MELBOURNE - Australian optimism in Super Rugby Pacific will be put to the test this weekend in a trans-Tasman duel for bragging rights midway through the season.

Australia's five sides have been consistently dominated by their New Zealand counterparts in the southern hemisphere provincial competition but now have a rare chance to tip the win-loss balance in their favour.

New Zealand teams have won eight out of 15 of their matches against Australian opponents heading into round 10, which starts with the Melbourne Rebels meeting the Canterbury Crusaders in Christchurch on Friday.

The struggles of the Crusaders under new coach Rob Penney have helped Australia's cause, with the reigning champions languishing at the bottom of the table with a solitary win.

The fourth-placed Rebels have not won in Christchurch in years but being fresh off a bye and riding high in confidence they have a good chance to break that losing streak.

"It's awesome how the Australian Super teams are going at the moment," said Rebels outside back Andrew Kellaway.

"That being said ... there's still a lot of rugby to be played and a lot of tough rugby to be played."

The Crusaders slumped to a new low with their away defeat to strugglers Western Force last weekend, prompting calls from disgruntled fans to sack Penney.

Losing to the Rebels at home would be another crushing blow to a team who won seven championship trophies of various forms in the previous seven seasons.

The Crusaders will look to captain and lock Scott Barrett and centre David Havili to help turn things around on Friday, the pair returning from injury.

Saturday features two heavyweight clashes as the undefeated Wellington Hurricanes travel to Canberra to take on the third-placed ACT Brumbies before the Queensland Reds host the second-placed Auckland Blues in Brisbane.

The Hurricanes have been unstoppable and face a side that were humiliated 46-7 away to the Blues at Eden Park last week.

Stephen Larkham's Brumbies are different beasts at home, though, and are bolstered by the return of Wallabies prop Allan Alaalatoa and centre Len Ikitau from injury.

The Waikato Chiefs will eye a top four spot when they travel to the New South Wales Waratahs on Friday while Western Force will hope to string back-to-back wins for the first time this season on the road at the Otago Highlanders.

Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika, who sit sixth and seventh respectively, face off in the steamy Fiji city of Lautoka on Saturday.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford)