The inaugural Super Rugby Pacific season kicks off with a historic clash on Friday night as the NSW Waratahs host the Fijian Drua at Parramatta’s CommBank Stadium.
It will be the Drua’s first game in the big time after being added to a now 12 team competition along with the Auckland-based Moana Pasifika.
The Drua, based in NSW’s Lennox Head due to COVID-19 complications this season, will initially play against just the Australian teams before the trans-Tasman crossover games kick off in round 10.
Super Rugby Pacific kicks off this weekend with Waratahs vs Drua, Chiefs vs Highlanders, Crusaders vs Hurricanes, Reds vs Rebels and Brumbies vs Force – all streaming ad-free, live and on demand only on Stan Sport
The Reds are the defending Super Rugby AU champions while the Crusaders won last year’s Aotearoa title and the Blues then claimed the trans-Tasman trophy.
Here’s how the six Australian-based squads shape up for 2022 with some expert analysis from Sydney-based All Blacks legend Andrew Mehrtens.
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Props: Allan Alaalatoa, Fred Kaihea, Sefo Kautai, Tom Ross, James Slipper, Scott Sio
Hookers: Folau Fainga’a, Lachlan Lonergan, Connal McInerney, Billy Pollard
Locks: Nick Frost, Tom Hooper, Cadeyrn Neville, Darcy Swain
Backrow: Jahrome Brown, Ed Kennedy, Luke Reimer, Pete Samu, Rory Scott, Rob Valetini
Halfbacks: Lachie Albert, Ryan Lonergan, Nic White
Flyhalves: Rodney Iona, Noah Lolesio
Centres: Hudson Creighton, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Len Ikitau, Irae Simone, Ollie Sapsford
Outside backs: Tom Banks, Cam Clark, Jesse Mogg, Andy Muirhead, Tom Wright
IN: Sefo Kautai, Fred Kaihea, Ed Kennedy, Rod Iona, Hudson Creighton, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Ollie Sapsford, Cam Clark, Jesse Mogg
OUT: Bayley Kuenzle, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, Reesjan Pasitoa, Reece Tapine, James Tucker, Harry Lloyd, Mack Hansen, Archer Holz, Solomone Kata
Mehrts’ verdict: Jesse Mogg has come back and is a pretty similar player to Tom Banks. Those guys from the back are quite cool in terms of the unorthodox approach they can bring within quite an orthodox and structured setup that the Brumbies are renowned for. It’s a big year for (Len) Ikitau and Australian centres across the board.
The help they can provide to their 10s in terms of eyes and ears, dictating phase play – this is an opportunity for these young, talented Australian centres to step up on the leadership side.
Props: Cabous Eloff, Pone Faamausili, Matt Gibbon, Cameron Orr, Rhys van Nek
Hookers: James Hanson, Efi Maafu, Jordan Uelese
Locks: Ross Haylett-Petty, Trevor Hosea, Tom Nowlan, Matt Philip
Backrow: Richard Hardwick, Tamati Ioane, Josh Kemeny, Rob Leota, Michael Wells, Brad Wilkin
Halfbacks: Joe Powell, Moses Sorovi, James Tuttle
Flyhalves: Carter Gordon
Centres: Stacey Ili, Ray Nu’u, Young Tonumaipea, Matt To’omua, Jeral Skelton
Outside backs: Lachlan Anderson, Reece Hodge, Andrew Kellaway, Joe Pincus, Ilikena Vudogo
IN: Tamati Ioane, Joe Pincus, Moses Sorovi, Efi Maafu, Matt Philip
OUT: Lucio Sordoni, Ignacio Calas, Steve Cummins, Lewis Holland, Frank Lomani, Tom Pincus, Dane Haylett-Petty, Isi Naisarani, Marika Koroibete
Mehrts’ verdict: Big responsibility on Matt To’omua. Andrew Kellaway came back in last year with no pressure of expectation and really started fulfilling the promise that he’s always shown but perhaps wasn’t nurtured at the start.
He’s going to be a leader for them as well and the Rebels will benefit immensely.
They came in last year with a lot of injuries and struggled a little bit. I’m sure they’re looking forward to being more settled this year.
Turner flies for Tahs try
Props: Angus Bell, Tiaan Taukipulu, Te Tera Faulkner, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Ruan Smith, Archer Holz
Hookers: David Porecki, Tom Horton
Locks: Max Douglas, Jed Holloway, Ned Hanigan, Hugh Bokenham, Jeremy Williams, Geoff Cridge
Backrow: Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, Lachie Swinton, Carlo Tizzano, Michael Hooper, Will Harris, Hugh Sinclair, Charlie Gamble, Langi Gleeson
Halfbacks: Jack Grant, Jake Gordon, Henry Robertson
Flyhalves: Will Harrison, Tane Edmed, Ben Donaldson
Centres: Jamie Roberts, Joey Walton, Lalakai Foketi, Izaia Perese, Mosese Tuipulotu
Outside Backs: Mark Nawaqanitawase, Alex Newsome, James Ramm, Tristan Reilly, Tevita Funa, Dylan Pietsch
IN: Jamie Roberts, Ruan Smith, Jed Holloway, Ned Hanigan, Michael Hooper, Tevita Funa, Dylan Pietsch, Archer Holz, Hugh Bokenham, Geoff Cridge
OUT: Robbie Abel, Chris Talakai, Jack Whetton, Sam Caird, Sam Wykes, Jack Dempsey, Tepai Moeroa, Jack Maddocks, Joe Cotton, Chris Tatola
Mehrts’ verdict: There’s not a lot of pressure or expectation on them. It can only get better. Ben Donaldson, he looked pretty polished last year and Tane Edmed has got really good footy pedigree. He’s quite a physical sort of fly half and quite innovative. I’m looking forward to him getting a chance as well.
It’ll be interesting to see if (Izaia) Perese can build on his really good season last year. More consistency, he’s had that Wallabies experience as well.
Props: George Blake, Feao Fotuaika, Harry Hoopert, Zane Nonggorr, Taniela Tupou, Dane Zander
Hookers: Richie Asiata, Alex Mafi, Josh Nasser
Locks: Angus Blyth, Lopeti Faifua, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Ryan Smith, Tuaina Taii Tualima
Backrow: Fraser McReight, Angus Scott-Young, Seru Uru, Harry Wilson, Liam Wright
Halfbacks: Spencer Jeans, Tate McDermott, Kalani Thomas
Flyhalves: Lawson Creighton, Tom Lynagh, James O’Connor
Centres: Josh Flook, Isaac Henry, Hunter Paisami, Hamish Stewart
Outside backs: Jock Campbell, Filipo Daugunu, Ilaisa Droasese, Mac Grealy, Jordan Petaia, Suliasi Vunivalu
IN: Spencer Jeans, Tom Lynagh, Lopeti Faifua, George Blake
OUT: Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Bryce Hegarty, Moses Sorovi
Mehrts’ verdict: Hunter Paisami was blockbusting last year in Super Rugby and got plenty of international footy as well. Individually he’s got fantastic skills and abilities but hopefully he will be more of a leader.
I’d like to see Jordan Petaia get some consistency. He’s such a creator, if he gets a bit more composure in his game, rather than trying to do something spectacular all the time. He’s got amazing talent but maybe just a little more circumspect with his game this year.
Props: Bo Abra, Greg Holmes, Harry Lloyd, Santiago Medrano, Tom Robertson, Angus Wagner
Hookers: Feleti Kaitu’u, Andrew Ready, Jack Winchester
Locks: Ryan McCauley, Fergus Lee-Warner, Jackson Pugh, Izack Rodda, Sitaleki Timani, Jeremy Thrush
Backrow: Tim Anstee, Ollie Callan, Kane Koteka, Brynard Stander
Halfbacks: Isaac Fines-Leleiwasa, Michael McDonald, Ian Prior
Flyhalves: Jake McIntrye, Reejan Pasitoa
Centres: Kyle Godwin, Richard Kahui, Bayley Kuenzle, Grason Makara
Outside backs: Daniel Ala, Brad Lacey, Manasa Mataele, Jack McGregor, Toni Pulu, Byron Ralston, Jake Strachan, Reece Tapine
IN: Daniel Ala, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, Bayley Kuenzle, Harry Lloyd, Manasa Mataele, Reesjan Pasitoa and Reece Tapine
OUT: Marcel Brache, Tomas Cubelli, Rob Kearney, Tevita Kuridrani, Jono Lance, Tomas Lezana, Kieran Longbottom, Domingo Miotti, Jordan Olowofela, Jonah Placid and Henry Taefu
Mehrts’ verdict: They’ve retained a couple of their more experienced New Zealand boys, Jeremy Thrush and Richard Kahui. But they’ve got some exciting players coming through, a good academy system.
The likes of Ryan McCauley coming home after a short stint with Exeter Chiefs, just bringing that seniority and experience. (Tim) Anstee will be important for them of course as well as Fergus Lee-Warner. They’ve got plenty to build on. A lot of guts and heart last year and with some more cohesion they’ll be even stronger. Manasa Mataele should be pretty exciting on the wing, unbelievable finisher. He’s shown some amazing skill, he’s an incredible player.
Props: Haereiti Hetet, Jone Koroiduadua, Meli Tuni, Kaliopasi Uluilakepa, Manasa Saulo, Samuela Tawake
Hookers: Mesu Dolokoto, Tevita Ikanivere, Zuriel Togiatama
Locks: Chris Minimbi, Ratu Rotuisolia, Sorovakatini Tuifagalele, Viliame Rarasea, Isoa Nasilasila, Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta
Backrow: Joseva Tamani, Kitione Salawa, Meli Derenalagi, Nemani Nagusa, Raikabula Momoedonu, Rusiate Nasove, Vilive Miramira
Halfbacks: Leone Nawai, Peni Matawalu, Simione Kuruvoli
Flyhalves: Teti Tela, Tuidraki Samusamuvodre
Centres: Apisalome Vota, Kalaveti Ravouvou, Kalione Nasoko, Seru Vularika
Outside Backs: Onisi Ratave, Vinaya Habosi, Kitione Taliga, Napolioni Bolaca
Mehrts’ verdict: They’ve got some awesome skill. The Drua have probably got a bit more cohesion and connectivity, a lot more players that have played together (than Moana Pasifika). You know what it’s like watching Fijians, if you’re unlucky enough to walk full on into them down the street, they’re built, they’re absolutely built.
They’re cruisers, they’re relaxed, they’ve got a beautiful temperament and everything but gee, when they want to get stuff done on the footy field they are frightening.
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