Only four teams remain in the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific as the competition enters the semi-finals stage this weekend.
The first matchup is a replay of last year’s final, only this time, the Crusaders host the Blues in Christchurch whilst the table-topping Chiefs welcome the lone Australian side, the Brumbies, to FMG Stadium.
It is all set for some brilliant action ahead of the weekend Planet Rugby selects seven players to keep an eye on.
The All Black reaches an impressive milestone this weekend as he reaches a century of Super Rugby caps at the age of 26. No matter which way one looks at it, the achievement is simply outstanding.
Since bursting onto the scene as an exuberant and extremely rapid 19-year-old, the Blues man has matured and developed into arguably the finest attacking 13 in the game. One who can tear defences to shreds.
That will be required this weekend as his side have the unbelievably difficult task of handing the Crusaders their first home playoff loss in history. The Blues will look to their now experienced man for x-factor and attacking edge. He will no doubt be inspired and play hard as he always does.
A big game for a big star who will only grow in stature over the next few seasons.
100 super rugby games at 26. We are witnessing a goat being born right Infront of our eyes. Beautiful! https://t.co/sw2dy9Qr0T
— T.I twaha (@TwahaIbrahim7) June 14, 2023
Prolific should be on his birth certificate. Jordan’s ability to be in the right place at the right time to find a way over the try-line is simply outstanding. When he isn’t being played in, he finds a way to do it himself.
It has been a frustrating season for the speedster, who spent most of the regular season on the sidelines with a migraine-related issue and building minutes and form is very important for his World Cup prospects.
But he is a Crusaders product meaning he is born for the big games, and a home playoff is right down his alley. Expect Jordan to be a serious try threat this weekend as he looks to turn up the heat for the Crusaders on the big stage.
The superstar pivot is nearing the end of his time in red and will be inspired to find a way to finish on a high. Mo’unga has absolute nerves of steel and is one for the big game.
By now, his well-rounded skill set needs no introduction. Over 1,000 Super Rugby points and not far behind the great Dan Carter on the Crusaders’ points list in playoff games, Mo’unga is a true Crusaders legend.
One only becomes a Christchurch legend by continuously producing the goods time and again in the biggest games, something he has nailed during his time with the club.
Expect a massive effort from a star who will be looking to sign off with a bang.
A lot of responsibility falls on playmakers whose return has powered the Chiefs to the top of the pile, and as it has so often been said, getting to the top is one thing and staying there is another.
McKenzie has the task of driving his side and preventing a late-season wobble, as has been in the competition before. Just last season, the Blues wobbled late on for a well-placed Crusaders side to snatch the title.
There is no doubting his talent or his influence, but now the smiling assassin needs to prove that he can take his team through big games and find winning solutions.
It is a monstrous game for the best player in the competition this season.
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) April 29, 2023
For McKenzie to work his magic and guide the team around the park, the hard-working forwards need to lay the foundation and few have done it better over the last decade than Retallick.
The second-row affectionately known as ‘Guzzler’ pitched up in a big way last weekend as he offered tremendous physicality on both sides of the ball whilst operating within the line-out brilliantly.
Semi-finals are where teams look to their veterans and to their leaders, and one expects Test centurion to puff his chest out and be one of the leading influences on the pitch.
It has been a great season for his beloved Chiefs in part because of the hard work of Retallick and co which has to be produced yet again. Expect another industrious shift from the hulking lock.
The veteran scrum-half is another star who could be bidding farewell this week as he will be trading Canberra for Perth next season. He will be looking to do everything possible to get his Brumbies side over the line in a difficult clash against the table toppers.
White’s influence in the quarter-finals was massive for his team as he pulled strings where he could from the base whilst also being commanding in his leadership to keep the Brumbies in the tight battle.
The side goes to New Zealand as underdogs and the Wallaby will be key in the tussle. From getting under the skin of the opponents to orchestrating Stephen Larkham’s game plan from the ruck.
Another star who needs to step up as Wallabies boss Eddie Jones will be watching.
The loose forward could well be one of the most consistent players from any team across the last two years in Super Rugby Pacific.
The Wallaby will also give you hard running with impressive post-contact metres. He will be sharp and physical on defence whilst making very few errors along the way.
With the Brumbies absolutely requiring at the very least parity up front, it is the physical charge from a player like Valetini that needs to be at the forefront of their efforts. He has what it takes to cause some serious problems within the Chiefs pack, and the Brumbies will feel they have nothing to lose at the FMG Stadium.
— RUGBYcomau (@rugbycomau) April 7, 2023