The title was on the line! While the Hurricanes still needed to pick up max points and along with the Blues, sweat on the result of the second match to go their way to keep the season alive. But first the Hurricanes needed to do their part of the task against the Chiefs to keep themselves in the race. Then the one everything was hanging on, the Crusaders hosting the Highlanders with the title potentially to be decided.


The Chiefs season came to an end tonight on the road in the capital against the Hurricanes, who are looking to keep their extremely slim hopes of a title alive needing the bonus points win. There was a late change for the home side, with Vince Aso replacing Ngani Laumape at inside center.

It only took a couple of minutes to see our first opportunity of points from the tee to the Chiefs. Damien McKenzie having a crack from forty five meters back, but struck the crossbar to let the Hurricanes off early.

It didnt take the Hurricanes long when they did get some ball in hand, finding plenty of advancing space on the edges, Once inside the twenty two, it only took a couple of charges to bash over and it was the impressive Peter Umaga-Jensen who bashed through the one on one tackle to put the first points on the board.

Its a cracking game, full of attacking intent at a very high pace with very few stoppages. Most of the play is under advantage as both sides were spilling the ball pushing the tempo even higher. The Chiefs did jump onto the scoreboard through the boot of McKenzie shortly after the midway point of the half.

Sam Cane took what initially looked like another massive injury after being decked trying to tackle Jordie Barrett after taking down a high ball. Thankfully for Cane, after some time with the medics, was able to walk himself off the field. Another sad end for Sam Canes Super Rugby Aotearoa season.

As soon as the Chiefs got on the board, the Hurricanes snapped back with another try. From the set piece scrum, they launched wide to the left edge. Umaga-Jensen again getting on the outside shoulder of the defence and putting Wes Goosen away down the sidelines. Goosen draws the fullback McKenzie in and offloads right on the edge of the chalk back to Umaga-Jensen who has two in the night already. The ball falls from the tee as Barrett was coming in for the conversion, he snaps a drop kick from the sideline which just slides to the left. He cant do too much wrong….

Kobus van Wyk has a little bit of fun trying to throw Brad Weber as far as he can like some dirty laundry, unfortunately for him, the referee found it illegal and sent him to the bin for ten minutes…..

That was about the last of the fun for the first half, as the two sides head for a breather with the scoreline at 12-3 to the Hurricanes.

With the player advantage, the Chiefs fight back into the game with their first try of the match. Carefully drawing defenders in through the backline to leave that overlap on the outside for Sean Wainui to sneak over in the corner and bring the Chiefs back in the game, just two points behind.

The Hurricanes took over for the next ten minutes, grabbing two quick tries that seemed like it would shut the door on the Chiefs season. Firstly it was Dane Coles who went over in the left corner in typical Coles fashion. Just using his outside runner as a decoy and using his pace to get on the outside and power the carry him over.

It was a flurry of points of McKenzie tried to break the domination of the Hurricanes by putting over a penalty, but it had very little effect.

Then as quickly as they got back to half way, the Hurricanes were back at it again. This time it was a horrid defensive setup by the Chiefs that was read superbly by Jackson Garden-Bachop, who chips the ball across the field to a wide open Korbus Van Wyk who had time to sign some autographs before the defence arrived and still dot down in the corner and push the lead out to 24-13.

A good run of penalties for the Chiefs gets them in another good position to strike. They look to the forwards to drive it from the lineout and after a couple of attempts, manage to smash over through Mitch Karpik, with Brad Slater close behind. It tightens up again, 24-18, Chiefs just six behind.

Its a see-sawing second half in this one, but its the Hurricanes who just keep hitting back in response to every Chiefs attack. Jamie Booth had a massive impact off the bench, adding his usual spark into the backline. He combined with his fellow substitute Billy Proctor to grab what ended up being the final blow to the Chiefs. Booth had made a number of half breaks since coming on the field and added the offload to finish the job for the Canes.

It was a game the Hurricanes lead from start to finish and seemed to have an answer for everything the Chiefs threw at them. They had a real number of standouts in this match but to be fair and just nail down a couple, Peter Umaga-Jensen in the backs again was outstanding and those back three have been superb since Jordie Barretts return. Scott Scrafton has been the sort of players Hurricanes sides have often lacked, he was strong again in the pack along with Du’Plessis Kirifi who just gets better and better.

Well, a winless season for the Chiefs, its difficult to be positive for the team. They don’t back down to throwing it all out there but just lack that ability to find the victory. The biggest problem is the lack of form for the key players like Damien McKenzie and Anton Lienert-Brown. Samisoni Taukei’aho has been wayward this season but was a solid performer for the Chiefs. Youngsters like Naitoa Ah Kuoi and Ollie Norris look good at this level and give some bright lights for the Chiefs, but all in all, results are the final say and they were far from the side of the Chiefs this season.


This was the game everyone was waiting for this weekend. Was going to depend massively if they Highlanders could turn up to the the party and last the full eighty minutes against the machine that is the Crusaders.

It all started with off with a massive roar for the visitors, blasting over the ball in the ruck for an early turnover. Aaron Smith was always going to be a massive key for the Highlanders and his two touches after the turnover were key. First short side to Josh McKay and then picking a perfect line to find the charging Shannon Frizell to smash over the line with just two minutes on the clock.

It took a bit of time to the Crusaders to get themselves into the game after the early Highlanders domination from the whistle, but they did find their rhythm. Fast recycled ball and numbers on the short side, the Crusaders just need one little spark and they create some of the greatest tries in the competition. Sevu Reece burns down the sideline and with all the support in the world they draw the cover defenders and find the open Richie Mo’unga to score. The Crusaders have woken.

This match was being played at a rocket tempo with the most ridiculous style of play but the Highlanders were here to compete and committed to taking any points on offer as Josh Ioane took the first penalty attempt at goal to nudge the Highlanders in front.

Hold on to your hats folks! This one was hot! Jona Nareki had been caught out defensively a couple of times but this time his turning in worked in their favour. Sam Whitelock’s little tap on pass was intercepted by Nareki who put on the burners and created a footrace with Sevu Reece as the two Fijians went racing to the corner but Nareki had just enough to get it down in the corner and Highlanders cashed in again. Ioane nailed the sideline conversion, tapping the left hand upright on its way past for a 17-7 lead.

The Highlanders forced some respect from the Crusaders, taking shots at the posts from penalties instead of looking for the five and Mo’unga doesn’t miss many, grabbing two late shots at goal to bring the Crusaders within four at the half time break. A cracking forty minutes and surprisingly a Highlanders lead!

Five minutes in to the second half, it looked like the Crusaders were about to score another scorching try from inside their own half but take a look at this highlight if you get the chance. Bryn Hall looked in for all money from about twenty out but do not deny the reactions of Josh McKay who produced the try saver of the decade! Coming from nowhere to tackle Hall from behind and slap the ball out of his grasp for a knock on and a denied try! Unbelievable!

The Highlanders are making a match of this one to the joy of the Hurricanes and the Blues! Playing a determined, stubborn and structure gameplan that’s actually coming off so far. Josh Ioane has been making many little breaks through the Crusaders defence and get the front foot ball for the Highlanders who get just five out from the line. Some quick ball again and Michael Collins crashes through Will Jordan and Sevu Reece to dot down again for the visitors who extend the lead to nine points.

The clock ticked over the hour mark and we all know what that means for the Crusaders, its go time. Within a couple of minutes and some poor Highlanders decision making, the Crusaders had some good attacking ball. Mo’unga swept aside the defence and created a numbers game for the Crusaders who are extremely good at taking advantage of these situations. Through the hands, Jack Goodhue, Will Jordan and for the finish George Bridge.

Its just ridiculous, this Crusaders side. Right off the kickoff, the offload of the decade from Luke Romano to Mo’unga who shows that rapid acceleration and the numbers take their toll again. It’s Will Jordan and George Bridge once more and the combination turns this game on its head. Crusaders now lead by three.

Things go from bad to worse for the Highlanders, as in the buildup to that try, Sio Tomkinson flattened Oli Jager off the ball and was sent to the bin for ten minutes. Bad positioning from Tomkinson and was never in the right place to avoid the hit and the place of the hit made it much much worse.

The Highlanders have matched the level again following the slow down from the Jager injury but with the game winding down into the final few minutes, the final nail was struck. A number of penalties inside the Highlanders half has the Crusaders right on attack. Of course with the yellow card man still missing in midfield, the Crusaders strike right in that spot. Braydon Ennor finding all the space to mark his return with what will turn out to be the match winner.

The Highlanders toil at the Crusaders for the last few minutes but cannot find their way back into the game and the professional Crusaders just do whats required to get the job done and crown themselves Super Rugby Aotearoa champions with a week still to play. The dream of the season decider at Eden Park, just wasn’t to be….

Both sides had a stack of players who performed fantastically! I’ll keep it short and sweet for this or I will name the whole teams! For the Crusaders Richie Mounga was an absolute standout again! Hes had a spectacular season and has become a real leader of how this team operates. Codie Taylor was near unstoppable at times as well. He carried well and picked his offloading decision very well.

Its a similar story for the Highlanders, Josh Ioane had a fantastic game for the Highlanders. Really is stepping up with his creation and running game and works well with Mitch Hunt. If anything, the Highlanders decision making at times let them down, poor exits with little chips and those risky 50/50 plays that often dont pay off when you play a side like the Crusaders. In the pack, in this game and the whole season, its hard to go past Ash Dixon. A real leader in all areas on this team and considering how little the Highlanders used the maul, he will still the most prominent forward in the pack. Shannon Frizell was also a standout, this has been his best season for years.

Great game all around, a real spectacle to watch.

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!


FIRST FIVE KEY FOR THE CANES- A Potential 2021 Hurricanes Squad

With the Mitre 10 Cup start and the end of Super Rugby Aotearoa fast approaching, I thought it would be good to have a look into just what each franchise needs. This is the third part of a five-part series, today looking at the Hurricanes.


The Hurricanes are the other New Zealand side without a coach confirmed for the 2021 season, but with the uncertainty of COVID, but more importantly a pretty good showing on the field, Jason Holland will surely be offered the job after a reasonably good audition. Onto the squad, The Canes have signed up youngsters Xavier Numia and Tevita Mafileo, which means that Fraser Armstrong and Pouri Rakete-Stones are going for one spot. At 28, Armstrong has some much-needed experience, and as the starting prop, you would imagine he will be the one retained for the 2021 season. Coles, Aumua and Riccitelli are all signed up, while tightheads Alex Fidow and Tyrel Lomax will be there for the long term. Big Ben May will surely move on, meaning a new tighthead will be required. Workhorse, James Blackwell will be joined by Scott Scrafton, Liam Mitchell and Kane Le’aupepe, while Isaia Walker-Leawere has yet to sign a deal. With question marks of age and ability for the latter three, Walker-Leawere surely will earn another deal. 2022, will surely be the year to target one of the Crusader’s locks. The Hurricanes loose forwards are set for a refresh, with Reed Prinsep, Ardie Savea, Du’Plessis Kirifi and Devan Flanders being the only ones signed. Gareth Evans and Vaea Fifita, are seemingly off, which will leave some big homes. Murphy Taramai will also do well to get a renewal. Into the backs, where halfbacks TJ Perenara, Jamie Booth and Jonathan Taumateine are all signed up, confirming they will be strong there again. The men from the capital failed to replace Beauden Barrett this season, which will see one of if not both Jackson Garden-Bachop (Who I have touted for the Crusaders) and Fletcher Smith. James Marshall is not signed up and he will also likely depart. One of those three will surely stay, along with Simon Hickey. The Hurricanes have a complete five-prong midfield contingent secured for next season, with Ngani Laumape, Vince Ason, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Billy Procter and Danny Toala all locked in for next season and beyond. Finally, in the outside backs, Jordie Barrett has just been confirmed for 2021, while Chase Tiatia and Wes Goosen are staying in the capital. Kobus Van Wyk and Ben Lam are going, or in the case of Lam gone, leaving just Jonah Lowe and Salesi Rayasi. With the uncertainty of the Olympics, Rayasi would be silly not to commit to the 15 man game, while the Canes would likely face little competition for the signature of Jonah Lowe.


With this all in mind, The Hurricanes will be looking for a tighthead prop, three loose forwards, up to two first-fives and a winger. 


Starting at tighthead, the Hurricanes won’t have a great deal of worry with this one. With Lomax aged 24 and Fidow 22, the Hurricanes will likely target someone with a good older head. Ben May could well be welcomed back, but at 37 it is surely time for him to move on. The Canes could look to a guy coming out the Mitre 10 Cup, but I am going to bring to the table a current and a former Highlanders and Counties Manukau prop. The first option is 24-year-old Irish born Conan O’Donnell. Similar to Crusader Oli Jager, O’Donnell shifted to New Zealand for the sole purpose of playing rugby. After a solid Mitre 10 Cup, O’Donnell spent pre-season with the Crusaders, before debuting for the Highlanders. He is not huge in size, but he makes that up in other ways. Option two is Kalolo Tuiloma. The 30-year-old was playing in Major League Rugby, but I can only assume has returned to New Zealand due to COVID. The Wellington born Tuiloma is massive in size, in all ways and would be a good third choice.

Option: Kalolo Tuiloma

Moving into the loose, and I am going to bring forward three options, although there is one other guy who may well head to the Hurricanes. Tom Florence is that one, but as I have already touted him to go to the Highlanders, (He has been with them as an injury replacement this season) I won’t be delving further into him. The first option is Ajay Lafaele-Mua. Lafaele-Mua appears to be yet another bright talent, at number eight. With great raw skills and a big frame, there is certainly a lot to work with for the Hurricanes coaching staff. Being from the Bay, there is every chance he may well be snapped up by the Chiefs. Next, we have current Crusader Ethan Roots. Roots has seen next to no game time in Christchurch and appears off-contract. Similar to Lafaele-Mua, he comes with bucket loads of potential, and he would be a very shrewd pickup. Finally, is Mitch Jacobson. Jacobson, it a strong tackler and good on defence, so he could compliment the ball-playing of Kirifi and Savea quite well. Jacobson has however struggled to make an impact at this level, and may well fancy a shift offshore. Option: Ethan Roots and 2x Mitre 10 Cup Standout

Next is the big one for the Hurricanes- first five. Simon Hickey is locked in for next year, but he shapes as more of a backup. Having touted Jackson Garden-Bachop for a move to the Crusaders, it leaves the Canes in need of two first fives. Fletcher Smith is yet to be offered a new deal, and he has struggled to make an impact in the capital. I would expect him to move on. The final current Hurricane is James Marshall. At 31, he feels older than he really is and he may well get a one year deal. Can the Hurricanes do better? I have settled on one option for definite, who is likely to be joined by someone from the Mitre 10 Cup. That option is Brett Cameron. Whilst there are several other off- first fives, including Bryn Gatland and Harry Plummer, Brett Cameron is their man. Cameron is originally from the Hurricanes region and clearly has the ability. The 23-year-old made a very much premature All Blacks debut, but more than anything that signals just how much potential the coaches think he has. He has struggled for game time and confidence at the Crusaders, but if the Hurricanes pick him and back him, he could well be a long term option. Joining Cameron will be another first five. This is very much a fluid option. Whether it be a Dan Hollinshead or a Baden Kerr, the situation is fluid. It could end up being someone who shoots through at the Mitre 10 level and takes their chance, but ultimately most of the sides seemingly have a ten set in stone. 

Option: Brett Cameron and Dan Hollinshead

Finally, in the outsides, the Hurricanes will be on the search for a winger. With Wes Goosen likely taking one wing, it would leave the inexperience of Jonah Lowe and Salesi Rayasi to battle it out on the other wing. The Canes will be looking for one if not two wingers. There are a few guys who they could look at, but I am going to pinpoint two. The first of those is Tima Fainga’anuku. Fainga’anuku has been with the Highlanders this season but has struggled for game time after a couple of average games to start the season. A big, strong and powerful ball runner, Fainga’anuku may be looking to completely relocate, as he may well struggle for game time in Tasman this year. He could well be the perfect compliment to Wes Goosen. Similarly to other positions, if this was to fail, then an off-contract Crusader like Leicester Fainga’anuku could be an option the year after. The other option is Caleb Makene. Makene has been around a few years now, and after shifting back to Hawkes Bay, a big Mitre 10 Cup could propel him into the Super Rugby picture. Makene, may well be another average player, and the Hurricanes might want something more. I think the Hurricanes would also be well advised to carry a youngster, a twentyish-year-old, to simply get him up to speed.

Option: Tima Fainga’anuku 


The Hurricanes have not been miles off the pace this season, and with a few additions, they will be right in it. Upfront, the changes won’t be too noticeable. Pouri Rakete-Stones and Ben May will depart, while the big Kalolo Tuiloma might be a decent backup. In the loose Ethan Roots will go a long way towards replacing the powerful Vaea Fifita, while the Gareth Evans sized hole will be left for someone from the Mitre 10 Cup. Assuming all three current number tens depart, current Crusader Brett Cameron and Dan Hollinshead could join the already signed Simon Hickey. Finally, on the wing, Tima Fainga’anuku will go a long way towards replacing the impressive duo of Ben Lam and Kobus Van Wyk. Despite the return of Salesi Rayasi, I would not be surprised if the Canes also carry a young winger, to get him up to speed for the future.

2021 SQUAD

Fraser Armstrong, Xavier Numia, Tevita Mafileo, Dane Coles, Asafo Aumua, Ricky Riccitelli, Tyrel Lomax, Alex Fidow, Kalolo Tuiloma, James Blackwell, Kane Le’aupepe, Liam Mitchell, Scott Scrafton, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Reed Prinsep, Devan Flanders, Ethan RootsM10 Cup StandoutM10 Cup Standout, Ardie Savea, Du’Plessis Kirifi, TJ Perenara, Jamie Booth, Jonathon Taumateine, Simon Hickey, Brett CameronDan Hollinshead, Ngani Laumape, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Vince Aso, Danny Toala, Billy Procter, Salesi Rayasi, Wes Goosen, Jonah Lowe, Tima Fainga’anuku, Jordie Barrett, Chase Tiatia.

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Just two rounds of Super Rugby Aotearoa remain and this weekend we could potentially see our seasons champion crowned if results go the way of the Crusaders. The Blues are Hurricanes will be hoping they can keep things alive for another week. Saturday night opens up with the high flying Hurricanes back at home taking on the poor winless Chiefs. On Sunday is the South Island Derby between the Crusaders and the Highlanders in the game that could decide if the final round is needed for a victor. The Blues have the weekend off and will hope they have something to fight the Crusaders for in the final round clash at Eden Park. Lets take a look at the weekends action…..


The Hurricanes have taken Super Rugby Aotearoa by storm in the last few weeks and have become real contenders as we reach the final couple of weeks. They need a big win this weekend and a favour from the Highlanders in the south to keep their hopes and dreams alive and then rest fate with the Blues the week after, a tall ask.

The turnaround of the Hurricanes season has been brilliant since the return of Jordie Barrett and again his presence is going to be vital. They currently sit on sixteen points and third on the table, six behind the Blues and eight behind the Crusaders, if only they didn’t have such a poor start to their season.

One week at a time for the Hurricanes though, but to win at home against the Chiefs should be a very achievable task. Each week that goes by sinks the Chiefs deeper and deeper into their own misery. The woes or Warren Gatland just keep growing, it makes next season when hes away from the Chiefs an extremely interesting prospect if they can not pick up a win this season.

There is a lot to look forward to in this opener, the Chiefs as you expect will go in again with a nothing to lose attitude which is always a danger. The back row battle is one I will be keeping a keen eye on, Lachlan Boshier has been at a new level in recent weeks and his battle with Du’Plessis Kirifi and Ardie Savea will be determine how much possession the Chiefs can maintain.

With all the talk over the All Blacks midfield options, this could be a little taster of whats on offer towards the black jersey. Ngani Laumape has stood up again, particularly against the Blues, but now lining up against a player like Anton Lienert-Brown, this is a real test of the two players. Are they fighting over the same thirteen black jumper? This could go a long way to settle the debate, Laumape needs consistency which hes lacked and hes only got two more weeks to prove it, where as Anton Lienert-Brown has been a standout since moving back out to thirteen for the Chiefs.

RESULT – Hurricanes by 9

CRUSADERS vs HIGHLANDERS – Orangetheory Stadium

Well, this is it. We could crown the first, and possibly only, Super Rugby Aotearoa crown this weekend. A victory will give them a unobtainable six point lead over the second placed Blues, who only have one match remaining after the bye this weekend. That’s what this match is all about, the Highlanders season is cashed in but don’t for a second think they will lay down in this match.

We know all to well what to expect from this Crusaders outfit, we have seen it all season yet only the Hurricanes have shown with the smallest of margins, how to beat it. Committed, eighty minutes, let no chances pass you by, rugby. When it comes to that final fifteen to twenty minutes, that’s when the real step up comes for their opponents. Richie Mo’unga has shown week on week just how he lifts the side during that period.

I can sit here talking about how the Crusaders will play, but that’s not what will decide this game. How do the Highlanders beat it!?

I think they had the game plan working pretty well for the most part against the Blues last weekend. They accumulated points well when on offer from the tee, but struggled massively to defend those points often quickly conceding after scoring some. That must be cut out this weekend.

The second part its a little harsh but the Highlanders dominated the second half against the Blues and spent nearly half an hour inside their twenty two to only score right at the bitter end of the half. Much like the Blues, the Crusaders will be happy to defend on a lead and give the “bring it” to the Highlanders attack to try get through.

The Crusaders are always happy to take a penalty on the chin as opposed to conceding the try, decision making has to be on to make the right call on when to take points and when to plug the corners and use that dangerous maul to good effect.

The maul is a tasty option, but the scrum is something they may want to stay well away from once again.

In a nutshell for the Highlanders, play the game of your life, never let your standard slip and hope the Crusaders have an off day… Is that too much to ask?!

RESULT – Crusaders by 6

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!

HOW TO IMPROVE A WINNING SIDE- A Potential 2021 Crusaders Squad

With the Mitre 10 Cup start and the end of Super Rugby Aotearoa fast approaching, I thought it would be good to have a look into just what each franchise needs. This is the second part of a five-part series, today looking at the Crusaders.


Unlike the other New Zealand sides, the Crusaders are settled. Regardless of whether they win Super Rugby Aotearoa, the Crusaders are by far and away the best side in New Zealand. In 2020, they have been as good as always, the only real blip the defeat to the Hurricanes last week, although the Chiefs did beat them before the Pandemic. They are an absolute juggernaut, so there won’t be too many changes. Up-front, expect all three hookers to be back next year, as Codie Taylor settles in the leadership group. I was surprised to learn Makalio was signed up for next season, as he could certainly get more game time elsewhere. At loosehead, Joe Moody will be back, and there is no reason he won’t be joined by his fellow loosehead, George Bower, Isi Tu’ungafasi and Harry Allan. There is every chance one leaves though. At tighthead, they Michael Alaalatoa, who has been in career-best form but at just shy of 29, his peak may well be short-lived. He is off contract, having just signed for Manawatu he looks to be staying in NZ, but no announcement has been made about a Crusaders contract. The other option is a 25-year-old Oli Jager, who is not quite of the desired level to start. At lock, they are by far the strongest in the country, with the likes of Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Quinten Strange, Mitchell Dunshea and Luke Romano. I would not be surprised to see Romano leave, whilst Whitelock can’t have too many years left in the legs. One would also assume that one of Dunshea or Strange will move on in 2021 or 2022, in a search to become a starting lock elsewhere. The Crusaders have a decent contingent of loose forwards, who are certainly super-powered by Scott Robertson. Ethan Blackadder, Whetu Douglas, Sione Havili, Tom Sanders, are fine, but through a combination of ability and age, they probably lack the potential to go to the next level. Cullen Grace is one for the future and the now, and could well be the long term No. 8. At blindside, Tom Christie looks like an All Black in waiting, while Billy Harmon has struggled to make an impact. With him off contract, he may well be told his future is elsewhere. Chances are, One or more of these will either leave next year, or the year after so loose forward could be a place to strengthen. At scrumhalf, they have three good number nines in Bryn Hall, Mitchell Drummond and Ere Enari. All are signed on for next season, so no worries there. First, five is slightly more interesting. With arguably New Zealand’s number one first five in Richie Mo’unga, they don’t have to worry about a starter. Their backups are a real issue. Brett Cameron has been extremely underwhelming, and David Havili has been favoured at ten over him. Cameron has to leave for the good of his career. Young Fergus Burke will continue learning his trade. In midfield, they have the classy pairing of Braydon Ennor and Jack Goodhue, but interestingly Goodhue is off-contract. Whilst he is likely to re-sign, it may include a sabbatical to Japan, but also he could just straight-up sign overseas, or even sign for another Super Franchise. They also have Fetuli Paea and Dallas McLeod who look sharp, as well as Inga Finau although he is 25 and is probably not up to the level of the others. I think a second-five could be in the offing. Into the Crusaders arguably most stacked positions, the outside backs. David Havili, Will Jordan, George Bridge, Sevu Reece and Leicester Fainga’anuku are all locked in for next year. Manasa Mataele will surely depart. They will need to be careful, as, for the good of his career, Leicester Fainga’anuku will surely head off in 2022. Likewise, David Havili may well look to cash in overseas as he hits his peak.


With this in mind, the Crusaders will be in the market, although they don’t need anything drastic. I believe the Crusaders will be looking for a tighthead prop, a lock, an openside and blindside flanker, a first five, a midfielder and an outside back.


The Crusaders are famed for making talent- not buying it. At tighthead, they will be looking for “the next guy” Ultimately, I could go into depth recommending guys people have heard of, but ultimately that is not what the Crusaders will target. They will target a young, hard-working, skilful player, who has All Black potential. Scott Robertson is a wonderful coach, so quite frankly whoever the Crusaders go after is a fairly good chance to sign. This guy may well just be a 19 year old with bags of potential, or they could be a 22, 23-year-old who can challenge Jager and Alaalatoa now.

Option: M10 Cup Prospect

Once again at lock, it is much of a shame. Although, the lock the Crusaders target, will more than likely be a lineout lock. Whoever fills this position will be very young, as they are unlikely to play. In all likelihood, the player will be from Canterbury or Tasman.

Option: M10 Cup Prospect

At flanker, the Crusaders may well look to someone who has played at Super Rugby level and can come in and make an immediate impact. For me, there are two options. Both are off-contract Hurricanes players. First of all, is Vaea Fifita. Once the next big thing amongst NZ loose forwards, Fifita’s stock has fallen massively. Fifita is merely a bench player in the capital now, and with his contract coming to an end a move south could be a good move for all parties. At 28 Fifita is older than many realise, but he could come in and under the right tutelage of Scott Robertson and make a big impact. The other option feels a bit more far-fetched. In all likelihood, the reason Gareth Evans has yet to re-sign with the Canes is he is looking at a move offshore. Evans is a very good Super Rugby player, having gone from strength to strength in the capital, which saw him earn an All Black cap in 2018. A hard-nosed player, Scott Robertson would love Evans who turns 29 on Wednesday. Both would be decent short term options, whilst they will also look to bring in another openside flanker- Slade McDowell seems a logical option if he can’t secure a Highlanders contract, especially if he can build on a strong Mitre 10 Cup last season. 

Option: Vaea Fifita and Slade McDowell

Richie Mo’unga is arguably in career-best form, so whoever comes in will merely be a backup. In the next part of this series, I will be mentioning Brett Cameron with a shift to Wellington, so with both the Hurricanes first fives off-contract, I feel Jackson Garden-Bachop could be the perfect man to come in as an understudy. The 25-year-old has been good at times this season, and has a strong kicking game, with a real ability to close out a game. A move to Christchurch would certainly be one that would bring him a trophy of some sort. This feels logical.

Option: Jackson Garden-Bachop

In midfield, the Crusaders have millions of centres, but no real second fives. Jack Goodhue does the job, and he will continue to play there. If Goodhue was to go down, then utility back David Havili would likely move infield. There is a dearth of midfielders in New Zealand at the moment- especially second fives. I feel the Crusaders once again would be best served in securing a young guy who can grow into a world-class player. I don’t have a player in mind, nor a type of player. This will simply be a guy who stands out at the level below.

Option: M10 Cup Standout

Finally, in the outside backs, the Crusaders are stacked. The castle is likely to fall over in a year, as one or two of them look to move to pastures new. This season, Manasa Mataele is likely to depart, so a new winger will be in order. A left-field option could be Southland youngster Josh Moorby. Moorby is more of a fullback, but regardless he was a bright spark in a struggling Southland side. If Moorby can put up another strong season, then he could very much be an interesting option for the competition front runners.

Option: Josh Moorby


After an extensive amount of research, I feel that one of the loosehead props will move on, potentially Harry Allan. Luke Romano is also likely to depart, whilst I feel Billy Harmon could be shown the door. Brett Cameron will move on for his good, while one way or another a new midfielder will come in. Finally, the once highly rated Manasa Mataele will almost definitely depart at the end of the season. As replacements, the Crusaders will look to top performers in the Mitre 10 Cup. These could include youngsters Slade McDowell and Josh Moorby, whilst an established name like Vaea Fifita could be an option in the loose. Finally, Jackson Garden-Bachop could be the perfect first five backup.  

2021 SQUAD

Joe Moody, George Bower, Isi Tu’ungafasi, Codie Taylor, Andrew Makalio, Brodie McCallister, Michael Alaalatoa, Oliver Jager, M10 Cup Prospect Tighthead Prop, Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock, Mitchell Dunshea, Quinten Strange, M10 Cup Prospect Lock, Ethan Blackadder, Tom Sanders, Cullen Grace, Sione Havili, Vaea Fifita, Tom Christie, Slade McDowell, Bryn Hall, Mitch Drummond, Ere Enari, Richie Mo’unga, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Fergus Burke, Jack Goodhue, Brayden Ennor, Fetuli Paea, Dallas McLeod, M10 Cup Standout Second Five, Sevu Reece, George Bridge, Will Jordan, David Havili, Leicester Fainga’anuku, Josh Moorby


Eight rounds into the competition and results are having a huge effect on who may well be champion in a couple more weeks time. The top contenders, the Crusaders were in action first against the winless Chiefs on Saturday night. Then in our Sunday afternoon game, the chasing contenders, the Blues travelled down to inside the roof to take on the Highlanders. The big upsetting Hurricanes were out this week on the bye. Lets take a look at how the weekend went…..


Its the final home game of the season for the Chiefs, still trying to get that opening victory. It also marked a massive night for one player on each side of the field, 100 caps for Aaron Cruden and 150 caps for Sam Whitelock. Before we get into the game, a deserved moment for both of these players who have been huge parts of New Zealand rugby over a number of years.

Its highlight reel stuff after just a few minutes as some fantastic quick hands down the left edge finds the new Crusaders number eight Tom Sanders with more open clear grass in front of him than hes seen before and if you enjoy a big man thundering around the park, watch this try. An awesome forty meter gallop and a fair squishing of Damien McKenzie at the back to go over the line. He had one speed, full speed! What a sight!

The Crusaders look like a team out to prove a point. As the minutes pass, the domination grows. Offloads coming thick and fast and raking off meters like defenders don’t exist. Cleaning rucks with great efficiency and once within a few meters from the line they are too hard to stop. Will Jordan grabbing one of his easiest tries against a Chiefs defence that was struggling to hold on for a few phases and eventually broke down. Ominous signs early on at 12-0 after fifteen minutes.

The Chiefs fought their way back via Lachlan Boshier who continues on his strong season. Penalties started to allow the Chiefs some territory finally and launch from a scrum in center field just five meters from the Crusaders line. Pita-Gus Sowakula runs it strongly off the back and draws plenty of attention, popping the ball up from the ensuing ruck for Boshier to crash over, first points on the board and back in the game.

The momentum is now firmly with the Chiefs who are profiting off plenty of Crusader foul play. McKenzie stepping up again to slot a penalty from where he earlier missed, to bring the Chiefs within two points of the lead just before the half hour mark.

Just one minute before half time the game takes a huge twist towards the visitors. With a big overlap Shaun Stevenson slaps down a pass and gets marched for ten minutes for his troubles. With a man advantage in the backline, the Crusaders make a statement in the pack. Driving the maul from fifteen meters out, all the way to the line with Codie Taylor fully in control all the way to have the final say of the half. The conversion is astray but the Crusaders lead is up to seven at the break, 17-10.

Boshier got his Chiefs off to the best possible start, gifting his side an early ruck penalty almost straight off the kick off. With Stevenson still sitting in the naughty chair, McKenzie slots another shot at goal to cut the lead back some more.

Ten minutes on and McKenzie does it again after Stevenson makes an impact straight back from the yellow card period and the Crusaders, more than happy to give away three as opposed to five. Richie Mo’unga strikes instantly back with three of his own as this game continues to go end to end.

Its becoming a battle off the tee in the second half between McKenzie and Mo’unga as another three is added by the Chiefs and the lead flicks around.

The old rugby cliche of playing to the whistle was in full effect as the Crusader score what was instantly criticised by fans and critics alike, but the referee and his friends found this one to be okay. Quinten Strange did the action in question, carrying for the Crusaders inside the Chiefs twenty two, appeared to knock the ball on and left it behind him, Sevu Reece backing up grabs it, jumps over the tackle and dots down and throws it away expecting the knock on call. It never came and the TMO agreed it was knocked back. The call will be argued night and day for a week at least, rightly or wrongly, but credit Reece who played to the whistle and got the reward.

Things went from bad to worse for the Chiefs who dropped their guard following the frustrating call from the last try. Richie Mo’unga once again leading the Crusaders list in the last twenty minutes as he sparks his backs out on the left edge and on the overlap Leicester Fainga’anuku who steps back inside McKenzie to rub salt into the Chiefs wounds. The lead splashes out quickly to thirteen points with a 19-32 lead.

The Crusaders with a lead in the final stages of the game are clinical finishers and they executed perfectly tonight, closing the game out well with a bonus point victory.

The Chiefs had plenty of moments to shine and will be again wondering about those 50/50 decision and not being good enough to keep them out of the deciding factor. Lachlan Boshier was once again a pivotal factor again for the Chiefs. Aaron Cruden in his 100th was always testing. Pita-Gus Sowakula also had a strong showing.

The Crusaders were back to that irresistible force this weekend. Codie Taylor had a cracking game around the park and the much criticised back row exceeded most expectations with a strong display. The other standouts were the usual’s, its hard to not credit the work rate of guys like Richie Mo’unga and Will Jordan. George Bridge was impactful also.


Sunday afternoon rugby was under the roof this week as the Highlanders returned from the bye at home.

But it was the Blues who started with a roar off their lineout drive, but Aaron Smiths lucky bright orange boots denied the Blues first attempt at the line within the first few minutes.

The danger never went away though and after a couple of disjointed scrums, number eight Akira Ioane blasts off the back and straight over the top of Scott Gregory to plant to opening try, which Beauden Barrett failed to convert.

Loose possession cost the Highlanders dearly as within one phase of losing the ball, Barrett hit a cross field kick to Caleb Clarke, who bumps off Josh Ioane, offloads to Rieko Ioane, then to Finlay Christie who has a clean scamper to grab the second try for the Blues and very quickly take control of the game.

The Blues defensive line starts to get them in trouble as the Highlanders get themselves on the scoreboard through the boot of Ioane and the quickly after with more penalties go for the corner instead. Almost like watching the Brumbies, you know the Highlanders will have a crack at the lineout maul and they do it with form once again to very quickly put ten points on the board and be back in the game.

The Blues think they have their third try before the referee drags it all the way back eighty meters the other way. Aaron Smith trips on the offside Karl Tu’inukuafe who is laying on the floor, causing him to lose the ball and it ends up being intercepted for a clean run away for Dalton Papalii. The end result, a penalty for the Highlanders back where Smith was tripped and Ioane takes up the offer of three points to put the Highlanders in the lead, in a double play against the momentum.

The Blues take no time at all to hit back. Straight off the kick off, Ofa Tu’ungafasi steals the ball back and Clarkes powerful running punches the Blues through the defence and finds Christie and finally TJ Faiane to finish for the Blues to put them back in the lead again. Barretts goalkicking is becoming a bit of a concern though, another miss from a handy position.

The Highlanders are happy to keep the scoreboard ticking over through the boot of Ioane once again as the half winds down to its final minutes.

The Highlanders struggle to clear their own half with just a couple of minutes remaining and again seem unable to stop sides hitting straight back after scoring themselves. Offside penalties allow the Blues for one final push to another try before ending the half and they set their sights on their dominating scrum to do that job. It does exactly that, just a couple of carries off the back and they secure the ultimate time to score. Ofa Tu’ungafasi powers over to extend the Blues led to eight points at half time, 24-16.

It takes just minutes for the Blues to crack back into the game. A great kick chase started it all off from their own half, creating an turnover as soon as it landed. Barrett launches the ball wide with a fantastic pass and the offloading game begins. Tony Lamborn gallops a few meters, flicks it in to Faiane, then off to Christie who grabs his second try of the night in a polished performance.

Striking difference in the sides attack tonight, the Highlanders are struggling to get forward momentum with passes behind the players, off their running lines and generally unstructured. The Blues on the other hand, look much more polished.

The Highlanders defence does actually gets some structure for a while as the Blues grab a number of penalties close to the line but cant manage to get over. In what must be considered a minor victory, the Blues finally decide to take the three instead from right in front.

If I am going to credit that little period of the Highlanders defence then I have give plenty to the Blues for the next and final twenty of the match. Stuck inside their own half and often their own twenty two, the Blues repel attack after attack from the Highlanders. The Blues do what they must, giving away a stack of penalties, offsides, high tackles, tackles without the ball, you name it, they committed it to stop the Highlanders at any cost! It did eventually result in a yellow card for Sione Mafileo, but the luck hasn’t been on the Highlanders side at all but the Blues mostly got away with it. Its baffling how more weren’t sent to the bin and sooner….

The pressure does finally tell for the Highlanders who had dominated the last stanza of this match. With just five minutes remaining its the big man Shannon Frizell who powers over on the left side to give a little hope for the home team, but ultimately it was that long period to grab that try that will cost them.

An entertaining and spirited finish by the Highlanders was not enough to get back into the game and the Blues play the win at all costs style to get the job done in the end. Its a shame the Highlanders just cant get that game plan into action before the second half, otherwise a lot of these results could be a lot different.

The home town side has little in the way of standouts early on but as the game progressed plenty of guys stood up to the task. Shannon Frizell was class again and Josh Ioane looked right back at home for his first match back in the starting lineup. The concern is where and how they get the best out of these versatile guys like Michael Collins who was a little off colour in midfield.

The Blues can be a joy to behold when they get their game going but are still far from a ruthless team. Their captain Patrick Tuipulotu has become a real star this season and is performing week in and week out. Caleb Clarke made plenty of strong runs on the wing but it was a fantastic display from Akira Ioane who just loves a nice dry pitch to rip into. Hes a dry weather man who would be well suited to swap shirts.

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!

WHO’S IN AND WHO’S OUT?- A Potential 2021 Highlanders Squad

With the Mitre 10 Cup start and the end of Super Rugby Aotearoa fast approaching, I thought it would be good to have a look into just what each franchise needs. This will be a five-part series, starting with the Highlanders.


In 2020, the Highlanders have been up and down, I have already done an article on the Highlanders coaching and results which is available on the website, but since I wrote that, there were some real improvements in that 33-31 win over the Chiefs. The Highlanders had a mass clear-out last year, so with a low-profile squad, there won’t be too many major changes this time out. Up front, it is expected that Ayden Johnstone, Daniel Lienert-Brown and rookie Ethan De Groot will return. They will almost definitely be joined by Highlanders current co-captain Ash Dixon, Liam Coltman and Ricky Jackson. At tighthead, it has already been confirmed Jermaine Ainsley will join, presumably meaning Josh Iosefa-Scott will be out. New signing Jeff Thwaites will likely be back, while Siate Tokolahi could also be on his way out. The three young locks, Pari Pari Parkinson, Josh Dickson and Manaaki Selby-Rickit will be back, while Jack Whetton’s future is unclear. The back-row contingent has impressed for the men from the south this year, and it is likely that the only two players departing from this area of the field, will be the uncapped duo of Zane Kapeli and Sione Misiloi. In the backs, the inspirational Aaron Smith is signed on until 2022, whilst youngster Folau Fakatava should be back. I believe Kayne Hammington is off contract, although considering he now plays for Otago, one would imagine he will get a new deal. Josh Ioane and Mitch Hunt will look to continue their blossoming relationship next year, which will likely see the off-contract Bryn Gatland link up at the Chiefs with father Warren. In my opinion, midfield has been a real weak point for the Highlanders since Malakai Fekitoa’s 2017 departure. I think there could be a real shake up on the cards. The powerful Sio Tomkinson is likely to return, whilst utility backs Michael Collins, (who is off contract,) Ngane Punivai and Scott Gregory may make a move infield. I have heard Tei Walden is not going to be offered a new deal, while it would not be a shock if Thomas Umaga-Jensen heads for pastures new. Most intriguing is Rob Thompson. Thompson has been a fan favourite down south, but ever since a wonderful 2018 season, he has spiralled downwards. His poor performance against the Chiefs, was a large part of why the Highlanders were down by so much, and it saw him hooked at halftime. Michael Collins moved into the midfield and linked the attack in a way not seen since Fekitoa’s departure. Thompson is off contract and turns 29 this August. The rumour is he moving to the Bay of Plenty, so a move to the Chiefs to pair him up with Anton Lienert-Brown might be a possibility. Finally, the outside back contingent for 2021 looks pretty clear cut. Jona Nareki will look to build on a promising start, whilst a good performance against the Blues this Sunday, should be enough to see Josh McKay secure a new deal. Nehe Milner-Skudder, Connor Garden-Bachop and Vilimoni Koroi are also already signed up. Of the other Highlanders outside backs, Sam Gilbert may secure a deal if he can prove he is fit after his horror ACL injury. I am sure the side will be keen to avoid another Milner-Skudder situation from this year. It would be expected that Tevita Nabura, Chris Kuindrani and Timaa Fainga’anuku depart.


From my research and my hunches, I believe that the Highlanders, may be on the lookout for a new tighthead prop, a lock, two loose forwards, a first five and two midfielders. Dependant on a few other factors, they may also be in the market for an outside back, a halfback and a hooker.


First of all, I am going to very briefly touch on tighthead prop. This is relatively simple. They will likely either resign Siate Tokolahi, or exciting prospect Saula Ma’u. Ma’u made his debut for Otago last year and was training with the Highlanders until a surgery. Standing at around 6”2 and weighing around 130kg, he is a huge unit, but he is definitely more than just a scrummager. Option: Saula Ma’u

At lock, I have come up with four options. Options one and two are the very inexperienced Will Tucker and Josh Hill. Tucker nearly made his Highlanders debut, after coming in as an injury replacement, he was named on the bench for a match against the Jaguares which ended up being called off due to COVID-19. Hill is a similar player to Josh Dickson, but probably needs to bulk up a bit to play at this level. The other two options are rather unlikely. Due to COVID, it is not entirely impossible that former Highlanders return to New Zealand, two of which being Tom Franklin and Jackson Hemopo. Franklin feels very far-fetched, and almost definitely won’t happen but never say never. Hemopo only signed a one-year deal in Japan, so I believe he may well be able to come back to New Zealand. My issue with Hemopo, is I feel he is more likely to go to another franchise in New Zealand if he was to return. With three young locks already, I think the Highlanders would be better served finding someone slightly older. I am very much keeping my mind open and a good performer from the Mitre 10 Cup, could be the person to take this spot. Option: Will Tucker or a wildcard returnee NZer

Moving into the loose forwards, and both these players won’t be seeing much game time. I felt Shannon Frizzell was a certainty to go overseas in the near future, but COVID has changed that, so with him, Mikaele Tu’u, Ben-Nicholas and Parete they are well served at 8 and 6. They have two good 7s in Hunt and captain Lentjes, which rules out a signing there, except for maybe local lad Slade McDowell. I really struggled to come up with some options in this department, and in all likelihood, these places will be taken by guys who impress in the Mitre 10 Cup. This could mean a strong campaign from Misiloi, could earn him another crack at the whip, while a strong showing from injury replacement Tom Florence could earn him a full-time gig down south. The only other option I have come up with, is once again a left field shout for a returning Highlander. A hero in the eyes of many, I am touting the idea for them to sign 31-year-old, 65 cap Highlander Nasi Manu. Having just left Treviso, he is without a club and has been in Dunedin. Unlikely to play many games, Manu could teach the likes of Mikaele-Tu’u a lot. As we have seen, Zane Kapeli and Sione Misiloi have not taken the field, in fact they have not gone close- especially Kapeli. I would be very much for this. Other options include, Mitch Jacobson, or potentially Dylan Nel and Heiden Bedwell-Curtis dependent on their contracts. As mentioned, someone will stick their hand up in the Mitre 10 Cup and take this spot. Option: Nasi Manu and Tom Florence/M10 Cup Bolter

Into the backs, and to the position that really inspired this article, first five. Many will be saying the Highlanders have three good tens, and that would be correct. Having said that Bryn Gatland is off contract, and a shift to the Chiefs would make sense for all parties. Whilst there are many different options for this one, I am going to talk about two and one will shock you. The first option is Lincoln McClutchie. McClutchie has spent time training down south before and was unfortunate not to pick up a Super Rugby contract this past season. He runs the ball well, which would fit in well down south, so he ticks those boxes. His kicking has been a bit of work on, but with Mitch Hunt looking like the fullback option for now at least, this is less of a problem. The issue with this one, is he probably would fancy himself to get more game time at the Hurricanes or the Chiefs. The second option would be arguably the biggest signing in Highlanders history. He was born in Southland, so he has ties to the franchise. Damian McKenzie. The 25-year-old is one of New Zealand’s best, and is realistically would play fullback, but he could easily fill the spot as the third ten. The man who inspired the article, is settled in Chiefs country, and is signed on until 2021, so why am I touting this. I have heard from a very reliable source, that the Highlanders are chasing him hard and there is interest from McKenzie. The ILT are said to be keen to sponsor the deal, so it seems as though money wouldn’t be an issue. This may well be one for 2022, but if he is going to come in 2022, then I am sure that will involve a new deal with the NZRU and I am almost certain, he could work out a way to change franchises with a new deal. Option: Damian McKenzie and Lincoln McClutchie

The penultimate section is the midfield. With two to three departures, then the Highlanders will probably be looking for one to two midfielders, dependent on whether Rob Thompson stays. My gut feeling is, that the game against the Chiefs will be the beginning of the end for him. Finding midfielders was extremely tough, but to fill the two spots, I have come up with some options. Firstly, I believe the Highlanders could look at a guy like Tanielu Tele’a. Tele’a has not seen too much game time at the Blues this year, and with Rieko Ioane nailing down the centre spot, his opportunities look like they will be hard to come by. He certainly has potential, and maybe just maybe he could be the next Fekitoa? I have not seen a lot of him, but distribution seems to be a bit of an issue for him, and considering Rob Thompson is on the chopping block is more or less for that reason, this could be a real red flag. The Highlanders are unlikely to move for him at this time. The other option is Alex Nankivell. Nankivell is off contract as far as I can tell, and he could well be the glue the Highlanders a looking for. Dependable, a good ball runner, good distribution, more or less everything the Highlanders have been looking for. At just 23, he has time on his side, and he could be a great option. This comes with a caveat though- fitness. Nankivell has struggled with injuries, but as he hits his peak years, one might hope he can stay fit. Once again with this one, the Mitre 10 Cup is probably where they find their man, as they really don’t want to be left with an average option.

Option: Alex Nankivell and a Standout M10 Cup

Finally, I am going to looks at the maybes. A hooker, a halfback and an outside back. At hooker, if Ash Dixon decides to earn a quick buck in Japan, then Kianu Kereru-Symes, who has spent time in Dunedin training, could be an option, or the young Flynn Thomas. Thomas was very highly rated but has stunted slightly. He has been playing club rugby in Dunedin this year. I feel Hammington is very unlikely to go, but if he did, then I think that the Highlanders may well look to the young James Arscott. Arscott has been training with the Highlanders for the past couple of the years, and he is likely to see game time with Otago this year. Finally, when looking at outside backs, I think Sam Gilbert will probably get the contract regardless of fitness, especially if Damian McKenzie signs. If McKenzie was to sign, then another first five might be in the offing, which is where McClutchie comes in.


Putting everything I think, I know and I learnt togtether, I think that Josh Iosefa-Scott, Siate Tokolahi, Jack Whetton, Zane Kapeli, Sione Misiloi, Bryn Gatland, Tei Walden, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Rob Thompson, Tima Fainga’nuku, Tevita Nabura and Chris Kuindrani will leave, a total of 12 departures. Of the twelve, I feel that there is every chance Tokolahi and Thompson do stay, all be it on one-year deals. I would also say there is a small chance Misiloi, Umaga-Jensen and Gatland return, but I am 100% confident the other seven will depart. Replacing these players, could be Jermaine Ainsley, Saula Ma’u, Will Tucker, Nasi Manu, a standout flanker from the Mitre Ten Cup, Alex Nankivell, a standout second five from the Mitre 10 Cup and last but certainly not least Damian McKenzie

2021 SQUAD

The potential 2021 Highlanders squad: Ayden Johnstone, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Ethan De Groot, Liam Coltman, Ash Dixon, Ricky Jackson, Jermaine Ainsley, Jeff Thwaites, Saula Ma’u, Josh Dickson, Pari Pari Parkinson, Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Will Tucker, Shannon Frizzell, Dillon Hunt, Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, Teariki Ben-Nicholas, James Lentjes, Jesse Parete, Tom Florence, Nasi Manu, Josh Ioane, Mitch Hunt, Damian McKenzie, Lincoln McClutchie, Sio Tomkinson, Alex Nankivell, M10 Cup Standout Second Five, Scott Gregory, Ngane Punivai, Michael Collins, Connor Garden-Bachop, Jona Nareki, Josh McKay, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Vilimoni Koroi, Sam Gilbert.

The next part of this series will be the Crusaders, so make sure to follow me @Nicholasfriedl3 on twitter to know when it has been posted.

SUPER RUGBY AOTEAROA – Round Eight Preview

After a blockbuster round seven, Super Rugby Aotearoa is wide open yet again with just three rounds of action remaining. This weekend features two massive games that opens up with the winless Chiefs hosting the wounded Crusaders on Saturday night. Then on Sunday we head down to see the Highlanders up against the Blues. The Hurricanes sit out on the bye, but in their form I would expect they would prefer to be playing once again. Lets take a look at the action…..

CHIEFS vs CRUSADERS – FMG Stadium Waikato

It really is a tough tough competition. After weeks of close fought losses and now closing out with their final home game of the season, looking for the big push to pick up their first win…. The Chiefs have to deal with the Crusaders. Not even a happy Crusaders, I’d imagine a very determined Crusaders, looking to push on to the title.

Lineups have just dropped and the Chiefs will be very happy to have named Angus Ta’avao on the bench and back to rugby after a long layoff. Sitting along side him will be a debut for back rower Simon Parker. The U20s representative will be look to join the many other U20s making a name for themselves.

It is also a big night for Aaron Cruden, who will line up for his 100th Chiefs cap against the Crusaders. Cruden gets the nod in the number ten jumper this week and puts Kaleb Trask back to the bench.

Shaun Stevenson returns to the starting side on the right wing for the Chiefs and they have thankfully left Anton Lienert-Brown at outside centre, which has seen a huge transformation of the key mans form since the move a few weeks ago.

The Crusaders hit the round in what should be a foul mood. Losing last weekend has opened up Super Rugby Aotearoa for the Blues and the Hurricanes to get a sniff, the Crusaders will be desperately keen to shut that down.

Sam Whitelock deserves a huge ovation for his services to the Crusaders, 150th cap this weekend is a mammoth number for the champion second rower.

The side has a couple of changes, Sione Havili finds a mix around in the back row as he comes in at six and moves Tom Sanders to eight with no Whetu Douglas in he side. George Bower also gets a chance to shine from a starting position with Joe Moody away on bereavement leave.

Mitchell Drummond takes back the nine shirt as he swaps again with Bryn Hall. Billy Harmon returns to action via the bench as well.

There is a fear this could turn into a bit of a backlash from the Crusaders who had been cruising their way through matches, being good enough to lift the tempo at the end to overwhelm their opponents. That ended last weekend and it makes me wonder what the Crusaders will be like for the remainder of this competition.

If anything for the Chiefs, this means the Crusaders are beatable, but they will need to play their best rugby of the season and for ninety minutes as well. Yep, eighty isn’t enough now, those minutes after the hooter are so crucial!

If the Chiefs can, control the scoreboard, make the Crusaders chase the game and defend well enough. Its going to take all those experienced heads to even get close I feel. Crusaders just look too strong and they lost a game at home, its like the world really has come crashing down!

RESULT – Crusaders by 9

HIGHLANDERS vs BLUES – Forsyth Barr Stadium

A week of rest and recovery for the Highlanders couldnt have come at a better time for the team. The side had looked to be struggling in the last couple of weeks before the bye and had to throw the kitchen sink in at the end to topple the Chiefs two rounds ago.

Whats even more important than having a week off, is the fact that they are back at home, under the roof and ready to take on the Blues, who themselves struggled to put the W up against the Chiefs last weekend.

I said after the Highlanders lost to the Crusaders at Forsyth Barr stadium a number of rounds ago, that would be their final home loss of the season. A lot has passed since then but it has to be a standard the Highlanders live up to.

The Blues come into this round on the back of a narrow, some say lucky and even worse, win against the Chiefs and two losses to the Hurricanes and Crusaders the weeks before that. The honeymoon period for the Blues looks to have well and truly slipped away now. So much so, the Hurricanes are the number two side, if not number one after toppling the Crusaders, a feat the Blues could not manage.

So the Blues need a win this weekend to confirm they are still contenders for the title in more way than one. A loss will all but signal the end to their title hopes depending on other results. We have found the Blues second layer isn’t quite a strong as the first, despite the strong early form indicating otherwise.

The Highlanders need to be switched on for the whole game against the Blues. They cant afford another first forty minutes like their last outing, the Blues wont let that kind of lead slide.

Hopefully Josh Ioane will be fit to start after another week and Josh McKay will again start in some capacity in the side. Two key players who made a massive difference to the side which was progressing nicely.

Both sides sit on a edge of form which could see a fantastic high quality game of rugby or a error ridden mistake feast. Hopefully, not the latter. Starting fifteen selection is going to be a huge key as neither side can afford to give an inch in this one. Ioane if possible at ten, Hunt is playing well enough to be at fullback and show more of that form. Even for the Blues Harry Plummer trials, lets move on Leon, its time to let that one go….

RESULT – Highlanders by 1

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!


The competition is winding down to the business end of the season and while the Crusaders had looked to all but seal another trophy in the cabinet, there was a road bump dead ahead in the Crusaders, which was our Saturday night opening game. On Sunday the Chiefs continued their quest for an opening win of the season when they ventured up the road to face the Blues. Lets take a look at how the two games went….


The Hurricanes have become the form chasers of the Crusaders in recent weeks and with confidence high they ventured south to take on their ultimate task.

A testing opening period rewarded both sides with a penalty shot at goal for three points a piece but it was the Crusaders who really struggled to get on the right side of the ref.

Once they sorted the run of penalties, the attacking flair started to come their way. From a lineout maul close to the Hurricanes line, Jack Goodhue showed whats been lacking in his game recently, taking the ball at first receiver, he drew in a number of defenders and offloaded exquisitely to Richie Mo’unga who dragged his way over the line.

The Hurricanes were quick to reply. Some brutal running from Peter Umaga-Jensen over three phases set the Hurricanes on rampant period. The quick platform gifts them a overlap of the right edge for Wes Goosen who is a clinical finisher and tied it back up.

If you thought what we had happened already was impressive, fill your boots on this next try for the Crusaders. Sevu Reece splits the defence in two, as the cover defence races across Reece throws a huge wild pass out to the left wing for George Bridge who could get nowhere near a catch and instead volleys it forward and with the erratic bounce of the rugby ball it pivots away from a chasing Jordie Barrett to give a clean chase to Bridge who scores the Crusaders second! A try you must see to believe.

The Hurricanes hit back again though, a little more conventional than the Bridge try, but just as effective. Asafo Aumua put in a thunderous run down the left wing to again get that go forward, then it was that man again, Wes Goosen! With an extraordinary show of acceleration, he shot through the half gap to grab his second try and switch the lead yet again.

With the half wearing down, the Hurricanes chose to go for the sticks yet again to extend their lead out to 21-17 as the two sides headed in for half time.

Kicking into the second half the Crusaders started to pick up their game. Six minutes of the half were played before we saw the penalty from Mo’unga but in all that time it was domination by the Crusaders controlling possession for a very long period and playing nicely with advantages all along, the game was changing. Can the Hurricanes fight back?

Enough for a penalty, yes they can. Hurricanes absorb a long period on defence to quickly fight their way back into range of a penalty and as quickly as its called, Barrett knocks it over. Lead back to four, but it never seems enough against the Crusaders.

That penalty has lifted the wind into the sails of the Hurricanes who looked extremely dangerous straight away. The lineout set up beautifully for Barrett who wiggled and weaved his way through the defence. Quickly fired out to the right wing yet again, this time Goosen left as a decoy and Peter Umaga-Jensen battles his way through three defenders to plant it in the corner. Lead extended to eleven points! Can the unthinkable happen!?

It is far from done yet though. Over fifteen minutes still to play and the Crusaders enter the danger zone. From the set play scrum, the forwards took over. Pick and go after pick and go, relentless attack from the Crusaders. Almost inevitably they power over with a charge involving over half the pack and up comes Quinten Strange to be awarded with the try. Game on yet again as the lead is cut to just four points, 31-27 Hurricanes.

With the clock ticking over the 73 minute mark, the Hurricanes get a crucial penalty just inside the Crusaders half and the thunderous boot of Jordie Barrett add the extra three. Really was game on now, Hurricanes lead by seven.

Step up once again, Richie Mo’unga, he lifts again for the Crusaders. Pulling out the dummy and fooling defenders, the cuts through the defence and fires a perfectly weighted floater out to Sevu Reece to score on the right edge. From the sideline Mo’unga couldn’t add the extra two to tie it all up, do the Crusaders have another chance?

Any chance with ball in hand is a big opportunity for the Crusaders and Will Jordan almost turns it into gold with a big break down the right side, keeping the ball in hand to recycle he was out done by a fired up Jamie Booth who wins the penalty and after a little scuffle between players and a yellow card for a punch to Strange, win the game as well!

Almost an unbelievable situation to see the Crusaders lose a match, but the Hurricanes held on to seal it. Du’Plessis Kirifi and Peter Umaga-Jensen were outstanding for Hurricanes and its hard to look past Richie Mo’unga yet again for the Crusaders. Another cracking match that will leave us wanting more. Such a shame the Super Rugby AU match follows it….


Its become a little surprising how the Blues have tracked over the last couple of weeks and now up against the winless Chiefs, it was expected there would be plenty of backlash at Eden Park.

Which is exactly how it kicked off as well, just a few minutes in after the Chiefs battled their way around the half way line, they eventually gave away a scrum to the Blues and with the set piece the backs lit up the park. A well executed set play with a subtle flick to a rocketing Matt Duffie who came from deep, hitting a perfect line and went through and just had enough pace to beat the defenders to the line.

That bred more confidence for the Blues and they found themselves with more ball and more half leaks in the defence. Working into the twenty two, the forwards took over. The captain Patrick Tuipulotu bashing his way over with a good low drive under the defence, to double the lead.

Mid way through the first it may have been easy for the Chiefs to drop their heads but they battled on and after getting their first penalties of the match, made their way up the park. Kicking for touch over the points, Damien McKenzie brought some spark to get deep into the Blues twenty two and to prove a point, the pack took over to show they can do it too. Some smart play around the ruck helped Lachlan Boshier get a little more room near the white line to bundle over and get the Chiefs on the board.

Chiefs had a truck load of penalties in the Blues half for the remainder of the half, but consistently went for the sideline looking for five and turned away many kickable penalties. The two sides went to half time with a score still 14-7 to the Blues.

Teams don’t always need a good platform from the scrum to launch an attack and that’s exactly what the Chiefs did. A wobbly take off the back from Pita-Gus Sowakula floats to no one in particular but is snapped up by Brad Weber who cracks the defence and finds Aaron Cruden and Anton Lienert-Brown who continue the attack behind the defence and up the field. As you would expect from a good winger, Solomon Alaimalo bursts away from the cover defence to score in the corner but sadly injured in the tackle of the try scoring process, its tied up 14-14!

Very quickly after levelling the scores, McKenzie has a shot to give the lead to the Chiefs for the first time in the game. Right in front, forty meters back and he does not disappoint, splitting the uprights and giving his side a three point lead.

The see-saw takes another turn as the Blues put pressure on the Chiefs half and a thundering run from Ofa Tu’ungafasi got the Blues within a couple of meters. A quickly spotted snipe from Finlay Christie who plants the ball on the line before getting squashed by the defence and puts the Blues back in front yet again.

The final fifteen minutes of the match has a number of huge chances to put this game in their favour but some extremely desperate goal line defence and errors at key times proved to be the killer end for both sides. With only two minutes remaining, Harry Plummer was sent to the bin for repeated penalties.

With only four points the difference, neither side could put the final blow on the other. The Chiefs falling agonisingly short yet again this season! Was a great show of committed defence from both sides and another truly entertaining fixture of Super Rugby Aotearoa!

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!

SUPER RUGBY AOTEAROA – Round Seven Preview

Its hard to believe this competition is getting into its final phase now, with only three more rounds after this weekend still to play. Although the Crusaders have one hand and 4 fingers already on the trophy, there is still much to play for. The Hurricanes upset the pecking order last weekend getting up over the Blues and now will have to do it all again when they travel down to face the Crusaders. The second game will see the continued journey of Warren Gatland and his Chiefs searching for their first win against the Blues at Eden Park. Lets take a look at the games….

CRUSADERS vs HURRICANES – Orangetheory Stadium

A week off at home for the Crusaders is the perfect tonic for a midseason rest. After the big bash up against the Blues, the Crusaders will be once again fresh and ready to fire against the side that has pretty much overtaken the Blues as the number two side in the competition.

The Crusaders have a couple of changes set for the lineup this weekend with Braydon Ennor out and Fetuli Paea replacing him in midfield. David Havili’s season is also done after just battling his way into the starting side in recent weeks so Will Jordan will resume where he left off back in his fifteen jumper.

With the loss of Havili, Brett Cameron has taken his place on the bench and many of us begin to remember who he is yet again and question the effect to the Crusaders if Richie Mo’unga went down injured this weekend. Is that Crusaders depth starting to be tested?

Of course, this is a Crusaders team on a 36 match unbeaten run at home and regardless where they play they will always run into the game as favourites this season and a massive test for every side.

Could there every be a better time to face the Crusaders for the Hurricanes? Just after they beat the side who pushed them all the way the week before, mentally they must be more than ready to take that next step. Only problem they may have, is their mental state after the game if things don’t go their way.

Its an interesting time for the Hurricanes with a couple of players either leaving overseas or about to leave. Korbus Van Wyk has already departed after becoming a vital part of the squad on the right wing and it will be the 50th and final time we see Ben Lam on the left wing, as he will be leaving the nest after this weekend. What a way it could be to go out for Lam…

Of course to beat the Crusaders, or to even match them, the pack needs a big performance and once again the Hurricanes are without Dane Coles so Asafo Aumua will get the nod at hooker in his place. As every week, guys like Ardie Savea and his backrow buddies will again need to look after the breakdown especially on their own ball.

But its in the backs where this game could get a nudge from the Hurricanes and hopefully someone has annoyed Ngani Laumape again this week! After his devastating display against the Blues he needs to back that up again against the ultimate opponent and one of the better midfield defenders in Jack Goodhue.

Peter Umaga-Jensen was a good partner for Laumape last week as well and with a debut starter on their opposite thirteen, its going to be an area I will expect them to run hard at.

Although I’m not expecting the Hurricanes to test the Crusaders as much as the Blues did recently, I think its going to be a typical tight Crusaders match where they cruise their way into the final quarter and blitz the result home. Too many times we have seen it and the Hurricanes are too fragile to withstand it. When things start to close out at they move TJ Perenara into ten, it could be even worse.

RESULT: Crusaders by 6

BLUES v CHIEFS – Eden Park

Who would have thought this is where we would be three or four weeks ago?! After the Blues were smashing their way undefeated towards the Crusaders, then it all came unstuck. The Blues just never really looked the same last week against the Hurricanes and will need to snap back into shape quickly if they want to get their season back on track.

The Blues can not afford to slack off against any opponent and regardless of results the Chiefs are no different and have the ability if you sleep on them.

The post match interview with Patrick Tuipulotu told a huge tale of the Blues reaction to that result last weekend. They knew as much as anyone watching that their performance was far below par. Now they have two losses on the trot, can they find their groove again?

The major part of their game plan is that power running in that backrow of theirs. They missed Hoskins Sotutu at eight and will be desperate for him to return. Caleb Clarke will be another one who could really spark the Blues back to life.

Well, there’s no more to lose for the Chiefs is there? Beating the Highlanders would have been their lifeline to escape from fifth spot but even with a massive lead, they couldn’t seal that deal.

They were much improved from previous weeks however, not only did we see an actual distinctive display from Lachlan Boshier, there was actual forward running from Damien McKenzie who combined a number of times with some much better running lines from Anton Lienert-Brown.

In terms of chances created and chances taken, the Chiefs were at their peak, turning everything into points and made very few first have errors. The bounce went their way and its hard to see they will get another chance like it this season to pull off their first win.

Like I said at the start, there’s nothing to lose here for the Chiefs and the Blues will need to be very careful of the wounded visitors. If they Blues don’t respond to last weekends loss well, it may be golden chance 2.0 for the Chiefs, underestimate them at your peril.

BLUES by 3

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!


With the Crusaders sitting out round six on the bye, it was effectively “the rest” going into battle for the other places, with the Blues fighting for bonus points to keep the dream alive. What come about from the two matches, was nothing short of world class, edge of you seat, brilliant rugby once again. Join me to take a look through the Hurricanes and the Highlanders doing the job on the buzzer over the Blues and Chiefs for round six of Super Rugby Aotearoa!


As the sides were named for this opening match of Super Rugby Aotearoa, I sensed this game could be a lot tighter than initially thought, you can find those thoughts in my preview. Thankfully the weather stayed nice and an even bigger shock for Wellington was that the wind had stayed down leading into kick off.

The game kicked into gear with an early penalty for the Blues pretty much straight from the kick off for an early 3-0 lead. Some ferocious rugby by the home team followed soon after and it was all led by the destroyer Ngani Laumape. Not just a power runner, he took on Beauden Barrett around the outside, beating him for acceleration and pace and then powering over the top of Otere Black to score the opening try.

Some point proving was smashed straight back from Beauden who was out to prove hes still rapid by running a scorching line forty out off a Blues set play and showed just how quick he still is by out pacing everyone to the sticks.

Laumape wasn’t done either, very quickly after he rampaged again, this time flattening Beauden and just being dragged down short by young winger Emoni Narawa who never cleared the ruck and was sent to the bin with a yellow card, luckily for him no points were added while he was off.

As the rain started to fall, the Blues got their lineout maul rolling, making short work of the ten meters to the line, Dalton Papali’i with the ball in hand. Not to be outdone in the forwards, the Hurricanes hit back in exactly the same fashion. After turning down the three, a fantastic penalty kick to the corner from Jordie Barrett put the ‘Canes just five out and a little rumble later another five added by Reed Prinsep.

A late penalty was slotted by Jordie to bring the two sides level after the half time hooter, boy what a half of rugby that ended up 15-15 at the break.

Laumape has continued to dominate this game and his midfield partner Peter Umaga-Jensen is not too far behind him. Some thumping runs by those two got the Hurricanes close to the line and Dane Coles hit another sweet line right next to the sticks to put his side back in front.

The Blues used their pack to battle back an opportunity, getting close from their lineout and continued pick and goes from the pack before eventually crashing over with Akira Ioane to tie the game back up again.

As this match starting wearing into the final quarter, it has been hard to pinpoint areas where either side has controlled the game aside from the Hurricanes in midfield.

Both packs have had their moments but never more than brief occasions but that all changed late in the game, the lineout maul yet again proving an area the Blues are getting increasingly more control from, scoring their third try and second from the maul. Most importantly Beauden missed the conversion to leave the lead at only five points.

With less than five to play the Hurricanes had a big chance to steal the lead back and given the conditions in this half, just like the Blues they stuck to their pack, the maul driving the five meters required with Asafo Aumua sitting at the back to score just a few in from touch leaving an extremely tough kick for the lead by Jordie who absolutely nails it from miles back and Wellington has a new favourite son.

It was possession rugby for the remaining few minutes to hold out a real see-saw battle, almost war between the two side! Another fantastic game in Super Rugby Aotearoa!

Hurricanes confidence and belief has been in plain sight in this game and it was a massive motivator for them being able to get over the line. Ngani Laumape and Peter Umaga-Jensen led a fantastic midfield for the Hurricanes, smashing and slicing over the advantage line on nearly every carry. Cant leave this game without crediting Jordie Barrett, its impossible to look past him winning the Barrett battle tonight and to calmly slot that winning conversion, nerves of steel!

For the Blues, newcomer Emoni Narawa, despite his yellow card, was very strong on cover defence and saved a number of tries. Finally you cant leave out Finley Christy who was a massive spark for the Blues backline once again.


The final match of round six was the now likely battle for the wooden spoon after the Hurricanes pulled of the earlier minor miracle win against the Blues.

The afternoon started terribly for the Highlanders, who couldn’t even get the kick off to the match right, falling short of the required ten meters.

The Chiefs set about with early territory and possession on their side and an outstanding line from Lachlan Boshier broke the ankles of Rob Thompson in defence and gave a clean run to the line to open the scorers and an early Chiefs lead.

Not much went right for the Highlanders early on, dropped ball, missed shot at goals and anything you could think of, sad part is it was beautiful dry calm conditions. Only the Chiefs were playing like it though, as Damien McKenzie actually running forward for once this season and popped a brilliant ball to Anton Lienert-Brown to go over close to the line.

It went bad to worse for the Highlanders, Rob Thompson called up for a high tackle and was then sent to the bin for his efforts and allowed McKenzie to drop another three on the scoreboard which was up to 17-0 mid way through the half.

Penalties, penalties and more penalties against the Highlanders and the Chiefs were just getting an easy run up the field to set up a big lineout maul ten from the line. Bradley Slater picking up the try and the the score all the way to 24-0!

The Highlanders managed string together some phases for once and get themselves on the scoreboard as the half entered its final ten minutes. Consecutive penalties resulting in lineout drives for the visitors, got them very close to the line to allow a powerful pick and go from the outstanding Marino Mikaele-Tu’u. It ended up a double win for the Highlanders as well with Sam Cane sent to the bin straight after the try for another infringement the phase before the finish.

The Chiefs handled it well being a man down and lasted the full ten minutes without leaking any more points and took a tidy 24-7 lead into the half time break. One side finishing chances, the Highlanders unable to capitalise on their own.

The second half couldn’t have started any better for the Chiefs as Bradley Slater grabbed his second of the match, sitting on the back of another superb lineout maul from the Chiefs. At 31-7 the Chiefs looked like they were playing amazing rugby but the Highlanders had often been the better side. Its all about taking your chances.

That’s what the Highlanders finally started to do, a half chance sparked by Josh McKay on a switch of play set them away down the left wing. A superb dummy and great show of pace from Mitch Hunt, beat McKenzie and blitzed his way into the corner, 31-12, game on yet?

Its been a beautiful day in the Waikato, but it was until late in the game when saw some brilliant counter attacking rugby. McKay showing exactly what the Highlanders have been missing from him this season, he sparked from the kick return and offloaded to Aaron Smith who had a footrace with Brad Weber. A lost cause, he offloads, stays on his feet and gets back in support to take the pass back and crawl his way over.

The pace of the game has drastically picked up in the last ten minutes and the Highlanders are starting to find their play, passes are sticking and they look dangerous once more. Josh Ioanes return the Highlanders tonic!? Chiefs up 31-19 with twenty to play.

McKenzie has a try overturned for an accidental offside at the start of the phase. It was a great split of defence from McKenzie and a tough one to be called back, but ultimately the right decision that has set a bit of a fire under the Chiefs who were trying to put this game to bed.

Time certainly was becoming the enemy of the Highlanders, despite the fact they were spending so much time inside the Chiefs half and on the attack. After a number of clearing chances from the Chiefs, it just took one moment of brilliance from Jona Nareki, who turns the defence inside out and wins the race again to that left hand corner. They have been down and out for most of this match, the Highlanders, but with three minutes to go they are within five!

Time was out on the clock and the Highlanders were kicking penalties into the corner. Last chance salon for the visitors. They set about another maul from the set piece and charged their way towards the line. Backs and forwards joining in on the charge, sucking in defenders from the Chiefs. As more entered but the maul held still, Aaron Smith decided it was time to go. A dart to the left, sucking in two defenders and off loading a pin point dish to Sio Tomkinson to slip clean through the defence! The try was scored just to the left of the upright and Mitch Hunt had a chance to win to from the tee.

He duly delivered and set about glorious scenes of elation for the Highlanders players and staff! The most unlikely of come back victories for the Highlanders that will surely seal them away from bottom spot. Down 24-0 and 31-7 with time against them, somehow they have found a way to win.

There were plenty of stand outs for the Chiefs who could do no wrong in the opening half. Lienert-Brown really shined moving out one to thirteen and I feel that impacted the effect of McKenzie who had his best game of the season pushing into the defence more often and not skipping about sideways. Lachlan Boshier also had his best game of the season, it seems like he has finally got into the new ref system and is back to impacting the breakdown yet again and of course two tries to hooker Bradley Slater will always be a highlight.

For the victors, it was great cameos off the bench for Josh Ioane and Jona Nareki. Shannon Frizell and Marino Mikaele-Tu’u showed once again they are the form back row will Dillon Hunt in the mix. But my big game players were Mitch Hunt and Josh Mckay who had fantastic games for the Highlanders. Hunts running game is a massive threat more each week and the addition of McKay had the Highlanders looking so much more dangerous as he made every touch a forward gain, if not a half break at worst. Finally Aaron Smith, words cant express just how good he was in this game.

An amazing game for the Highlanders who were strong through out but only learnt how to finish in the second forty when they Chiefs were spent and had used all that golden magic dust. The Highlanders dominated all the key stats, broke the line for fun and forced the Chiefs to defend much more, but almost lost it from their inability to turn that into points.

What a weekend of Super Rugby!

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!