2023 Blues vs Brumbies Rugby

Super Rugby Pacific Fixtures Of The Week: Can Crusaders Recover From Loss?

Super Rugby Pacific Fixtures Of The Week: Can Crusaders Recover From Loss?

It’s Super Round time in Super Rugby Pacific, and what a time for it to arrive, too.

Mar 1, 2023 by Briar Napier
Super Rugby Pacific Fixtures Of The Week: Can Crusaders Recover From Loss?

It’s Super Round time in Super Rugby Pacific, and what a time for it to arrive, too.

Immediately after a high-energy start to the 2023 campaign, in which the defending champions were walloped on their own pitch, Round 2 brings the annual Super Round, where all of the fixtures of the matchweek will be contested over three days at the AAMI Park in Melbourne.

It’s still early in the season, but a raucous environment in front of up to nearly 30,000 spectators at the home of the Melbourne Rebels could give certain teams a spark – or make others crumble under the pressure and further exacerbate issues within their clubs.

Either way, expect chaos all around.

Here’s a look at the Super Rugby Pacific matches to watch for Round 2 of the 2023 season, with fixtures being streamed live throughout the year on FloRugby.

NOTE: All fixtures are listed in Eastern Time and are subject to change.

Crusaders Vs. Highlanders, Friday at 2 a.m.

Well, well, well. 

The Crusaders, the four-time defending Super Rugby champions who were widely considered in preseason to be the favorites for a fifth straight crown, opened their title defense in the worst of ways. 

The Chiefs stunningly stomped the Christchurch-based club 31-10 on their home ground at the Orangetheory Stadium in the season’s first fixture, scoring all of their points in unanswered fashion, as a blistering second half gave the visitors an electric win and left the champs wondering what in the world went wrong. 

Now, dared to respond, the Crusaders have to find the elite form they can be capable of amid an early-year road trip, as they won’t return to Christchurch until Round 5. 

That journey starts in the Super Round against the Highlanders, who fortunately for coach Scott Robertson’s side might be in worse shape than his own unit after Round 1.

The Blues gave out a 60-20 beatdown on the Highlanders in their meeting to open the season, with last year’s finalists racing past the Dunedin-based squad for seven tries. 

With the Highlanders now up against the winning finalist from a year ago, and likely miffed from a poor start, first-year coach Clarke Dermody and crew could be in for a world of hurt against the most powerful Super Rugby team of the past half-decade – or there’s another step backward for the juggernauts, and the Crusaders’ issues are perhaps running deeper than previously thought.

Moana Pasifika Vs. Chiefs

On the other end of the spectrum from Super Rugby’s shocking 2023 opener is the Chiefs, whose second half of play against the Crusaders was phenomenal in hostile territory.

The effort featured a crowd of proven and reliable players, such as Alex Nankivell, Sam Cane and Brodie Retallick, all of whom scored tries – blitzing past the hosts to the tune of 24 points in the final 40 minutes of play. 

It was an epic, bonus point-tallying display that is sure to give the Hamiltonians a boost of confidence headed into Round 2, where they face a bit of a wild card in Melbourne that’s trying to get back on the right foot, Moana Pasifika. 

Super Rugby’s club representing the Pacific islands, Pasifika started out its second season in the league by losing a 36-34 thriller to fellow islanders (and rival) Fijian Drua, who lost a game-long lead in the final five minutes, despite getting a pair of tries from prop Abraham Pole. 

Round 2 should make for a decent barometer for where the Super Rugby sides from the islands stand, as they play longstanding clubs on a neutral ground. If Moana Pasifika can threaten to, or outright complete, an upset of the Chiefs for just their third victory in 16 Super Rugby matches, then maybe there’s a lot of hijinks on the horizon. 

But, if the Chiefs play at a level similar to what they reached in the second half against the Crusaders, they should be able to cruise and get to a crucial 2-0 to start the 2023 season.

Blues Vs. Brumbies

The Blues and Brumbies had grueling wars in the 2022 season, and with their only regular-season meeting of 2023 quickly approaching, the duo will look to pick up right where they left off. 

An extra-time drop goal from superstar Blues fly-half Beauden Barrett let the Aucklanders escape Canberra with a 21-19 squeaker in Round 14 of last year, but – when considering the stakes – their rematch in last season’s playoff semifinal arguably was even better. 

The Blues’ 20-19 victory over Australia’s reigning top club at Eden Park to book their trip to the final was an all-time classic. 

The game ended with a last-gasp drop goal attempt from the Brumbies being blocked by the Blues in the final minute, a play that was vital in clinching the Blues their first appearance in a final since 2003, before they lost the title to the Crusaders. 

Both teams won their matchups in Round 1, with the Blues conducting an aforementioned rout of the Highlanders, while the Brumbies got past the New South Wales Waratahs on the road, spoiling the Tahs’ return to play at the Allianz Stadium in Sydney for the first time in five years.

No. 9 Ryan Lonergan had a try, conversion kick and three penalties, before being subbed off after halftime, to showcase himself as a standout name to watch for the weeks ahead, but the Blues, who officially lead the Super Rugby Pacific table after the first matchweek, are not a group that allows teams to breathe and get into a rhythm very often – at least from their form over the past couple of seasons.