2022 Moana Pasifika vs Western Force

Super Rugby Pacific Preview: How Will The Playoff Field Shape Up?

Super Rugby Pacific Preview: How Will The Playoff Field Shape Up?

There's a lot to look out for in the Super Rugby world this weekend, including can't-miss storylines, as the final matches of the regular season approach.

May 23, 2022 by Briar Napier
Super Rugby Pacific Preview: How Will The Playoff Field Shape Up?

For nearly four full months, some of the world's best in club rugby have been battering each other all up, down and around the Pacific.

With the conclusion of Round 15 this weekend in the Super Rugby Pacific season, a chapter in the competition's book this year will close. But a more high-stakes version with a tantalizing ending - sure to be memorable for some, tragic for others - will step forward in its place.

Some teams in Super Rugby this year have earned the right to rest this week in the final matches of the regular season. Others still have some fighting to do. Regardless, the drama across the league has only just begun.

What's there to look out for in the Super Rugby scene this weekend as the final matches of the regular season are days away? Here's what's at stake across the league as Super Rugby rolls on:

Decision Day Looms Large

It's the weekend Super Rugby fans often circle on their calendars from the moment the schedule drops - the final one of the regular season. And, though the teams within the field for next month's qualifiers mainly have been decided by now, positions are far from set all across the table, with plenty of positioning left to joust for in Round 15. 

The Crusaders and Hurricanes will look to extend their three-match-winning runs against Queensland Reds and Western Force, respectively, hoping to build additional confidence before elimination rugby begins.

Meanwhile the Brumbies, currently third, will host a playoff match in Canberra, but also could sneak back into second place with a win (and bonus points) against Moana Pasifika, plus a Reds shock. 

Queensland itself is trying to improve its playoff stock as the Reds' seventh-place slot could go as high as fifth by the end of the weekend. Prep the popcorn, because the tension just ramped up a few notches.

The Blues Will Finish On Top, But What's Next?

For the Blues, getting back to the pinnacle has been a long time coming. 

The Aucklanders won a club-record 12th consecutive Super Rugby match in Round 14 to clinch the No. 1 seed (at six points ahead of the runner-up Crusaders) in the upcoming playoff rounds - pulling it off in dramatic fashion in the process. 

All Blacks and Blues superstar Beauden Barrett answered a Brumbies try and conversion with barely a minute remaining by booting through a field goal after the final siren blared, sealing the historic victory at the death and giving the Blues ultimate advantage for their postseason matches. But, is it time to party like it's 2003 - the last time the Blues were able to call themselves Super Rugby champions? Not quite yet. 

The team has been losing semifinalists twice since that famous triumph in Eden Park nearly two decades ago, with playoff failures having haunted the Blues for seasons upon seasons since then. With the first test now completed, the real trials for Super Rugby's top team this season begin soon.

New Zealand Reigns Supreme

The Trans-Tasman part of the Super Rugby season is almost finished, with Kiwi-led dominance being the main story of it all. 

Since matches against teams from Australia and New Zealand began in Round 10, the latter country's clubs have gone 16-5 against Aussie opposition with a majority (five) of the current eight teams to feature in the playoffs coming from New Zealand. 

The past five Super Rugby champions have all been Kiwi, and with plenty of familiar faces in the mix for next month's postseason, there's a high probability it could be a New Zealand team on top once again. 

It's not just at the team level, either - New Zealand's players are towering above others at the top of the individual stat charts, too. Crusaders wing Leicester Fainga-anuku, who was born in Tonga but has represented the Baby Blacks (New Zealand under-20s) in the past, leads Super Rugby with 10 tries, while Kiwi five-eighth Stephen Perofeta has put up a league-best 107 points this season for the Blues.

Could Western Force Do The Impossible?

Once controversially cut from Super Rugby after SANZAAR reduced the competition's teams from 18 to 15 in 2017, Western Force rejoined the league this season in full force (pun intended), following COVID-influenced inclusions in Super Rugby's regionalized competitions over the past two years. 

What better way to mark a return than by potentially qualifying for its first Super Rugby playoff appearance this weekend? Yes, the Perth-based club still is technically in the running for the eighth and final spot in the postseason, but it needs a lot of help and stellar rugby to get there. 

The Force are a seemingly insurmountable eight points behind the eighth-placed Highlanders, but have two matches in Round 15 (Moana Pasifika, Hurricanes) as they make up a COVID-caused postponement. 

They would need to beat both opponents (while making up bonus points along the way) and hope for a Melbourne Rebels win over the Highlanders, with the Australian club already eliminated from contention. Getting bonus points against last-placed Moana Pasifika isn't so far-fetched, however, and the Hurricanes could rest players ahead of their future playoff matches. It could be a little more than the Force can chew, but if chaos is what you seek, keep an eye on them.

Chiefs Safe To Host Qualifier - For Now

For those who don't comfortably have their fate sealed already entering Round 15, there's an interesting dilemma at hand - do you rest stars or go all out for the best situation possible? 

The postseason grind in Super Rugby demands tip-top fitness and nothing less than the best to acquire trophies, and the top four in the regular-season standings have a distinct advantage as first-round playoff hosts. 

The Blues, Crusaders and Brumbies already will do so as the top three, but three different teams - the Chiefs, Hurricanes and New South Wales Waratahs - all could snatch the fourth slot in the final matchweek and get the sweet, sweet backing of home support in a loser-goes-home game. 

The Chiefs hold a three-point lead in fourth place and have a favorable match against Fijian Drua in Round 15, but the squad coach Clayton McMillian trots out could have good or bad consequences for where his team will end up playing its first playoff game. 

The same applies for the Hurricanes against Western Force and the Tahs against the Blues, who'll be taking on teams fighting for their life and already the top dogs for the playoffs, respectively. Decisions, decisions.

Super Rugby Pacific Schedule: Round 15

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


Moana Pasifika vs. Western Force, 3:05 a.m.


Crusaders vs. Queensland Reds, 3:35 a.m.

Fijian Drua vs. Chiefs, 11 p.m.


Moana Pasifika vs. Brumbies, 3:05 a.m.

New South Wales Waratahs vs. Blues, 5:45 a.m.

Western Force vs. Hurricanes, 8 a.m.


Melbourne Rebels vs. Highlanders, midnight