The promise of wall-to-wall blockbusters in the fledgling Super Rugby Aotearoa competition has been fulfilled so far. Round 3 is set to deliver another pair of huge encounters in Auckland and Christchurch.
History: Played 33: Blues 17 V Highlanders 16
Last meeting: April 20, 2019: Highlanders 24 d Blues 12 at Forsyth Barr Stadium
Final Thoughts: Some may still be waiting for the bubble to burst, but the Blues are living up to the hype. The long-suffering Auckland franchise followed up their thrilling 30-20 home win over the Hurricanes in Super Rugby Aotearoa Round 1 with a gritty 24-12 dismissal of the Chiefs, breaking a Hamilton hoodoo.
Beauden Barrett’s effect on this team has been immense in just 160 minutes as a Blue. Tom Robinson is a significant loss to a knee injury, testing their forward depth.
The unfancied, low-profile Highlanders are aiming to solidify the surprise-packet tag this week. They showed plenty of character and enterprise to win a home thriller against the Chiefs 28-27 in Round 1 before enjoying the bye. The southerners will again be without All Blacks pair Josh Ioane and Nehe Milner-Skudder.
The Highlanders have won 10 of their last 14 against the Blues, though both sides enjoyed a home win over the other last season. But 14 of the past 17 interisland derbies were decided by 1-12 margins.
Rank outsiders here, the Highlanders can’t be taken lightly. But the Blues’ momentum, newfound resolve and superior backline firepower should carry them to a comfortable home win and a 3-0 record.
13:35 (AEST), Sun 28th Jun @ Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch
History: Played 36: Crusaders 21 V Chiefs 15
Last meeting: February 8, 2020: Chiefs 25 d Crusaders 15 at FMG Stadium Waikato
Final Thoughts: The Crusaders and Chiefs looked to be on a 2020 Super Rugby final collision course after a rousing start to the season. The Chiefs threw down the gauntlet with a 25-15 win over the three-time champs in Round 2. It was he only blip in the Crusaders’ dominant early-season run.
But while the Crusaders began their Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign with a 39-25 victory over the Hurricanes last Sunday after sitting out the opening round with the bye, the Chiefs are already under the pump. They headed into their opening two matches as favourites. But they were edged by the Highlanders away (28-27) and subdued at home by the Blues (24-12).
The Crusaders’ win was tarnished by news captain Scott Barrett has been ruled out for the season. The Chiefs have also lost an All Blacks forward, with Luke Jacobson sidelined for the remainder of the Super Rugby Aoetaroa campaign.
After losing their previous five against the Crusaders, the Chiefs are currently on a two-match winning streak. But the Crusaders are on a staggering 34-match unbeaten run in Christchurch. The ruthless champs scored five tries to one against the ’Canes and should put away a floundering Chiefs outfit.