2023 Blues vs Crusaders

Super Rugby Pacific, Round 4: Are The Drua For Real After Crusaders Shock?

Super Rugby Pacific, Round 4: Are The Drua For Real After Crusaders Shock?

The team that has been the talk of the town in Super Rugby Pacific after Round 3 isn’t the defending champion Crusaders – it’s the team that beat them.

Mar 16, 2023 by Briar Napier
Super Rugby Pacific, Round 4: Are The Drua For Real After Crusaders Shock?

The team that has been the talk of the town in Super Rugby Pacific after Round 3 isn’t the defending champion Crusaders – it’s the team that beat them.

An already wild season got even wackier with Fijian Drua’s shock win over the mighty Crusaders (more on how that match transpired down below), throwing the table into a bit of turmoil at the moment. 

While it’s still early in the year, and there are several months of play left to go, alarm bells are ringing in some dressing rooms, while victory bells charm in others.

The rugby continues this weekend with Round 4, as the first month of the Super Rugby season concludes. 

With those in the competition still mostly trying to find their footing, the approaching weeks may provide the first glimpses of who the real contenders and pretenders are across the league.

Note the standings after three weeks and compare them to the final standings down the line – there’s sure to be plenty of shuffling going on and plenty of elite rugby to go along with it.

Here’s a look at the Super Rugby Pacific matches to watch for in Round 4 of the 2023 season,

with most fixtures this year being streamed live on FloRugby.

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

Hurricanes Vs. New South Wales Waratahs

The Hurricanes may have picked up their first blemish of the year in Round 3 when a hard-charging recent semifinalist in the Blues took them down by a 25-19 final score, but all is not lost for the ‘Canes because of it. Far from it, actually. 

A chance to rebound against a Tahs side that has been reeling a bit in their own right, having been upset in their most recent fixture against the Melbourne Rebels, can give a jump start to the Hurricanes’ challenge in staying within the top 4. 

All Black Jordie Barrett has been lights out for the Wellingtonians thus far this year, sitting only behind his brother and former Hurricanes star, Beauden, on points scored to this point in Super Rugby (34, one short of his sibling).

Jordie Barrett has been one of the main pieces of a top-tier Hurricanes attack that has crossed over for 14 tries to start the 2023 campaign. That ranks second in the competition to the Chiefs. 

Nonetheless, New South Wales has proven this year that it can light up the scoreboard, as well, as evidenced by its 46-point outburst in a blowout win over the Fijian Drua in Round 2 – a match in which the Tahs scored six tries, including five in the second half. 

Expect some firepower for both sides in a match that could rush into a shootout with plenty of points throughout. 

Plus, the matchup is just another excuse to view the potential and oozing talent coming out of 18-year-old Tahs starlet winger Max Jorgensen, who made the senior Super Rugby squad for the first time and has taken his opportunity by the horns with three tries in as many games. 

With places up for grabs all around the sputtering Australian national team ahead of the looming Rugby World Cup later this year, don’t expect his energy to wane anytime soon.

Blues Vs. Crusaders

Is it panic time for the Crusaders yet? 

After a shocking 25-24 loss to Fijian Drua over the weekend to drop the four-time defending champions to just six points across three matches this season, it might be. 

Even in front of a raucous crowd supporting the Drua in Fiji, the Crusaders’ collapse against the second-year club (after starting the match with a 12-0 lead and then proceeding to give up 22 unanswered points) was uncharacteristically bad for the squad that’s been the undisputed juggernaut of the Super Rugby scene for the past half-decade plus. 

And who is on the docket next, as the Crusaders stumble around for answers? None other than the team it defeated in last year’s Super Rugby final at the fortress of Eden Park – and a team that’s going to push for a revenge victory. 

The Blues rebounded from a loss to the Brumbies in Round 2 by edging the then-unbeaten Hurricanes last weekend (paced by tries from Patrick Tuipulotu, Caleb Clarke and Hoskins Sotutu).

The Auckland-based club, at 10 points, is trying to remain within arm’s length of the table-topping Chiefs (15 points). 

A win over the Crusaders, meanwhile, wouldn’t just give the Blues belief they can roll with the elites of the league this year, there also would be some sweet satisfaction in getting a win over the Christchurch club and handing it back-to-back losses. 

It’s not as if Scott Robertson’s Crusaders are in peril of missing the playoffs or anything right now (eight teams make it to the postseason in a 12-team league, after all), but a losing record is an unfamiliar position for a team with as much stature as the 11-time Super Rugby champions. 

How they respond against a title rival may give a telling answer to how the rest of the season will go.

Queensland Reds Vs. Fijian Drua

Fiji’s national team has never beaten New Zealand, but the Drua’s win against the All Black-heavy Crusaders over the weekend was the closest the country’s ever been to doing so. 

After being stomped by the Crusaders 61-3 in their debut season a year ago, the Drua put up an upset for the ages in Lautoka, thanks to a legendary game-winning penalty kick in the final minute by debutant fly-half Kemu Valetini and four tries throughout from Iosefo Masi, Joseva Tamani, Eroni Sau and Ilaisa Droasese in a comeback victory on home soil. 

Now, Fiji’s Super Rugby team sits with two wins after three matches (the other came against Pacific Island rival Moana Pasifika in Round 1) and fifth in the standings on eight points, giving the Drua a burst of confidence as a first playoff appearance – if form holds – very reasonably could be in the cards for coach Mick Byrne and his men. 

The Reds should provide an ample test in seeing if the Drua’s high-flying start is here to stay or merely is a flash in the pan. 

Queensland scored 71 points on Western Force in Round 2 and gave the unbeaten Brumbies a scare in Round 3 in a 23-17 loss, a result that did little to ding the Reds’ credibility as one of the more talented Aussie teams in the competition. 

They’ll need to find a way to hinder the Drua’s plucky attack, which includes budding talent and internationally capped hooker Tevita Ikanivere (three tries thus far this season) on top of all the all the momentum gained from stunning Super Rugby’s most successful club, but the Reds – who beat the Drua in their only other meeting nearly a year ago to the day of their upcoming meeting – will hope that, unlike the Crusaders when they found out the hard way this past weekend, that past success is a positive indicator for future victories.