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Fijian Drua

We are about to enter the 28th year of Super Rugby & yet things are still not the same as it once was back in the glorious 1990s-early 2000s when Australia (Wallabies) benefited so much success right until the 2003 Rugby World Cup. Yes, they won just three Super Rugby championships ever since but that doesn’t mean they are on the same standard as their Tasman neighbours, New Zealand. There has been so many changes through the off-season with regards to musical chairs at players and coaching staff amongst multiple teams. Waratahs handed over control to Rugby Australia recently while the Reds got a new head coach. Plus, Brumbies staying strong as the leading Super Rugby team here, as well as Western Force who are looking to return to the finals with the recruitment of some experienced players. And this week, the Melbourne Rebels entered voluntary administration even though they will continue to play just for this season, despite some star hirings of their own.

Over in New Zealand, most of the five teams (Blues, Hurricanes & of course Crusaders) except Chiefs & Highlanders will now have new head coaches where most of them from last year have joined Scott Robertson at the All Blacks as the Crusaders will begin a brand new era in 2024 without him. He was the one who delivered so many Super Rugby championships including last year’s final v Chiefs & it remains to be seen if the Crusaders can keep on winning including delivering another championship under former Waratahs coach Rob Penney. And for the Highlanders, they are under a big rebuilding phase with Jamie Joseph back onboard to try & return to its former glory as the head of rugby after they missed the Top 8 finals bubble in 9th last year.

We also don’t forget the two Pasifika teams to round off the line-up with Fijian Drua coming off from a great second season before they were elminated by the Crusaders in the last 8 as winning away from home would be the great next step to stay in the Top 8 & Moana Pasifika needs more time so they can really win games after they finished last over the last two seasons.

This year could be a great opportunity to see an even/level playing field where it’s Australia’s time at last to catch up to NZ but despite there will be some really close games, the outcome won’t change much where we will see a New Zealand winner once again whether it’s going to be the Crusaders or Blues or Chiefs by surprise whereas the Brumbies will continue being the best Australian Super Rugby team. Likewise in previous seasons though, the Brumbies will unfortunately still be nowhere near the Grand Final radar either in the quarter or semi finals. Yes, Rugby Australia is going with the high performance centralisation system alongside Joe Schmidt as their new head coach in the hope of also winning games again following a disastrous group stage campaign for the first time ever at last year’s World Cup in France. But the question remains to be seen whether or not if they can support five teams, having seen the Rebels fall into trouble off the field this week? While there will always going to be some Victorian/Melbourne born talent, there’s no guarantee that the Rebels will continue to play at AAMI Park going into 2025 and beyond. For now, the new season will start on Friday 23rd February right until mid-June where every game is live and Ad-Free on Stan Sport while there’s always a Saturday night game being simulcast via free-to-air on 9Gem.

Predicting ladder 2024

  1. Crusaders (champions)
  2. Chiefs (then semi-finalists)
  3. Blues (runners-up)
  4. ACT Brumbies (then semi-finalists)
  5. Hurricanes
  6. NSW Waratahs
  7. Queensland Reds
  8. Highlanders
  9. Fijian Drua
  10. Western Force
  11. Melbourne Rebels
  12. Moana Pasifika
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Brumbies returned to Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane tonight following their loss last week v Queensland Reds, as they buckle up this time v Fijian Drua. They fired off well in the first half while Drua was scoreless at the same time, 12-0. Although Drua finally opened their scoring account later on with two tries on the board, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Brumbies from scoring. The full-time score is Fijian Drua 12-33 Brumbies, as we just completed Round 8 of the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific.

We got to say that the Brumbies backline was on fire, especially with the two tries from Tom Wright & Cam Clark continued to shine for the second week running. The maul after the line-outs was brilliant when they used the ball well in good hands, which is contrary to how Drua failed to live the expectations in one particular area. And they continued to cash in the Drua’s weaknesses with another few tries from hookers Billy Pollard & Connal McInerney, where the Brumbies continued to extend their winning share past the half-time break.

Meanwhile, Fijian Drua’s always strong after the break when Onisi Ratave scored two beautiful tries off the wide right. If Drua launched their big scoring spree in the 1st half, they would’ve been neck in neck with the Brumbies and potentially controlling the game by storm. However, a scoreless first 40 left them too late to catch up where a messy attacking line & poor throw-ins cost them a hard-fought loss.

So both teams will now take the next week off for Round 9 before they return in action against the New Zealand sides beginning in Round 10; Drua v Blues & Brumbies v Highlanders during the Super Round at AAMI Park in Melbourne.

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It’s been a huge scoring game from last night at AAMI Park between the Melbourne Rebels v Fijian Drua. Drua may have bounced back from behind late in the match and were closer to stealing this game. However, it’s the Rebels who finally secured their first win of 2022, having fired off well in the 1st half at 18-6 before they extended their lead as it goes, 42-27.

Shoutout to the Rebels with two tries and a couple of three-point penalty goals in the first half, before they kept the momentum after half-time with more big scoring points on the board even though the Drua’s late comeback melee didn’t affect them too much. And credit to their forwards who were hard at work all game with the physicality, communication, and execution, so they were able to unpack and get the job done past through the Drua’s gate. There’s still a long way to go, as they hope the Rebels can keep their key men together in the weeks ahead that would hopefully strike more wins.

And Drua were closer from behind and almost in the winning circle that would’ve marked an upset in their first few steps at Super Rugby level. We love how they utilise the substitute’s bench well into the 2nd 40 where the Drua were flying high with three tries in almost ten minutes. The pace, patience through phases, winning penalties & passage of passing, now that caused the Rebels mayhem at the other end whenever Drua touched the ball on the TRY line. If they can repeat this attacking masterpiece throughout all game, then the Drua would be too good to pull off like some New Zealand teams. But the poor first 40 and some messy play that exposed their defensive contribution, especially when trying to catch the Rebels so late, has let them down.

Drua will host the NSW Waratahs for Round 7 next Friday at Cbus Super Stadium in the Gold Coast, QLD. Meanwhile, Rebels will have the week-long off before they jet off to HBF Park in Perth for Week 8 v Western Force.

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Matt Phillip is outstanding once again for another week on the second row at No.4 for the Rebels. He’s such a great communicator alongside a brilliant eye, especially when backing up at all times as a support player. And he has no problem smashing the Drua into pieces where he opened the account with the Rebels TRY, not just through the line-out, maul, phases, and execution in the attack but also in defense. They’re thankful to bring Phillip back from Pau in France following the end of last year, with more unfinished business to unpack in the next coming weeks.

Next up is another Rebel in Brad Wilkin at No.6 on the blindside flanker position, who was flawless throughout the full 80 last night. He possesses so much tackle with the physicality that threw the pressure back on the other opposition end. Not only did Wilkin help his Rebels side push through the TRY line for a couple of big scores, but he read the Drua’s messy passage of play with their lack of support before he came in to halt this process defensively. He’s been there for four years now, as his Super Rugby experience will hopefully guide the Rebels towards more wins this season.

And Kitione Salawa Jr. played a big part in Fijian Drua’s late turnaround in the 2nd 40 from the bench on the openside role, replacing Vilive Miramira. He’s proven to be the real deal in their attack where he looked so mobile with the pace & tall reach, thanks to the winning penalties and teamwork handed over to him on display. His opening TRY for the Drua caught up some lost time & was there for all of it when Salawa both smashed through the Rebels’ defense & act as their support runner. If he started and did that all game, then he would’ve been the man of the match & most likely upset the Rebels. However, the team’s poor first 40 and some messy play with the passage of passing let him down.

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Wow!! What a game that is to reflect a fantastic Saturday night of Super Rugby Pacific between the Queensland Reds & Fijian Drua, that went down through the wire at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.

Reds opened the account with a big score from full-back Jordan Petaia before Harry Wilson scored the 2nd TRY, as the home team are 12-6 at half-time before they continued to stay ahead going into the 2nd half. Meanwhile, the Drua came back from two three-point goals earlier on into three big scores late in the 2nd half, where the new start Super Rugby team almost captured an upset in front of the Reds. However, it’s Seru Uru on the blindside back row who saved the Reds’ night, thanks to a game-winning TRY that secured their unbeaten start of the 2022 campaign by five points, 33-28.

The Reds have plenty to fix in the next coming days when a messy attacking shape and ill-discipline almost put them on the brink of a shock loss v Drua. It’s not a good look when their starting frontline of Harry Hoopert & Josh Nasser were sent to the naughty chair for 10 minutes during the 1st half, as they better be careful the next time Queensland faces the Brumbies, or else they will be punished big time. However, the Reds have done enough that put themselves past the safe line first. The build-up momentum is good where they were able to stay ahead, while extending that winning share. And they managed to bounce back following the Drua’s quickfire spell late in the 2nd half when Seru Uru came in to save the day. But as said earlier, they will need to watch their discipline and get their attacking shape organized, if the Reds are to beat the Brumbies on Friday night.

Meanwhile, so unlucky from the Drua who were almost so close towards pulling that shock upset v Reds. We love how they spotted the Reds’ ill-discipline and disjointed attack, where the Drua were able to stop them from scoring at times. We also look at the example of how inside center Kalaveti Ravouvou intercepted the ball off the back end of the Reds’ messy attacking mistakes during the first few mins of play, having ran off over halfway and almost scored, when he couldn’t find any numbers around him. It gave a preview of the Drua’s plan to haunt the Reds’ later on & again almost succeeded with three quickfire tries in five minutes late in the 2nd half. The only weakness Drua needs to work on is their first 40, when some ill-discipline and a lack of finishing organization held them back before they left it too late.

The Reds will now travel to Canberra on Friday night v ACT Brumbies at GIO Stadium, while Drua will have their home game next Saturday in Sydney v Western Force at Leichardt Oval.

It will be interesting to see whether the Brumbies will stay 1st or see the Reds knock them down to 2nd in the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific standings after Round 5.

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Hats off to Seru Uru, who just became the home team’s saviour tonight for the Queensland Reds, He was hard at work for the whole time on the blindside back row when Uru protected his side’s defense, as well as being involved going forward with the attack. And he kept the Reds on their toes where Uru not only helped them score a couple of tries, but he also took down the winning try himself with two minutes to spare. Competition is good for Uru, having started the last two matches v Western Force & Drua, as he hopes to stay at No.6 on Friday and test himself against a tougher opposition like the Brumbies.

Next up is Jordan Petaia where he started at full-back this time within the Reds XV v Drua tonight. He possesses so much pace and power in the Reds backline engine room, where Petaia was able to make good use of his natural game both in attack and defense. Not only how Petaia was able to protect the Reds via Try saving tackles, but he also benefited from these support numbers around him when switching to attack, including his opening TRY that launched the Reds’ scoring account. He may have been knocked down a few times with some bruises, but Petaia never gave up to help the Reds stay ahead, as he’s one hell of a hard-working backline player to watch. It will be interesting to see who will be the best of the 15s in Australia, when Petaia will go up against the Brumbies’ full-back in Tom Banks during Round 5 on Friday night.

And Kalaveti Ravouvou stood out for the Fijian Drua on the inside midfield at the No.12 shirt. He gave the Reds a huge warning that there’s trouble looming ahead, especially when he noticed the Reds’ messy attack at times earlier on, intercepted the ball along the way, and almost scored a TRY. His attacking influence in the Drua squad has led to more threats fired back to the Reds, where they were almost closer to securing an upset within 10-15 mins left. Although Drua was unlucky to lose with a brilliant 2nd half show tonight, but Ravouvou was the one who created this Drua attacking input that almost sent the Reds shockwaves.

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After a winless 2021 campaign of 13 games, the Waratahs have finally ended their long-running drought last night with a comfortable 40-10 win v Fijian Drua at CommBank Stadium in Parramatta, NSW.

It’s great to see the Tahs forward pack make up most of the work earlier on in the 1st half at 21-3, where Will Harris and Dave Porecki added a couple of big scores through the TRY line with credit to the Drua’s dirty work via the advantage. They’re able to build on that comfortable start after the break when another forward at tighthead in Angus Bell produced two brilliant finishes, one for an assist to Inside midfielder, Lalakai Foketi, and another for himself thanks to the offload from the returning Jed Holloway on the second row. And their skipper at half-back, Jake Gordon stole a messy Drua attacking shape, when he intercepted the ball on the 10-metre line & ran over halfway on the run home that summed up the Tahs flying start to 2022.

Meanwhile, the Fijian Drua may not get what they wanted with the loss during their first game at Super Rugby level. Their series of disciplinary mistakes not only worsened their defense but also limited their time in the attack against the Tahs territory, especially at one point in the 2nd half. They just rushed through it with numbers all over the place, before Jake Gordon exploited their weakness & ran off over half the pitch towards the touch zone that cost more huge points on the board. There are some moments made, however, when fly-half Baden Kerr scored their first-ever points on the board, while we covered skipper & No.8 Nemani Nagusa on the Top 3 players list, who scored the Drua’s first-ever TRY later in the 2nd half. It’s still early days though as it will take time to become competitive, especially when facing the Australian and New Zealand teams regularly.

The Tahs will remain at home next week, but this time they will be at Leichardt Oval where they will welcome another State of Origin rivalry v the Queensland Reds, who will be facing the Melbourne Rebels at (Suncorp Stadium) home in Brisbane tonight.

Meanwhile, the Drua will head off to Canberra for another tough encounter v Brumbies at GIO Stadium next Saturday at 2.35 pm.

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We gotta say that Angus Bell is one of the brightest stars in the making for the Waratahs at loosehead prop last night. We love the way he contributed to their attacking line, where he just never stops running and smashing through against the Fijian Drua territory. That kind of teamwork built from the beginning made him even a better player after the break, when not only did he assist Lalakai Foketi with the TRY but Bell also touched a huge score himself, as his hard work reflected the Tahs brilliant start to the new Super Rugby campaign.

Then there’s another Tahs forward to look out for is Dave Porecki in the No.2 shirt at hooker. His throw-ins have been spot-on as always before he used so much physicality to push through his opponent team into shreds that reflected an outstanding 1st half. Now he may have the early mark after just over 50 minutes on the pitch, but Poreki left the Tahs with a healthy lead at the break so they can finish the job for him while he rests up for Round 2 next Friday v Queensland Reds at home (Leichardt Oval).

Nice to have a mix of youth and experience team up together that saw the Tahs stay ahead all game long v Drua.

And yes, it may be Fijian Drua’s first game in Super Rugby with the loss but how about we applaud the skipper & No.8 Nemani Nagusa, who just scored their first-ever try during the 2nd half in the 62nd minute. He has tons of leadership and experience being taught from his time over in Europe, where his contribution when being given the ball gave his side a boost when it comes to penalties. These kinds of penalties allowed him to get the job done, having tapped and go with a bit of space and read before he crossed the TRY line down low. This team is in its early days right now as it will take time to get competitive, but it’s just not their night when a series of disciplinary errors led to an isolated defence that gave Drua little time to sort out their attack.

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2022 is a big shakeup for super rugby. The competition includes three new teams and is now exclusive to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. Despite the changes, this season should still be incredibly exciting.

Australian Teams

The closest thing we have had to super rugby over the last three years was the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman series last year. It was a series in which the Australian teams struggled massively, only winning two games against the five New Zealand teams in the competition.

It looks likely to be another year where Aussie teams will struggle. The Brumbies once again look to be the pick of the Australian teams despite the Reds winning their first domestic title in Super Rugby Australia last season. The Queensland Reds will be looking to compete thanks to a variety of international players like Taniela Tupou and Tate McDermott.

The Waratahs, Force and Rebels will all be looking for spots in the knockout stages, but it will not be easy. The Waratahs do see captain Michael Hooper return for 2022, but they still look to be towards the bottom end of the table. Both the Force and Rebels have lost a lot of test experience over the last year and it will sadly hurt them this season.

New Zealand Teams

After dominating the Trans-Tasman series last year, it looks to be another Super Rugby season dominated by Kiwi teams.

Favourites for their fourth title, the Crusaders have a wealth of international talent led by two time reigning player of the year Richie Mo’unga. Their talent also includes Will Jordan, Sevu Reece, George Bridge as well as recent addition Pablo Matera. They may have some competition for their fourth title in a row.

The Blues are welcoming back Beauden Barrett, while still having internationals like Rieko Ioane, Nepo Laulala and Dalton Papalii. They come into 2022 off the back of winning the Trans-Tasman series. The Chiefs could be a surprise this season despite the losses of Damain Mckenzie and Lachlan Boshier. The Chiefs have one of the most talented set of forwards in Super Rugby which could dominate any team on any day.

The Highlanders and Hurricanes both have a huge amount of talent on the squads. But the Highlanders will struggle having lost a third of their starting XV from the Trans-Tasman final. They have a brilliant leader in Aaron Smith, but will struggle to progress in the tournament. Similar situation for the Hurricanes with some major losses coming into the season. But the Hurricanes add Dom Bird and TJ Perenara and could surprise a few people this season.

Two New Pacific Teams

This season features two new teams, both based in the Pacific Islands. After many years of lobbying, the Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika will join Super Rugby. Starting with the Fijian Drua. They have had a difficult preparation for Super Rugby due to COVID issues, meaning the squad is based on the NSW North Coast as they could not prepare in Fiji. It looks like the team will need some time to adapt to Super Rugby’s intensity. Their squad contains Olympic champions Napolioni Bolaca, Kalione Nasoko and Meli Derenalagi. Don’t be surprised if Fijian Drua make a push for the knockout stages this season.

The second new team is Moana Pasifika, made up of players from New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga and Australia, including 18 former or current internationals. Much like Fijian Drua, it will be a season of getting used to Super Rugby for Moana Pasifika. 110 capped Australian Sekope Kepu is captain for the 2022 season, bringing a huge amount of experience to the new team. Moana Pasifika will be very exciting in the upcoming season, but don’t expect them to be near the top of the table come the end of the season.

The Loss of South African Teams

The reshaped 2022 Super Rugby does not include any South African teams, after their Super Rugby licenses expired after the 2020 season. It does seem odd going into a Super Rugby season without the Bulls, Sharks, Lions or Stormers. Their exclusion opens the floor up a lot for either the New Zealand teams to take over or opportunities for the new teams or the Australian teams to step up.

Super Rugby is going to look very different this season. Losing the South African teams is big for the competition. Despite not competing with them domestically, South Africa is still playing against New Zealand, Argentina and Australia in the Rugby Championship. It does show some disjointed thinking when it comes to Super Rugby’s thinking. But the 2022 changes bring plenty of opportunities for Pacific Island teams who have been trying to get into Super Rugby for years.

Predictions

In this new look Super Rugby, it looks as if it will be a few years until the new teams or the Australian teams can compete with the talent of the New Zealand teams. 2022 looks to be a similar story.

Working from the bottom up, I think the four teams that are likely to miss out on the knockout stages are most likely to be the Rebels, Force, Waratahs and Moana Pasifika. These teams just don’t have the talent to move any higher. In terms of the teams to get stuck at the quarterfinals, I could easily see these teams being the Hurricanes, Highlanders, Fijian Drua and the Brumbies. The Brumbies could be the surprise package this year, with the talent their squad possesses.

But this season will be dominated by the New Zealand teams. The Reds will be the exception to this, looking likely to at least reach the semi-finals. In an emotional season, the Chiefs will also be targeting a semi-final push, but it may be slightly too difficult for them to get past either of the two teams left.

These two aren’t exactly surprising to anyone who has followed Super Rugby over the last five years. The Blues welcome back Beauden Barrett after his time in Japan, the team has talent in all areas. But the Blues don’t quite have the two time reigning Super Rugby Player of the year.

I think at the end of the season, the Crusaders will lift their fourth title in a row. A team with Richie Mo’unga, Will Jordan, Sevu Reece, Sam Whitelock and Joe Moody is too much talent for any team to compete with when you reach the knockouts. The Crusaders will win their fourth title in a row.

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