2022 Crusaders vs Queensland Reds

Super Rugby Pacific Qualifiers Preview: Blues Look To Cap Historic Run

Super Rugby Pacific Qualifiers Preview: Blues Look To Cap Historic Run

After a grueling 15-week schedule, in which the 12 teams toiled and battled, eight teams have qualified for the upcoming 2022 Super Rugby postseason.

May 31, 2022 by Briar Napier
Super Rugby Pacific Qualifiers Preview: Blues Look To Cap Historic Run

It's put-up or shut-up time in Super Rugby.

After a grueling 15-week schedule, in which the 12 teams across the competition toiled and battled against each other, only eight teams qualified for the postseason. And, if the matches beforehand weren't tense enough, loser-goes-home rugby is an entirely different beast.

With Super Rugby finally being able to hold a non-regionalized postseason for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic, arguably the world's premier club rugby competition feels complete again. Who will step forward to claim history in its return, however, remains to be seen.

Look below for a breakdown of each playoff matchup. The remainder of the season will be streamed live on FloRugby.

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

Crusaders Vs. Queensland Reds 

Friday, June 3 at 3:05 a.m. ET

There will be a sense of familiarity on the pitch to kick off the qualifiers. 

The Crusaders and Reds, both with playoff rugby already assured, met to close each other's regular seasons in Round 15, with the New Zealanders winning 28-15. They'll meet again to begin their postseason journeys, with the Crusaders hosting in Christchurch, facing a Queensland side that went 0-5 against Kiwi competition this year. 

The 10-time champion Crusaders have a four-match winning streak going, the active longest in Super Rugby by a team not named the Blues, while the Reds have lost four of their last five, all while Crusaders wing and 22-year-old rising star Leicester Fainga'anuku proved himself to be the competition's most dangerous attacking threat with a Super Rugby-best 10 tries this year. 

Throw in the fact that the Crusaders have allowed the fewest tries (33) of any team remaining, and the Reds will need to find some form quickly, if they are to pull off an epic shock across the Tasman Sea. 

Queensland wing Jock Campbell, who has eight tries this season, likely will need to be a major part of that charge.

Chiefs Vs. Waratahs

Saturday, June 4 at 12:35 a.m. ET

Are the Chiefs playing with fate a little too much? Yes, the Hamiltonians largely were spectacular in the season's final stages, winning five of their last six regular-season matches to catapult themselves to third and, therefore, the right to host a qualifier. 

However, their positioning could've been vastly different had the ball bounced certain ways the past few weeks. 

Wins against the Reds, Melbourne Rebels and Fijian Drua over the past five rounds were each decided by less than a try, making for results that would've doomed the Chiefs to spending the first matchweek of the playoffs on the road had they gone the other way. 

The Waratahs, meanwhile are due for a little luck. They've won three of their last five and were within a try of toppling the Hurricanes in Round 13 and the Blues in Round 15, too. 

Nonetheless, it was the Chiefs who cozily won the Round 10 showdown between the two via a 51-27 triumph in Melbourne, one of four times that they managed at least 45 points in a match this competition. 

Will Saturday show a repeat performance for the Chiefs, or will the Tahs break through and move on to the semifinals with a shock win?

Blues Vs. Highlanders

Saturday, June 4 at 3:05 a.m. ET

The Highlanders, the only club in the field whose playoff standing hadn't been totally decided entering Round 15, got a scare when Western Force won both matches this past weekend against Moana Pasifika and the Hurricanes and gained a bonus point to lead the Dunedin-based squad by a point for eighth late in the round. 

The Highlanders subsequently had to get something out of their finale against the Rebels in response. Though the New Zealand side lost 31-30, it gained a losing bonus point to squeak into the qualifiers on point differential over the Force. 

Emotions were high for the Highlanders following the thrilling achievement, but the Blues, who notched their 13th straight win after beating the Waratahs in Round 15, haven't exactly let external factors bother them much this season. 

The unquestioned class of the competition this year, the Aucklanders have pummeled many-a-foes in their wake and are favorites to take their first Super Rugby title since 2003 and absolve nearly two decades of playoff failures. 

Having rested nearly every starter in Round 15 and already beaten the Highlanders once in Round 4, coach Leon MacDonald's side is heavily favored to cruise through to the semis against a Highlanders team that only has recorded four wins all season - half the number of victories of any other team in the playoffs.

Brumbies Vs. Hurricanes

Saturday, June 4 at 2:05 p.m. 

What's gone wrong for the Brumbies lately? Following a period this year in which Australia's strongest side of the season was topping the table and had the look to be title favorites, the wheels have fallen off as of late. 

Defeats by the Blues and Crusaders were disappointing yet understandable, but a 32-22 loss to cellar-dwellers Moana Pasifika in Round 15 to make for three straight defeats was downright abysmal. 

The recent form has cost coach Dan McKellar's unit stronger positioning in the qualifiers and given it a tougher opponent on-paper against the Hurricanes, who can claim to be the cause of the Blues' only loss of the season back in Round 2. 

Nonetheless, the Brumbies still managed to hold onto hosting rights for the quarterfinals, a big boost in the fact that they won't need to go into hostile territory in an elimination match. Add in the fact that the Brumbies defeated the Hurricanes comfortably (42-25) in their previous meeting earlier this year in Round 11, and maybe the warning sirens shouldn't be going off as loudly. 

Still, there are no guarantees in the qualifiers, and for a Brumbies side with a point to prove that they belong with the rest of Super Rugby's upper tier again, they must win Saturday's match, and definitively at that.