With all sides now all in action playing at least one game, we have slightly better view of how Super Rugby Aotearoa is panning out. You can catch up on how Round Two went in my review here. This weekend the Blues will host the Highlanders and the Crusaders will be at home the first time this season against the Chiefs. That means the Hurricanes will sit round three out.
BLUES vs HIGHLANDERS – Eden Park
Round Three opens up with with the hot running Blues back at home again, undefeated from their first two matches against the Hurricanes and Chiefs. The Highlanders, on the other hand, sat out round two after last ditched drop goal single point victory in the opening match of Super Rugby Aotearoa. Both sides at this stage seem to be settled going into this weekend. Aside from the continued absence of Josh Ioane, the Highlanders have been extremely quiet this week in the build up so far, still basking in the glory of their round one victory. Its going to be another step up if they want to match the Blues.
If we have learnt anything so far this season, its that the lineout and penalties are once again going to be key. I feel although the Highlanders were impressive against the Chiefs in round one, they are going to be part of that group with the Chiefs and Hurricanes competing for those third to fifth places already. The Highlanders are going to find it tough going against the form of Patrick Tuipulotu and whatever back row combination the Blues decide to go with this week. You can bet Hoskins Sotutu will again suit up in one of those three spots and I cant wait to see him clash with Marino Mikaele-Tu’u. I see the Blues as solid favourites for this clash and those back five places of the pack are going to be the decisive positions. If the Highlanders want to target an area, put the pressure on the fly half channel. Otere Black has been at the peeks of his power so far in Super Rugby Aotearoa but he could well be the first domino to fall in the Blues kingdom. Crash that link in the Blues armour and focus on yet again defence. The Highlanders need to be rapid to the breakdowns to not only not concede penalties, but protect the ball for quick releases which means more pressure on Aaron Smith. Who with speedy ball and his quick thinking and express passing plays, could dictate the match. OK so being realistic, the Blues are big favourites for me, despite how much I’d love to see the Highlanders get one for the South.
RESULT – Blues by 8
CRUSADERS vs CHIEFS – Orangetheory Stadium
How impressive were the Crusaders in their first match?! They have lost simply none of their attacking intent and ability over the downtime without Super Rugby. But, they suffered pretty hard to the hand of penalties and the strict offside line. The Hurricanes thrived off the for the most of their round two clash and can not afford to let others sides get that kind of leg up over the fixture. Scott Barrett was missing from the Crusaders opening game with hope he would return soon, but has since been ruled out of those whole season this week after the injury was worse than first thought. They did miss his leadership in the second row, even with Sam Whitelock back. If the Crusaders can clean up those penalties and offside lines, they are going to be incredibly hard to stop with that fantastic attacking ability.
You have to feel sorry for the Chiefs, they have been filling up the Hamilton medical wards more and more each week with injury after injury and this week is no different. Two new additions to the wards include Luke Jacobson and Tupou Va’ai, with the latter only a small injury, it hammers the already smashed second row. Maybe a Chiefs start for Adam Thompson at lock? Desperate times indeed if that is the case. Sadly for Jacobson, it seems much worse. But there is good news for the Chiefs, All Black captain Sam Cane looks finally fit to return and to possibly join him in the second row could be Mitch Karpik, who may well be quite nicely suited to the new way the game is ruled. For such a vital area the Chiefs need to be getting more from that loose forward trio. What will be a concern is the leadership from ten and getting more out of Anton Lienert-Brown in midfield. Again though we will be talking about their line out more than anything again this week. If they cant keep hold of their own ball in the set piece against the deadly Crusaders, it may well be a long night for the visiting side.
RESULT – Crusaders by 11
Previews and reviews are right here Behind The Posts for each and every round of Super Rugby Aotearoa! Rugby is back! Let me know your thoughts on the action this weekend in the comments and Thanks for stopping by Behind The Posts. If you would like to have your say here, get in touch on the contact page today!