Chiefs look to cement top spot and close the door on Crusaders

rugby25 May 2023 07:29| © Reuters
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Chiefs © Getty Images

The Chiefs will look to sew up top spot and home advantage through the Super Rugby Pacific playoffs on Saturday when they take on the Brumbies in a tough road trip to Canberra.

The Blues and Hurricanes will also battle for hosting rights in the quarterfinals and a top-four spot when they clash at Eden Park in the competition's penultimate regular season round.

Although eight points clear at the top, the Chiefs will hope to slam the door early on the second-placed Crusaders, who have reliably shifted up a gear at the business end of the season.

Unbeaten at home this year, the Brumbies will not be rolled over easily, though.

Chastened after a costly defeat at Western Force, Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham has recalled seven rested Wallabies as they look to claw back second spot.

"They're nice and fresh ... They're very keen at the moment to get into it," he said.

"It's an exciting time for the boys to get out there and test themselves against a team that's going to go deep into the finals."

A point ahead of the Brumbies, the Crusaders are dealing with a prop crisis after loosehead Joe Moody joined George Bower and Fletcher Newell on the sidelines following season-ending ankle surgery.

That may give some encouragement to the sixth-placed New South Wales Waratahs as they look to end a 10-match losing streak at the Crusaders when they meet in Christchurch on Saturday.

However, Scott Robertson's Crusaders have plenty of reinforcements elsewhere, with lock Sam Whitelock back from injury and playmaker Richie Mo'unga among a slew of rested All Blacks returning to action.

The contentious policy of resting test players ahead of the World Cup has overshadowed the competition and may have hurt the fifth-placed Hurricanes' chances of securing a home quarterfinal when they lost away to the Chiefs last week.

However, the Hurricanes can snatch back fourth spot with victory away to the Blues and have bolstered their matchday squad with refreshed captain Ardie Savea and Jordie Barrett.

Beneath the Waratahs, five teams are jostling for the last two spots in the top eight for a quarterfinal berth.

The seventh-placed Reds can seal their place in the playoffs with victory away to the Highlanders (ninth) in Dunedin on Friday.

Force (eighth) would be delighted with a Reds win as they could then seal their own quarterfinal with victory away to the Melbourne Rebels.

Fijian Drua (10th) will hope at least one of the Force or Reds lose so they can keep their playoffs hopes alive by beating Moana Pasifika at home in steamy Lautoka on Saturday.

The Rebels, a point behind the Drua, need victory over the Force to stave off elimination for at least a week.