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Super Rugby: Main contenders to win the Grand Final

Super Rugby Pacific 2023 gets underway on 24th February so it is time to take a look at the main contenders to win the Grand Final.

Super Rugby Pacific 2023 is made up of 12 teams. Five from Australia, five from New Zealand and one each from Fiji and Pacific Islands.

91 matches will be played over the regular season in a round-robin format. The top eight teams will then battle it out in the finals. The finals series will consist of four quarter-final matches, two semi-finals and then the big one, the Grand Final.

The season will get underway on Friday 24th February and run through to Saturday 24th June which is the date for the Grand Final. It looks sure to be an exciting season ahead so first-up let’s take a look ahead at the main contenders who could go on and win the Grand Final.

Crusaders (7/4)

The Crusaders are the 2022 champions and are Super Rugby’s most successful side over the past seven seasons when they have not finished any lower than third on the ladder. Hence it is no surprise why they are the hot fancies to go on and defend their title in 2023.

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The Crusaders who are based in Christchurch, New Zealand, have lost some key players during the off-season and only time will tell how much the departures hurt them. Argentina international Pablo Matera and George Bridge will be the biggest losses for them but they do have an exciting crop of youngsters and have made some quality additions.

Former England halfback Willi Heinz returns after a stint playing in his homeland, while Samoan international Melani Nanai and Pepesana Patafilo have also signed.

The return of coach Scott Robertson is also a huge boost and he has already revealed his delight at assembling a ‘good balanced squad’.

Blues (9/4)

The Blues had an impressive 2022 when making finals for the first time since 2003 and looked to be the side most likely to topple the Crusaders. It wasn’t to be but they will be hoping to come bouncing back with a strong 2023 campaign, taking their game to the next level.

The Auckland-based side have not seen too much disruption to their squad over the off-season and that can only be a good thing as they look to kick on. Karl Tu’inukuafe has headed to Europe with French side Montpellier which is a big loss, but it is not all bad news for the Blues.

All Blacks lock Patrick Tuipulotu has re-signed for the club following a one-year spell in Japan and is sure to be a big hit. Coach Leon MacDonald is delighted to have a settled squad and says they are out to go one step further in the season ahead.

Chiefs (4/1)

The Chiefs have been rocked by the departure of coach Warren Gatland, who in December opted to leave the club in favour of returning to coach Wales ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

It means Clayton McMillan is now in charge on a permanent basis and he will be keen to make his mark in the competition. The Chiefs have also been hit by the news that All Blacks prop Angus Ta’avao will miss the entire campaign through injury. 

With that in mind, the Chiefs have made a move to fill the void by bringing in Ireland international John Ryan, who has made over 200 appearances for Munster. The Chiefs have also brought Damian McKenzie back to the club after he spent the last year playing his rugby in Japan.

Hurricanes (15/2)

The Hurricanes are still looking to add to the Super Rugby title they won back in 2016 and they could be in with an outside chance of doing it in 2023.

Playing finals has not been an issue for them but they have never made it past the semi-final stage in the last six years and will be out to do it this season.

Again there has not been a great deal of change to the Hurricanes squad, and in a lot of ways, that can only be a good thing. The Wellington outfit have a squad full of quality, including All Blacks stars Ardie Savea, Dane Coles, Tyrel Lomax, Asafo Aumua and Jordie Barrett.

Not only that they have added Dan Sinkinson (Waikato), Kini Naholo (Taranaki) and Brett Cameron (Manawatu) and coach Jason Holland says he is excited about the squad they have for the season ahead.

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