Another six matches will be contested in Round 4 of Super Rugby Pacific.
The ladder is beginning to take a familiar shape with the Crusaders holding top spot, but several clubs remain hot on their heels, including both the Reds and the Brumbies.
I’ve previewed all six matches and you can find my complete Super Rugby Pacific Round 4 Tips below.
As it typically does, the round begins across the ditch on Friday afternoon, and intriguing battle between the Blues and the Highlanders looms.
The Blues recorded a tight win over the Chiefs in Round 3, having only just missed in their campaign opener away to the Hurricanes. League convert Roger Tuivasa-Sheck looks right at home in the Blues’ backline, and selection in the All Blacks at some point in the near future is certainly on the cards.
The Highlanders suffered defeat to the Hurricanes in Round 3 and they remain winless; anchored to the bottom of the table alongside the Rebels and Moana Pasifika.
I am confident that the Highlanders will return another spirited performance, but the Blues should just prove too strong in Auckland.
Things won’t get any easier for the winless Rebels when the Brumbies arrive in Melbourne on Friday night.
It has been a torrid start to the season for the Rebels, and they have struggled in each of their three matches so far, hardly firing a shot and ultimately entering Round 4 with a -48 points differential.
The Brumbies meanwhile are yet to drop a match, and sit second on the ladder following their tough win over the Waratahs in Canberra last week.
This is another open and shut case, and I am confident that the Brumbies will win easily.
The Hurricanes welcome Moana Pasifika to Wellington on Saturday, and they have opened understandably clear favourites in betting.
I didn’t give the Pacific Islands team nearly enough credit ahead of their first ever competitive match with the Crusaders last week. They proved better than the long line suggested, though they were still given a bit of a touch up.
There isn’t a lot to say about the ‘Canes ahead of this clash, other than they too will likely win easily.
The line of 23.5 points looks a lot more achievable for the favourite this week.
The Crusaders will start clear favourites at home to the Chiefs on Saturday.
Like clockwork, it has been a nearly faultless start to the season for the Crusaders, and they have claimed sole occupancy of top spot on the ladder, having recorded three wins and a gained a bonus point.
The Chiefs have had just two matches since their campaign began; a win and a loss seeing them into eighth. They were only just denied by the Blues in Round 3, and any improvement on that performance would see them competitive for eighty minutes this week as week.
The Reds can keep alive their unbeaten record at the expense of the Fijian Drua in Brisbane on Saturday night.
They were classy throughout the 2021 Super Rugby Australia competition and were rewarded with a premiership, and the Reds have picked where they left off. They have overcome so tough sides already, and this is another very winnable match.
The Fijian Drua are winners! In just their third professional match, the Drua proved too strong for the Rebels, and there simply is no understating the excitement, energy and confidence that performance and result will have brought.
Regardless, this is a big step up in class for them, and the Reds will be winning.
Betting suggests that one of the better matches of the week will materialise between the Waratahs and Force in Syndey on Sunday.
Both clubs have shown plenty of promise during the first three weeks of the season, and are each unlucky not to have won more than once. That adds a little more fire to this clash, which I would be giving to the Force, had it been played in the nation’s west.
At home, nearing peak fitness and following some well-fought and close matches with strong opposition, I’m happy to stick with the Tahs.