The promise of wall-to-wall blockbusters in the fledgling Super Rugby Aotearoa competition has been fulfilled so far. But Round 5 kicks off with the biggest showdown so far: Crusaders v Blues
History: Played 36: Crusaders 25 V Blues 11
Last meeting: February 14, 2020: Crusaders 25 d Blues 8 at Eden Park
Final Thoughts: It’s the Super Rugby Aotearoa clash everyone’s been waiting for: the dominant three-time champion Crusaders up against the rejuvenated Blues.
Both sides are 3-0, beating the Hurricanes, Chiefs and Highlanders in the opening three rounds before last weekend’s bye. The Crusaders sat out Round 1 before accounting for the same three opponents, all in relatively comfortable fashion.
The Crusaders were pushed hard by the Highlanders last Saturday but pulled away late for a 40-20 victory. Beauden Barrett’s influence on the talented but famously fickle Blues has been palpable, while fans will be sweating on Dan Carter potentially making his debut for the franchise against his former team.
The Crusaders have won 14 of their last 16 against the Blues, including the last 11 straight. But both encounters in 2019 were decided by eight points or less, while the Blues lost few admirers in a gallant 25-8 loss in Round 3 of the 2020 Super Rugby season.
Arguably the biggest match of 15-a-side anywhere in the world so far in 2020 – and the Blues shape as good value as big outsiders in what should be a classic struggle.
13:35 (AEST), Sat 12th @ Sky Stadium, Wellington
History: Played 33: Hurricanes 19 V Highlanders 14
Last meeting: April 5, 2019: Hurricanes 31 d Highlanders 28 at Forsyth Barr Stadium
Final Thoughts: Humbled by the Blues (30-20) and Crusaders (39-25) in the opening two rounds before their first bye, the Hurricanes opened their Super Rugby Aotearoa account with a 25-18 win over the Chiefs in Hamilton. The Hurricanes had built a 19-point lead by the hour mark before hanging on, with winger Kobus Van Wyk bagging a double. Jordie Barrett’s return from a shoulder injury was a huge boost.
The plucky Highlanders have followed up their Round 1 upset of the Chiefs with a three-point loss to the in-form Blues and a 40-20 defeat to the heavyweight Crusaders. The southerners stuck with the three-time champs for 65 minutes before conceding two late tries.
A season-ending injury to lock Josh Dickson is a further hit to the Highlanders’ already modest playing stocks.
The Hurricanes boast an 11-6 home record against the Highlanders. Both of the teams’ 2019 clashes were decided by three-point margins, with the ’Canes prevailing on both occasions.
After last week’s breakthrough result, the Hurricanes should have too much firepower for the Highlanders at home.