect it to be closer than the bookies are making it out to be. With rain forecast, the Brumbies will kick all day and maul from lineouts—they’ve scored nine tries off the back of mauls this year, five more than the Blues. Chances are the Blues will have a little too much class, particularly with Beauden Barrett in hot form, but a big Wallabies front row and little expectation on their shoulders make the Brumbies a dangerous adversary for the competition leaders.
Blues by 4 in a classic.