Super Rugby Pacific Round 15: Teams, verdicts, odds

The final round of inaugural Super Rugby Pacific season is here, with the final order of the top eight still uncertain.

Mathematically, positions second through to seventh could all see some shuffling, while the Force are even capable of sneaking into eighth if they can beat the Hurricanes in Perth and the Rebels defeat the Highlanders.

Stay across all the line-ups, team news and odds for Round 15 as they come to hand below.

Crusaders vs. Reds | Fijian Drua vs. Chiefs | Moana Pasifika vs. Brumbies | Waratahs vs. Blues | Force vs. Hurricanes | Rebels vs. Highlanders

Friday, May 27

Crusaders vs. Reds, Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch, 5.05pm [AEST]

Crusaders: Will Jordan, Sevu Reece, Braydon Ennor, David Havili, Leicester Fainga'anuku, Fergus Burke, Bryn Hall, Cullen Grace, Ethan Blackadder, Pablo Matera, Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett (captain), Oli Jager, Brodie McAlister, George Bower. Replacements: Ricky Jackson, Finlay Brewis, Tamaiti Williams, Zach Gallagher, Tom Christie, Mitch Drummond, Chay Fihaki, George Bridge.

Reds: Jock Campbell, Suliasi Vunivalu, Jordan Petaia, Hamish Stewart, Filipo Daugunu, Lawson Creighton, Tate McDermott; Harry Wilson, Fraser McReight, Angus Scott-Young, Ryan Smith, Seru Uru, Feao Fotuaika, Matt Faessler, Dane Zander. Replacements: Richie Asiata, Harry Hoopert, Sef Fa'agase, Angus Blyth, Connor Vest, Liam Wright, Kalani Thomas, Mac Grealy.

Odds [tab.com.au]: Crusaders $1.05, -19.5 $1.85; Reds $8.50, +19.5 $1.90 [odds correct as of 11am 25/5]

Verdict: The Reds just can't take a trick this year, with James O'Connor picking up another injury that looks to have ended his Super Rugby season and put him behind the eight ball in the fight for the Wallabies No. 10 jersey. Queensland were at last able to snap a four-game skid last week, defeating Moana Pasifika, but it was hardly the convincing win you might have expected. The Crusaders, meanwhile, have taken the opportunity to rest a few players ahead of the finals, with Richie Mo'unga and Jack Goodhue given the week off to recover from a couple of niggles. There is some good news for the Reds, though, with co-captain Liam Wright to make his long-awaited return from injury off the bench; Queensland were able to give the Crusaders a mighty good run on their last trip to Christchurch. Still, Scott Robertson's team have been in ominous form in recent weeks and should be comfortable winners. Crusaders by 15.

Saturday, May 21

Fijian Drua vs. Chiefs, Churchill Park, Lautoka, 1.00pm [AEST]

Drua: Kitione Taliga, Ilaisa Droasese, Apisalome Vota, Kalaveti Ravouvou, Vinaya Habosi, Teti Tela, Frank Lomani; Nemani Nagusa (c), Rusiate Nasove, Joseva Tamani, Viliame Rarasea, Isoa Nasilasila, Kaliopasi Uluilakepa, Zuriel Togiatama Haereiti Hetet. Replacements: Tevita Ikanivere, Timoci Sauvoli, Manasa Saulo, Chris Minimbi, Mesulame Dolokoto, Peni Matawalu, Caleb Muntz, Onisi Ratave.

Chiefs: Kaleb Trask, Emoni Narawa, Rameka Pohipi, Quinn Tupaea, Alex Nanikivell, Bryn Gatland, Brad Weber; Pita Gus Sowakula, Luke Jacobson, Samnipeni Finau, Tupou Vaa'i, Brodie Retallick, Angus Ta'avao, Samisoni Taukei'aho, Aidan Ross. Replacements: Bradley Slater, Ollie Norris, Atu Moli, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Kaylum Boshier, Cortez Ratima, Josh Ioane, Jonah Lowe

Odds: [tab.com.au] Drua $6, +15.5 $1.85; Chiefs $1.11, -15.5 $1.90 [odds correct as of 11am 25/5]

Verdict: After a bumper crowd in their first home game on Fijian soil in Suva, the Drua again have the opportunity to play in front of their fans with Lautoka the venue for their season finale. And if their match against the Highlanders, which they dropped only narrowly in Suva, is any guide, than the Chiefs are in for one helluva fight as they look to hold onto fourth spot and a home quarterfinal next week. Coach Clayton McMillan clearly understands the challenge ahead, naming what is very close to the Chiefs' strongest side apart from the absence of Sam Cane, who has thankfully been cleared of serious injury following last week's win over the Force. While Cane is out, All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick is in after a lengthy layoff with injury. That is both vital for the Chiefs' finals campaign and the All Blacks' series with Ireland -- as Retallick remains world class. If the Drua are to cause an upset here, they will need to repeat their blistering start from Suva, but also then find a little more accuracy and limit their errors to repel a Chiefs side that has everything to play for. Chiefs by 10.

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Moana Pasifika vs. Brumbies, Mt. Smart Stadium, Auckland, 5.05pm [AEST]

Pasifika: William Havili, Solomone Kata, Levi Aumua, Danny Toala, Timoci Tavatavanawai, Christian Leali'ifano, Jonathan Taumateine, Henry Time-Stowers, Alamanda Motuga, Solomone Funaki, Sam Slade, Michael Curry, Sekope Kepu (c), Ray Niula, Abraham Pole. Replacements: Samiuela Moli, Ezekiel Lindenmuth, Joe 'Apiokotoa, Sione Tuipolotu, Lotu Inisi, Manu Paea, Fine Inisi, Anzelo Tuitavuki

Brumbies: Tom Banks, Tom Wright, Len Ikitau, Irae Simmone, Andy Muirhead, Noah Lolesio, Nic White; Pete Samu, Jahrome Brown, Tom Hooper, Nick Frost, Darcy Swain, Allan Alaalatoa, Connal McInerney, Scott Sio. Replacements: Lachlan Lonergan, James Slipper, Sefo Kautai, Cadeyrn Neville, Rory Scott, Ryan Lonergan, Rodney Iona, Hudson Creighton.

Odds: [tab.com.au] Pasifika $9, +19.5 $1.87; Brumbies $1.06, -19.5 $1.87 [odds correct as of 11am 25/5]

Verdict: It's another tough back-up for Moana Pasifika, as they close out their inaugural season with a third game in nine days. Well beaten by the Force in their catch-up contest on Tuesday, Pasifika can still hold their heads high after a season that has completely gone against them and seen them dusted heavily on only a couple of occasions. Are they good enough to spring an upset here? Potentially, but only if they get absolutely everything right and hope the Brumbies are significantly off their game. Dan McKellar's side were pipped at the post by the Blues last week after a gripping encounter that had the feel of a final about it. They have been further strengthened by the return of Jahrome Brown from injury while McKellar continues his rotations at hooker by handing Connal McInerney a start. Secure in third position, the Brumbies will be looking to finetune their breakdown work after a tough night at the tackle last week when they conceded 16 penalties. Look for significant improvement there and for the Brumbies to work Pasifika over with their dominant rolling maul. Brumbies by 24.

Waratahs vs. Blues, Leichhardt Oval, Sydney, 7.45pm [AEST]

Waratahs: Ben Donaldson, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Alex Newsome, Lalakai Fekitoa, Dylan Pietsch, Tane Edmed, Jake Gordon; Will Harris, Michael Hooper, Charlie Gamble, Ned Hanigan, Jed Holloway, Archer Holz, Dave Porecki, Angus Bell. Replacements: Mahe Vailanu, Tetera Faulkner, Paddy Ryan, Hugh Sinclair, Jeremy Williams, Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, Jack Grant, Jamie Roberts.

Blues: Zarn Sullivan, Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneephens, Tamati Tua, Corey Evans, AJ Lam, Jock McKenzie, Sam Nock, Taine Plumtree, Adrian Choat, Anton Segner, Josh Goodhue, Luke Romano, Nepo Laulala, Ricky Riccitelli, Jordan Lay. Replacements: Soane Vikena, Karl Tu'inukuafe, Marcel Renata, Sam Darry, Cameron Suafoa, Akira Ioane, Taufa Funaki, Nigel Ah-Wong

Odds: [tab.com.au] Waratahs $2.20, +2.5 $1.87; Blues $1.62, -2.5 $1.87 [odds correct as of 11am 25/5]

Verdict: It's a farewell game for the Waratahs at Leichhardt Oval -- unless the Hurricanes and Chiefs both slip up this weekend -- on Saturday night with the team having one last crack at "filling the hill" in what has been a remarkable turnaround from 2021. Last Sunday's victory over the Highlanders in Dunedin, their first in the city since 2008, was superb, with players young and old combining in an 80-minute performance that was among their best of the year. This week they face a Blues team that insists it has not disrespected NSW, with Leon MacDonald making a host of changes that has seen him rest his key players for the finals. There is no Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Beauden Barrett, Dalton Papali'i, Hoskins Sotutu, Bryce Heem and Finlay Christie, while Caleb Clarke and Rieko Ioane are both out with injury. That is a significant loss of talent and gives the Waratahs an excellent chance to add the Blues to their list of Kiwi victims in 2022. Impressive off the bench in Dunedin last weekend, look for Ned Hanigan to make an impact up front for the Waratahs while the week off will have also done Jed Holloway the world of good. Waratahs teams of the past have dropped a game like this, if Coleman's men are serious about going beyond the quarterfinals, they should really be winning this one and winning it well. Waratahs by 12.

Western Force vs. Hurricanes, HBF Park, Perth, 10.00pm [AEST]

Force: Jake McIntyre, Toni Pulu, Byron Ralston, Richard Kahui, Manasa Mataele, Reesjan Pasitoa, Ian Prior, Tim Anstee, Fergus Lee-Warner, Jeremy Thrush, Ryan McCauley, Santiago Medrano, Andrew Ready, Tom Robertson. Replacements: Feleti Kaitu'u, Angus Wagner, Bo Abra, Izack Rodda, Jack Winchester, Michael McDonald, Kyle Godwin, Brad Lacey

Hurricanes: Josh Moorby, Wes Goosen, Bailyn Sullivan, Billy Proctor, Salesi Rayasi, Aidan Morgan, TJ Perenara; Brayden Lose, Du'Plessis Kirifi, Caleb Delanu, Justin Sangster, James Blackwell, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Pouri Rakete-Stones. Replacements: Asafo Aumua, Xavier Numia, Tevita Mafileo, Blake Gibson, Ardie Savea, Jamie Booth, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Teihorangi Walden

Odds: [tab.com.au] Force $8, +14.5 $1.90; Hurricanes $1.06, -14.5 $1.85 [odds correct as of 11am 25/5]

Verdict: They have won only three games this year, but the Force remain in the finals hunt after a resounding win over Moana Pasifika on Tuesday night, a performance that was easily their best of the season. Veteran back Richard Kahui wound back the clock while the dangerous Manasa Mataele was also at his best. But the challenge awaiting them in Perth, on a short turnaround, is far greater than the one they face in Auckland. The Hurricanes are riding the momentum of three straight wins and have only been beaten by the Brumbies since the two countries came together at Super Round. They are also poised to pounce should the Chiefs slip up in Fiji earlier in the day, so there is everything to play for in this one. Interestingly, Hurricanes coach Jason Holland has included Ardie Savea among his replacements and that introduction of energy in the second half could be exactly what they need against a Force team that has the ability to really grind away in contests. The hosts, meanwhile, will need a dash of the attacking flare they showed against Pasifika and the Hurricanes to be a tad off their game if they're to spring an upset. Hurricanes by 7.

Sunday, May 22

Rebels vs. Highlanders, AAMI Park, Melbourne, 2.00pm [AEST]

Rebels: Reece Hodge, Lukas Ripley, Andrew Kellaway, Matt To'omua, Glen Vaihu, Carter Gordon, James Tuttle; Rob Leota, Brad Wilkin, Michael Wells, Josh Canham, Matt Philip, Pone Fa'amausili, Jordan Uelese, Matt Gibbon. Replacements: James Hanson, Cameron Orr, Cabous Eloff, Ross Haylett-Petty, Richard Hardwick, Joe Powell, Nick Jooste, George Worth.

Highlanders: Liam Coombes-Fabling, Fetuli Paea, Josh Timu, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Rory van Vugt, Marty Banks, Aaron Smith (cc), Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, Billy Harmon, James Lentjes (cc), Josh Dickson, Bryn Evans, Jermaine Ainsley, Andrew Makalio, Ethan de Groot. Replacements: Rhys Marshall, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Saula Ma'u, Sam Caird, Hugh Renton, Folau Fakatava, Vilimoni Koroi, Denny Solomona

Odds: [tab.com.au] Rebels $3.10 +7.5 $1.85; Highlanders $1.34, -7.5 $1.90 [odds correct as of 11am 25/5]

Verdict: It's another Sunday afternoon game to round out the regular season and there could be nothing or everything riding on this one for the Highlanders when they run out onto AAMI Park at 2pm. While they could point to Sam Gilbert's red card as a reason for their loss to the Waratahs, the truth of the matter is that the Highlanders were largely poor at home last week and will need to improve significantly to beat a Rebels side who is a much sterner opposition at home. Cult hero Marty Banks fills the Highlanders No. 10 jersey vacated by Gilbert while impressive No. 8 Marino Mikaele-Tu'u has been restored to the starting side. The key for the Rebels lies in their defence, too often this year they have fallen off simple tackles that have resulted in the easiest of tries. If they can stiffen up that part of the game, then they are more than capable of finishing their season on a high. This one looks a real coin flip. Rebels by 2.