2023 Queensland Reds vs Crusaders

Super Rugby Pacific Fixtures Of The Week: Hot Hurricanes Making Their Push

Super Rugby Pacific Fixtures Of The Week: Hot Hurricanes Making Their Push

It’s the final round before bye weeks in the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific campaign, meaning that before teams can recharge and reflect, there's business ahead.

Mar 29, 2023 by Briar Napier
Super Rugby Pacific Fixtures Of The Week: Hot Hurricanes Making Their Push

It’s the final round before bye weeks begin in the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific campaign, meaning that before there’s a chance to recharge and reflect, there first is a mission to remain focused on the week ahead.

Some clubs need to pay particular attention to their upcoming fixtures.

After all, 10 of the 12 clubs in Super Rugby this season have won multiple matches, giving the league an “anyone can beat anyone” sort of ring to it that’s proven true with several epic upsets and teams all around the standings both under and overperforming.

Yes, over half of Super Rugby’s teams (eight) get into the postseason, but unless a first-round exit is what a squad aspires for, there’s little time for losing focus and not maximizing point grabs and opportunities for key results.

While some clubs can’t, or won’t, do that, others will.

Here’s a look at the Super Rugby Pacific matches to watch for during Round 6 of the 2023 season, with numerous fixtures throughout the year being streamed live on FloRugby.

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

Queensland Reds Vs. Crusaders

After a shaky start to the season, the Crusaders, in their 35-17 triumph over the previously unbeaten Brumbies in Round 5, looked much more like the dominant, juggernaut of old times. 

The Aussies admittedly were a bit battered and bruised, with seven players inactive for the match, due to both injuries and rest, but it didn’t mean the Crusaders were going to show much mercy. The New Zealanders led wire-to-wire in the contest and pretty much cruised. 

Star Crusader and All Blacks winger Leicester Fainga’anuku made it five tries in two matches by going over twice against the Brumbies (after scoring three times in a win over the Blues in the previous week). 

The Crusaders romp was part of a dominant Round 5 for Kiwi clubs, which went 5-0 against non-New Zealand opposition.

In Round 6, with the Crusaders slowly climbing back up the table after losses to the Chiefs and Fijian Drua earlier in the year, the club will be attempting to create a streak of wins against non-Kiwi foes by pushing for a victory against the Reds. 

Queensland dropped a 40-34 decision to the Melbourne Rebels, squandering a 14-0 lead. The Reds have been plagued with inconsistency to start 2023, failing to win (or lose) back-to-back matches. 

As of late, though, Reds center Josh Flook and winger Jordan Petaia (12 combined tries) are playing about as dangerous as an attacking duo can, giving Queensland a fighting chance to take it to the Crusaders and keep up with lethal offense of the four-time defending champions. 

But, with a questionable defense (154 points, 20 points allowed), the Reds may be in trouble against a Crusaders lineup that’s beginning to find its form, scoring a combined 69 points in its past two wins against fellow top-tier sides, the Blues and Brumbies. 

Fijian Drua Vs. Melbourne Rebels

Following their historic upset over the Crusaders in Round 3, the Drua haven’t quite been able to get over the comedown yet. 

A narrow defeat to the Reds in the following round was followed by a 57-24 thumping by the Highlanders this past weekend, being hit for nine tries by an injury-struck side, as Fiji’s Super Rugby squad fell out of the eight playoff places. 

There still is plenty of rugby left to be played in the season, of course, but for a second-year club trying to break through in one of the most hyper-competitive leagues in the world, every point matters. 

A rebound game against the Rebels would be a welcome sight for coach Mick Byrne and his men, though a leaky back line that has allowed the second-most tries in the competition (28) must be straightened out, if the Drua want to stick around in the postseason conversation. 

It’ll be tested yet again against a Melbourne unit that hasn’t scored less than 25 points in any match this season and had the aforementioned impressive victory over the Reds to make it two wins in three games. 

The Drua are going to have an important advantage in their favor, however – the match is going to be played at the HFC Bank Stadium in Suva, Fiji’s largest city and capital, which should make for an electric home atmosphere that can give the Fijians a critical boost. 

After all, that shock victory over the Crusaders came in front of the Drua’s fellow countrymen at Churchill Park in Lautoka, so if the Rebels are looking to escape the South Pacific with a win, they’ll almost certainly need to do it in front of a raucous crowd that’s going to be jeering them and trying to influence the match with every move.

Hurricanes Vs. Western Force

The last time that Moana Pasifika played the Hurricanes (last year), there was cheering and jubilation after the then first-year club, featuring players from Pacific island nations, defeated the Wellington-based side in a famous 24-19 victory. It was Moana Pasifika’s first Super Rugby victory. 

In their recent rematch, there was (emphatically) no such joy on the pitch for Pasifika. 

The Hurricanes romped to a 59-0 win to shoot up to second place in the Super Rugby table at 4-1 and with the best point differential (plus-110) of the entire competition, looking much improved from the side that wallowed around the mid-to-lower parts of the playoff places in last year’s standings for much of the season. 

No squad has scored more tries (28) and only one, the league-leading Chiefs, has allowed as few tries (12) as the Hurricanes, who are swirling their way around the title race with lethal efficiency and an organized defense. 

So, what do the Western Force, who on paper, look to be set up for a drubbing being in 10th place, bring to the table in Round 6? 

A better chance at being competitive than you might think. 

It took nearly a half-hour for the last year’s finalists, the Blues, to break through the Force and go over for a try, even at the fortress that is Auckland’s Eden Park, and coach Simon Cron’s squad refused to lay down, even while facing an 18-0 hole – they tried to make things interesting with a consolation flurry of points in response against a powerful Blues side. 

What hurts the Force most, though, might be their continued struggles against New Zealand clubs and inability to get over the hump against them, having gone 0-7 against teams from the country since returning to Super Rugby in 2021, which followed a four-year removal from the league. 

The Hurricanes will be trying to make sure that that stretch extends to 0-8.