What a weekend of rugby we saw in Round 11! Five of the six games were saw margins of four points or less, while the Brumbies only pulled away from the Hurricanes in the second half.
The upset of the weekend was the Waratahs' 24-21 win over the Crusaders, which has kept NSW in the hunt for a home final.
So where might the upset come this weekend?
Stay across all the line-ups, team news and odds for Round 12 as they come to hand below.
Friday, May 6
Blues: Zarn Sullivan, Mark Telea, Rieko Ioane, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Caleb Clarke, Stephen Perofeta, Finlay Christie; Hoskins Sotutu, Dalton Papalii (c), Akira Ioane, Tom Robinson, James Tucker, Ofa Tuungafasi, Kurt Eklund, Jordan Lay. Replacements: Soane Vikena, Karl Tu'inukuafe, Nepo Laulala, Sam Darry, Adrian Choat, Sam Nock, Bryce Heem, AJ Lam.
Rebels: Reece Hodge, Andrew Kellaway, Lukas Ripley, Stacey Ili, George Worth, Carter Gordon, Joe Powell; Rob Leota, Richard Hardwick, Brad Wilkin, Josh Canham, Matt Philip, Pone Fa'amausili, James Hanson, Matt Gibbon. Replacements: Efi Ma'afu, Cameron Orr, Cabous Eloff, Daniel Maiava, Tamati Ioane, Moses Sorovi, Nick Jooste, Glen Vaihu.
Odds [tab.com.au]: Blues $1.02, -24.5 $1.90; Rebels $11, +24.5 $1.85 [odds correct as of 10am 4/5]
Verdict: The Blues will be happy to be back at Eden Park having escaped Australia with a narrow win over the Force. After flying out of the blocks and opening up a commanding lead, the Force rumbled home and almost stole it at the death; the Blues surviving 26 phases of attack from the hosts to just hold on. That may prove to be a defining result on the Blues' season, as they fight to keep hold of top spot. Coach Leon MacDonald has looked to freshen up his troops after their two-week stint in Australia with Beauden Barrett fulfilling his All Blacks rest requirements, the talented Stephen Perofeta to wear the No. 10 jersey instead. He is joined in the run-on XV by Rieko Ioane, Tom Robinson and Hoskins Sotutu in what is a trio of big ins for the hosts. The Rebels, meanwhile, have definitely turned the corner on their season. Having looked like they barely new each other earlier in the year, the Rebels have made real progress in attack and showed a genuine determination to hold on against Moana Pasifika next week. Little-known Lucas Ripley gets a start in the No. 13 jersey this week after Ray Nu'u's second red card of the season while Joe Powell and Pone Fa'amausili have both been promoted to the starting side. This is clearly a big step up for the Rebels and one they are likely to come up short in. Blues by 23.
Reds: Jock Campbell, Suliasi Vunivalu, Josh Flook, Hamish Stewart, Jordan Petaia, Lawson Creighton, Tate McDermott; Harry Wilson, Fraser McReight, Seru Uru, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Ryan Smith, Feao Fotuaika, Richie Asiata, Harry Hoopert. Replacements: Matt Faessler, Dane Zander, Albert Anae, Angus Blyth, Angus Scott-Young, Spencer Jeans, Filipo Daugunu, Mac Grealy.
Highlanders: Connor Garden-Bachop, Sam Gilbert, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Fetuli Paea, Scott Gregory, Mitch Hunt, Aaron Smith (cc), Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, Billy Harmon, James Lentjes (cc), Josh Dickson, Bryn Evans, Jermaine Ainsley, Liam Coltman, Ethan de Groot. Replacements: Rhys Marshall, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Saula Mau, Max Hicks, Hugh Renton, Folau Fakatava, Marty Banks, Mosese Dawai.
Odds: [tab.com.au] Reds $1.50, -4.5 $1.85; Highlanders $2.50, +4.5 $1.90 [odds correct as of 10am 4/5]
Verdict: One of the toughest games to call this round, the Reds are desperate to halt a run of losses against New Zealand opposition as they welcome the Highlanders to Suncorp. With James O'Connor still sidelined, the Reds have lost another big name with Taniela Tupou's calf injury proving to be worse than originally thought and Hunter Paisami also sidelined with a minor shoulder complaint. But there is some good news at Ballymore, with Jordan Petaia and Suliasi Vunivalu both fit and named to return against the Highlanders. The visitors head to Brisbane buoyed by their win over the Drua in Fiji, a victory that has kept their finals hopes alive. The return of Aaron Smith was vital to that, while the Highlanders have further reinforcements this week in the form of Liam Coltman, Josh Dickson and James Lentjies, the forward trio all restored to the run-on side. The big question for this match will be whether young Reds No. 10 Lawson Creighton can turn in a more consistent performance than the past two weeks. He has shown he has the quality to be a Super Rugby player, but has so far been let down in key moments by his decision-making. A loss here will really suck the life out of the Reds' season and it may just be that desperation that sees them home. Reds by 3.
Saturday, May 7
Moana: Danny Toala, Tima Fainga'anuku, Levi Aumua, Henry Taefu, Timoci Tavatavanawai, Christian Leali'ifano (VC), Ereatara Enari; Henry Time-Stowers, Solomone Funaki, Michael Curry, Samuel Slade, Veikoso Poloniati, Sekope Kepu (C), Ray Niuia, Abraham Pole. Replacements: Luteru Tolai, Ezekiel Lindenmuth, Joe 'Apikotoa, Alex McRobbie, Jack Lam, Jonathan Taumateine, Lincoln McClutchie, Solomone Kata.
Waratahs: Alex Newsome, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Izaia Perese, Lalakai Foketi, Dylan Pietsch, Tane Edmed, Jake Gordon; Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, Charlie Gamble, Will Harris, Geoff Cridge, Jed Holloway, Archer Holz, David Porecki, Angus Bell. Replacements: Tom Horton, Tetera Faulkner, Ruan Smith, Hugh Sinclair, Langi Gleeson, Jack Grant, Ben Donaldson, Triston Reilly.
Odds: [tab.com.au] Moana $3.10, +7.5 $1.87; Waratahs $1.34, -7.5 $1.87 [odds correct as of 10am 4/5]
Verdict: What a win it was for the Waratahs in Sydney last week. The question is now, though, can they back it up on the road? Too often in the history of the Waratahs they have chased rousing victories with a poor performance when you would swear it was a different team on the paddock to the one the week prior. But Darren Coleman has certainly created an environment that is seeing his team thrive at Daceyville and has total buy-in from his players. NSW have been struck by injury this week, with Harry Johnson-Holmes likely to miss the rest of the season, while Michael Hooper misses this week after his heavy hit from Hamish Dalzell. Hooper's absence is well covered by a positional shift for the outstanding Charlie Gamble, with Will Harris coming into the No. 6 jersey. Archer Holz, meanwhile, replaces Harry Johnson-Holmes. Moana Pasifika continue to have just the one win to show for their endeavours this season, the expansion franchise falling just short of a late comeback win over the Rebels. But Aaron Mauger's team will be a far tougher nut to crack at home, the afternoon kick-off at Mt. Smart Stadium sure to resonate with fans. As previously mentioned, this has the feel of a banana-skin game for the Waratahs but with the likes of Jed Holloway, skipper Jake Gordon and rising fly-half Tane Edmed all leading from the front this season, they have more than enough mental strength to overcome any speedbumps here. Waratahs by 10.
Chiefs: Kaleb Trask, Jonah Lowe, Alex Nankivell, Quinn Tupaea, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Bryn Gatland, Cortez Ratima, Pita Gus Sowakula, Sam Cane (c), Luke Jacobson, Tupou Vaa'i, Josh Lord, Angus Ta'avao, Samisoni Taukei'aho, Aidan Ross. Replacements: Bradley Slater, Ollie Norris, Atu Moli, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Samipeni Finau, Xavier Roe, Rameka Poihipi, Emoni Narawa.
Brumbies: Tom Banks, Tom Wright, Len Ikitau, Irae Simone, Andy Muirhead, Noah Lolesio, Nic White; Pete Samu, Jahrome Brown, Rob Valetini, Cadeyrn Neville, Darcy Swain, Sefo Kautai, Folau Fainga'a, James Slipper. Replacements: Billy Pollard, Scott Sio, Allan Alaalatoa, Nick Frost, Tom Hooper, Rory Scott, Ryan Lonergan, Ollie Sapsford.
Odds: [tab.com.au] Chiefs $1.32, -7.5 $1.85; Brumbies $3.20, +7.5 $1.90 [odds correct as of 10am 4/5]
Verdict: The game of the round, both of these teams are riding a wave of confidence on the back of their recent form. The Chiefs had an easy start to their two-week tour of Australia when Waratahs prop Angus Bell was sent off in just the second minute of Super Round, but they then had a real battle to get past the Reds at Suncorp, and did so on the back of a smart tactical showing. But this is certainly a significant step up against a Brumbies team that is looking as polished as ever under Dan McKellar. The Brumbies' driving maul is arguably the best in Super Rugby, while their entire forward pack has laid an exceptional platform for what is a stable backline. Still, this is easily the Brumbies' biggest test of 2022 and represents a genuine yardstick for their title credentials. The likely return of skipper Sam Cane is a huge boost for the Chiefs, with their pack already blessed with significant All Blacks resources. This is a genuine toss-of-the-coin fixture, but the comforts of home might just be enough to get the Chiefs across the line. Chiefs by 3.
Force: Jake Strachan, Byron Ralston, Kyle Godwin, Bayley Kuenzle, Manasa Mataele, Reesjan Pasitoa, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa; Tim Anstee, Ollie Callan, Fergus Lee-Warner, Izack Rodda, Ryan McCauley, Santiago Medrano, Feleti Kaitu'u. Replacements: Andrew Ready, Angus Wagner, Bo Abra, Jeremy Thrush, Alex Masibaka, Ian Prior, Jake McIntyre, Richard Kahui.
Crusaders: Will Jordan, George Bridge, Braydon Ennor, David Havili (captain), Leicester Fainga'anuku, Richie Mo'unga, Mitchell Drummond; Cullen Grace, Ethan Blackadder, Pablo Matera, Sam Whitelock, Zach Gallagher, Oli Jager, Ricky Jackson, Tamaiti Williams. Replacements: George Bell, Finlay Brewis, Fletcher Newell, Dominic Gardiner, Sione Havili Talitui, Bryn Hall, Fergus Burke, Chay Fihaki.
Odds: [tab.com.au] Force $7, +17.5 $1.90; Crusaders $1.08, -17.5 $1.85 [odds correct as of 10am 4/5]
Verdict: Look up the term "gallant defeat" in Google, and you might well find a picture of the Western Force. Having suffered narrow defeats by the Brumbies, Waratahs and Rebels this season, the Force pushed the Blues beyond fulltime last week but just couldn't find the game-breaking play they needed for victory. Unfortunately for Tim Sampson's side, they face what is arguably the most ominous beast in Super Rugby: A wounded Crusaders. Scott Robertson's side have left no stone unturned this week, completing a rigorous review of their loss to the Waratahs which saw them give up a 17-0 first-half advantage. While the Crusaders powered home, they were then let down by their discipline just when it looked like they would complete a remarkable comeback win. There is one huge in for the Crusaders this week, and that is of course the return of Richie Mo'unga. The Crusaders looked lost without Mo'unga, particularly in the first half, last week, and he will immediately inspired a huge whack of confidence across this team. Ethan Blackadder and Braydon Ennor are also back from All Blacks rest weeks, giving the visitors added strength for this clash in Perth. It's true, the Force have been a team that has given the Crusaders some issues in the past, but it's hard to see them running the Super Rugby giants close this week. Crusaders by 20.
Sunday, May 8
Hurricanes: Josh Moorby, Wes Goosen, Bailyn Sullivan, Billy Proctor, Salesi Rayasi, Aidan Morgan, TJ Perenara (c); Tyler Laubscher, Du'Plessis Kirifi, Blake Gibson, Justin Sangster, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Tyrel Lomax, Asafo Aumua, Xavier Numia. Replacements: Dane Coles, Tevita Mafileo, Owen Franks, Caleb Delany, TK Howden, Cameron Roigard, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Riley Higgins.
Drua: Kitione Taliga, Selestino Ravutaumada, Apsialome Vota, Jona Mataiciwa, Kitione Ratu, Simione Kuruvoli, Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta; Kitione Salawa, Meli Derenalagi (c), Sorovakatini Tuifagalele, Isoa Nasilasila, Samuela Tawake, Zuriel Togiatama, Haereiti Hetet. Replacements: Tevita Ikanivere, Meli Tuni, Manasa Saulo, Chris Minimbi, Raikabula Momoedonu, Leone Nawai, Teti Tela, Onisi Ratave.
Odds: [tab.com.au] Hurricanes $1.07, -15.5 $1.87; Drua $7.50, +15.5 $1.87 [odds correct as of 10am 4/5]
Verdict: It's another Sunday afternoon fixture in the New Zealand capital with the Hurricanes welcoming the Drua to Wellington for the finale of Round 12. Unfortunately for the Hurricanes, they will be without inspirational skipper Ardie Savea, with the back-rower sitting out through an All Blacks rest week. That is a significant blow, particularly given the Hurricanes are coming off a dispirited second-half showing against the Brumbies last week. The Drua, meanwhile, will still be kicking themselves after they gave up a halftime lead to lose their historic first home game, against the Highlanders, in Suva. The Drua, too, have lost arguably their biggest weapon with winger Vinaya Habosi not named among the 23. Still with just the one win for the year, this looks a tough ask for the Fijians. Hurricanes by 15.