The Roar’s Super Rugby expert tips and predictions, Round 14: Rebels mindset a wildcard, three teams locked in battle for first


We’re into the final week of the regular season and there’s a new leader on The Roar tipping panel. Timing his run perfectly, Nick charged to a two point lead with five last week to Christy’s two.

This week has the extra challenge of jockeying for finals. So far there is just one dead rubber – the Reds’ visit to the Tahs – but that could change, and affect intensity of performance as the games progress.

And how do you assess the Rebels? That one could go either way after the events of the past few days.

Christy Doran

Crusaders, Reds, Drua, Hurricanes, Blues, Brumbies

Tipping goes to show how close the margins are in sport and what it can do for a club or a coach.

Last week the Crusaders – with a couple of their best players playing their second match of the year – came out and looked like the world beaters they’ve always been by blowing past the ladder-leading Blues. But even the Waratahs could blow away the Crusaders previously this year not once but twice. That’s bizarre.

But the Hurricanes’ late win over the Chiefs shows how tight sport can be, and another lost point for me.

Anyway, I digress, the Crusaders will get a bonus point win over Moana Pasifika and if there was another week left in the regular competition they’d likely scrape into the finals. There’s not, and unless the soon-to-be-culled Rebels pull off a massive win in Fiji the seven-time back-to-back champions will be out.

The Reds have regularly slipped up when they appear a shoo-in but they should be far too good for the Waratahs, who dropped to a new low last week by being hammered by Moana.

After being told on Thursday they won’t exist as a Super Rugby franchise, the Rebels have added motivation to finish the season on a high. But that line isn’t always easy to find, especially when playing in the humidity and wild conditions served up in Fiji. Even still, the Drua should be too strong.

Frank Lomani of the Drua during the round seven Super Rugby Pacific match between Melbourne Rebels and Fijian Drua at AAMI Park, on April 05, 2024, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

The Hurricanes will want to ensure they finish on top of the Super Rugby standings and play in the match prior to the Blues, so they’ll come out firing. Sorry Highlanders.

The Chiefs can’t move from fourth and the Blues need to at least win to finish on top. They’ll be too good.

Can the Force repeat their upset win over the Brumbies like last year? Nope. The Brumbies will recognise the importance of winning momentum, but they also could have an outside chance of finishing in the top two should one of the big two – the Hurricanes or Blues – slip up.

Nick Wasiliev

Crusaders, Reds, Drua, Hurricanes, Blues, Brumbies

Given so much is on the line, I reckon this might be the hardest round to tip. One team wins, doors open or close for the other teams and it changes the dynamic of the whole ladder. This is gonna be fun!

Doran probably has to pick the Crusaders now after last week – they looked a different side the moment Tamaiti Williams came on the field. Now he’s starting, I think the Saders win big.

They still have to sweat on the results in Fiji and WA, but it’ll be a nice mental game they’ll be playing with everyone else, seeing them sitting in eighth after Friday night. By the sounds of all the Kiwi fans online, they’ll be hoping both Fiji and the Force show up to keep them out of finals.

Next up, the only game with no impact on the ladder, except for who takes home the Bob Templeton Cup for another year. Reds look to be peaking again in the back half of the season, and while they’ll have one eye on next week, that’s already guaranteed and won’t change. What they can control is maintaining momentum.

They’ve got the more cohesive side and the stronger front row, so I see them spoiling Darren Coleman’s final night in Sky Blue. Shout out to NSW Country Eagle Paddy Ryan for his return – anyone seen where the Benn Robinson Bell has got to?

If any of you folks have read my article earlier this week, you’ll know this is probably the most important game in the context of the finals race. Drua win, and the Force, Crusaders and Moana’s season is over.

Rebels win, and the cat is set amongst the pigeons – and that’s even before we get to the fact Frank Lomani is back and there was a lot of bad blood in this last fixture.

Drua at home, ya back em! 

Hurricanes have a few names back, and the Highlanders name a few newbies – says a lot about how both are approaching this match. Hurricanes should get it done and lock in a bonus point – which will likely give them top of the table.

Similar circumstances are also unfolding up at Eden Park – however the Chiefs still have some pretty good names and decent firepower in their side. Their final fate is locked in, the Blues is not. I see the men from Auckland getting home – but it’ll be closer than expected.

I’d be pissed if I was a Force player – by the time this game arrives, they’ll know their fate: and it’ll either be all for nothing or they’ll have to play the match of their career. If they are still alive, it’s anyone’s game. Perth is hard to win in most weeks, but the draw will either benefit the Brumbies or be their worst nightmare.

 Len Ikitau of the Brumbies celebrates scoring a try during the round 11 Super Rugby Pacific match between ACT Brumbies and Fijian Drua . (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

Good thing they’ve named a pretty strong squad – and if things go differently in NZ on Saturday, they could be playing for the top of the table. Brumbies to win in a thriller. 

Hamish Bidwell

Crusaders, Reds, Drua, Hurricanes, Blues, Brumbies

It’d be a fitting end to a forgettable Crusaders’ season to lose this one. Sadly, I just don’t see Moana Pasifika being able to compete for long enough to cause an upset.

The Reds, obviously. I’m picking a 25-point margin.

I’m torn on this one, but always tip the Drua when they’re in Lautoka.

Maybe I’ve lived in Hurricanes country too long, but I keep expecting them to fall in a heap. Much as admire the Highlanders, the table suggests there’ll only be one winner.

Tempted to pick a draw, even though it’s impossible, given I don’t really want either team to win. Blues by a handful of points.

Another comfortable win coming up for the Brumbies. 

Tony Harper

Crusaders, Waratahs, Rebels, Hurricanes, Blues, Force

The Waratahs have their wooden spoon and I’m staring down the barrel of my own. There’s no point following the other panellists down the same well worn path this week – are there any upset opportunities here for we pathetic stragglers?

I reckon some results might come down to game state and pressure with finals on the line, so I’ve opted for three upsets. If they all come off I’ll be closing in on Christy (and kicking myself for not taking a multi).

The Crusaders will have too much going on for MP with finals still live. I vowed to never pick the Tahs again earlier this season but needs must. The Reds are locked in fifth and in tune up phase – surely a few of their crew will have an eye on the next weekend and a meeting with the Chiefs?

Fiji will have the pressure of maintaining their finals push. The Rebels are locked in and this will go one of two ways – absolute blind bloody fury at the Rugby Australia decision or demoralised acceptance of their fate.

Frank Lomani was suspended for six weeks for bloodying up Josh Canham – he’s a perfect target for the Rebs to release some frustration on in his return game.

The Hurricanes and Blues won’t lose – which means the Brumbies will be resigned to third and the foot will come off the gas. For this brave tip to work it relies on the Force being live going into that game. Unlikely, but what else can I hope for? Desperate times and all that…


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