Fijian Drua host the Highlanders in Suva on Saturday in their first organized match in Fiji in the inaugural Super Rugby Pacific.
None of the six Round 11 matches will be played in New Zealand, with five in Australia after last weekend’s Super Round in Melbourne.
Here are the teams and pick talking points for this weekend’s action, which kicks off in Brisbane when Brad Thorn’s Reds host the Chiefs on Friday night.
* Hall of Shame: Seven of the most shocking defeats in New Zealand sporting history
* How Andrew Mehrtens survived the ‘sleeper hug’ of his All Blacks teammate Richard Loe
* Global investment group acquires 25% stake in Hurricanes, aims to grow brand worldwide
* All Blacks haka is easily the most popular rugby video
Reds vs Chiefs
Friday, 9:45pm NZ time at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Reds: to be confirmed
The unavailability of co-captain Sam Cane for the Chiefs’ road game against the Reds means Luke Jacobson will lead the Hamilton-based franchise for the second time this season.
Cane has returned home to New Zealand ahead of the birth of his and his wife’s first child. His teammate co-captain Brad Weber remains sidelined with injury.
Both are two of 13 unavailable players on the team, further testing the Chiefs’ depth heading into the regular season finale.
A week after All Blacks midfielder Quinn Tupaea shone during his first start at full-back, he has remained in shirt number 11, while Kaylum Boshier and Mitch Brown return to number 23.
Bosses: Chase Tiatia, Jonah Lowe, Alex Nankivell, Rameka Poihipi, Quinn Tupaea, Bryn Gatland, Cortez Ratima, Pita Gus Sowakula, Kaylum Boshier, Luke Jacobson (c), Tupou Vaa’i, Josh Lord, Angus Ta’avao, Samisoni Taukei’ I, Aidan Ross. Bookings: Bradley Slater, Atu Moli, George Dyer, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Samipeni Finau, Mitch Brown, Xavier Roe, Rivez Reihana.
Strength vs Blues
Saturday, 00:00am (NZ time) at HBF Park, Perth
All Blacks Caleb Clarke and Akira Ioane make a welcome return for the leading Blues in the competition for Friday night’s Super Rugby Pacific clash against the Western Force in Perth.
Clarke has served his three-week suspension for a dangerous aerial challenge against Moana Pasifika and returns to the left flank, while Ioane makes his first appearance of the season after injuring his foot before the Blues’ opener.
Leon MacDonald’s team, riding an eight-game winning streak, also welcomes the key quintet of captain Dalton Papalii, leading tryscorer and hooker Kurt Eklund, running back Fin Christie and props Ofa Tuungafasi and Alex Hodgman (for his 50th game) since halftime or inconvenience.
Center Rieko Ioane, in top form, right-hand prop Nepo Laulala and forwards Hoskins Sotutu and Tom Robinson are among those who enjoyed a spell this week.
The Blues are rolling at the top of the table but are coming off an unconvincing 35-18 win over Fijian Drua in the last round in Melbourne.
Blues: Zarn Sullivan, AJ Lam, Bryce Heem, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Caleb Clarke, Beauden Barrett, Finlay Christie; Anton Segner, Dalton Papalii (c), Akira Ioane, Sam Darry, Luke Romano, Ofa Tuungafasi, Kurt Eklund, Alex Hodgman. Bookings: Ricky Riccitelli Karl Tu’inukuafe, Marcel Renata, Jams Tucker, Taufa Funaki, Daniel Tele’a, Mark Telea.
Strength: to be confirmed
Fijian Drua vs Highlanders
Saturday, 4:35pm NZ time at ANZ Stadium, Suva
Dr: to be confirmed
Highlanders: to be confirmed
Waratahs vs Crusaders
Saturday, 7:05pm NZ time at Leichardt Oval, Sydney
Waratahs: to be confirmed
Crusaders: to be confirmed
Rebels against the Pacific Ocean
Saturday, 9:45pm NZ time at AAMI Park, Melbourne
Rebels: to be confirmed
Pacific Ocean: to be confirmed
Brumbies vs Highlanders
Sunday, 4pm NZ time at GIO Stadium, Canberra
Brumbies: to be confirmed
Highlanders: to be confirmed