Super Rugby W2W4: Taniela Tupou vs. Bulls, Hurricanes battle Crusaders

Taniela Tupou Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

The Highlanders welcome the battling Stormers to Dunedin in the first game of Super Rugby Round 4, before the Brumbies complete a three-game away run in Melbourne against the Rebels.

The Saturday action is highlighted by the all-Kiwi clash between the Hurricanes and Crusaders, while the Jaguares welcome the Waratahs to Buenos Aires to round out the weekend's action early Sunday morning [AEDT]

Read on as we bring you some of the major talking points of Round 4.

Australian Conference

Top prop? Tongan Thor no part-time scrummager

When do you start talking about Taniela "Tongan Thor" Tupou as a Wallabies Rugby World Cup contender?

There was certainly cause to do so following Queensland Reds' surprise win over the Brumbies at Suncorp Stadium, in which Tupou not only showed off his playmaker-like attacking skills but also proved he was no pushover at scrum time. In fact, Tupou was a key part of the Reds' demolition job on the previously vaunted Brumbies' set-piece.

"Sometimes I sense people going 'oh, yeah, he's [only] good at running the ball' because he's been known from those schoolboy videos," Thorn said of Tupou after the 18-10 win over the Brumbies

"He was huge out there at tighthead. He's only 21 and he'll be at his peak at 31.

"What is he ... 133kg, explosive, one of our quickest over 10m. That's God-given talent and you can't make that in the gym."

Tupou's story is well known on both sides of the Tasman, given he shot to fame when videos of him destroying opposition sides for Auckland's Sacred Heart College went viral. But the jaw-dropping vision of him only ever showed his exploits in open field, leaving many seasoned rugby pundits to question his scrummaging ability.

Ironically, Tupou was also drawn to the Reds by the allure of playing alongside his favourite player, Quade Cooper. The former Wallabies playmaker was earlier this year cast aside by Thorn as the coach opted for a more stable type of fly-half, a No. 10 who could steer the side around the paddock rather than rely on high-risk attacking brilliance.

Having taken on seasoned Brumbies campaigner Ben Alexander last week, Tupou has another chance to show his set-piece improvement against the far less experienced Pierre Schoemann when the Reds face the Bulls on Saturday.

Tupou's World Cup stocks are already on the rise, given the Waratahs' struggles without regular tighthead Sekope Kepu. NSW veteran Paddy Ryan has slipped down the Test pecking order, and he is in no way blessed with Tupou's ball-handling skills or speed, while the Rebels' Jermaine Ainsley is, like the Reds star, still learning his trade at Super Rugby level.

Another sound performance against the Bulls will only help Tupou's case and keep him firmly in the selection sights of Wallabies coach Michael Cheika. Having a Test prop with Tupou's skill-set would be a real X-factor; but those skills are worthless unless the bread and butter -- scrummaging -- sits proudly on the table, too.

Match Centre: Melbourne Rebels vs Brumbies

Match Centre: Queensland Reds vs. Bulls

New Zealand Conference

Barrett's ton puts extra edge on Kiwi cracker

Live within three hours' drive of Wellington? Short on plans on Saturday night? Then fill up the car, grab some snacks and get yourself to Westpac Stadium, for Super Rugby's Blue Riband fixture is set to explode.

The Hurricanes are back at home after two weeks on the road to start the season, and their first assignment on New Zealand soil doesn't come any tougher: An undefeated Crusaders outfit who have bucked their tendency for a slow start and have instead flown out of the blocks.

Saturday's showdown is a meeting between Super Rugby's two most immediate champions. The Crusaders ended a 10-year title drought in Johannesburg last August, while, 12 months earlier, the Hurricanes triumphed to shake the tag as the last remaining Kiwi franchise without a competition title.

The Hurricanes will be at least a day short on preparation, having returned from Argentina, but at least they have a relatively healthy squad at their disposal. The same cannot be said for the Crusaders, who have seen star fly-half Richie Mo'unga added to an already lengthy injury list; fortunately coach Scott Robertson has a more than adequate replacement in Mitchell Hunt.

But the focus will be squarely on Hunt's opponent in the No. 10 jersey, Beauden Barrett. The two-time reigning World Rugby Player of the Year plays his 100th Super Rugby match this weekend, giving the Hurricanes extra motivation to begin their home campaign with a win.

There's also the fact that the Hurricanes have won their past four home games against the Crusaders, and seven of their past 10 at all venues, in what is one of the more dominant records against the eight-time champions.

Ranked No. 1 and No. 2 for competition favouritism by bookmakers tab.com.au, these teams both have an appetite for playing open attacking rugby; something they are prepared to do from any part of the field.

And furthermore, boom hooker Asafo Aumua has been named to make his Super Rugby debut from the bench. Aumua was the star of last year's Under 20 World Championship final, who's made a habit of scoring tries in New Zealand's Mitre 10 Cup. He can move.

Match Centre: Highlanders vs. Stormers

Match Centre: Hurricanes vs. Crusaders

African Conference

Busted lock stocks opens door for future star

The Stormers are have to be of the most cursed teams when it comes to injury in a certain position.

A few years back it was at fly-half -- which may actually also be the case this year --- while the back-row, tighthead and scrum-half have also given the medical team headaches in recent years.

This year, injuries to superstars in the second-row have been a real problem. Lock Eben Etzebeth is set to miss the first half of the Super Rugby season, star JD Schickerling will be on the sidelines for a while with a bicep tear and Pieter-Steph du Toit's concussion is a major concern ahead of this weekend's action.

Du Toit is touch and go to play against the Highlanders on Friday, the Stormers' last match of their Australasian tour. This will possibly give young Salmaan Moerat the chance to have his first taste of Super Rugby. Moerat is one of the country's top talents, having impressed for Paarl Boys' and the SA U20s over the last few years.

The Republic has got some major talent at lock, but Moerat is certainly worth a look at if he gets a chance to run out against the Highlanders in Dunedin. He has got the size, power and skill to be a top player for some years to come. Basically a once-in-a-generation talent.

It will be interesting to see how he goes against the Highlanders.

Match Centre: Sharks vs. Sunwolves

Match Centre: Lions vs. Blues

Match Centre: Jaguares vs Waratahs

It's a big week for ...

Mario Ledesma

It's been a tough start to life as a Super Rugby head coach for former Wallabies assistant Mario Ledesma.

The Jaguares are 0-3 under the Pumas great after beginning the year with twin defeats in South Africa, before returning home and losing to the Hurricanes 34-9 last week.

Ledesma must be given time to stamp his authority on a Jaguares side whose discipline has been terrible since joining the competition; the Argentinians' ball-control has also been dreadful. But no coach wants to begin their career 0-4.

Fortunately, Ledesma has intimate knowledge of this week's opponents, the Waratahs, from his time in Sydney. Perhaps that will help bring about a maiden Super Rugby win?