Super Rugby Aotearoa has produced a succession of thrillers and high-quality showdowns. In Round 8, the Blues attempt to keep their title chances alive on a tough road trip, while the Chiefs aim to get off the mark against the competition leaders.
History: Played 37: Crusaders 22 V Chiefs 15
Last meeting: June 28, 2020: Crusaders 18 d Chiefs 13 at OrangeTheory Stadium
Final Thoughts: The hapless Chiefs are still searching for their first win, slumping to 0-6 via a 21-17 loss to the Blues on Sunday. It was their fourth defeat by five points or less. The result was compounded by a campaign-ending injury to winger Solomon Alaimalo, but Aaron Cruden’s return this week is a significant boost.
The Crusaders hold a two-point lead at the top of the table with a game in hand, but the 2017-19 Super Rugby winners are backing up from their first loss. They scored four tries to three but conceding five penalty goals proved the difference in a 34-32 defeat to the Hurricanes.
In one of their more resilient efforts of the Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign, the Chiefs surged late before going down 18-13 to the Crusaders in Christchurch in Round 3.
During the Chiefs early-2020 charge – which seems like a lifetime ago – they carved out a 25-15 win over the Crusaders in Hamilton. The champs led 12-0 through an early Sevu Reece double before the Chiefs posted three unanswered tries.
The Chiefs aren’t far off a breakthrough win…but they won’t get it against a Crusaders side that has had the pressure turned up on them by last week’s slip-up.
13:35 (AEST), Sun 2nd Aug @ Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
History: Played 33: Blues 18 V Highlanders 15
Last meeting: June 27, 2020: Blues 27 d Highlanders 24 at Eden Park
Final Thoughts: The 2-3 Highlanders are coming off the bye, which some of their players used to get into some off-field strife. The incident took a little gloss off their incredible 33-31 win over the Chiefs in Hamilton – rallying from 24 points down to grab the match-winning try after the bell – but no players have been stood down.
The 4-2 Blues remain in the title hunt after a 21-17 home victory over the Chiefs, bouncing back from consecutive losses to the Crusaders and Hurricanes. Beauden Barrett’s switch to the No.10 was a mixed bag but overall the Blues look a more composed side with their superstar in the playmaking hotseat.
Dalton Papalii bagged a double in the Blues’ thrilling 27-24 home win in Round 3, holding off a customary Highlanders fight-back.
But the Blues have never won at Forsyth Barr Stadium, with their last victory in Dunedin coming at the now-defunct Carisbrook in 2011. The Highlanders prevailed 24-12 at home last season. Fifteen of the interisland rivals’ last 18 clashes were decided by 1-12 margins.
So formidable at home, the Highlanders are difficult to resist as underdogs this week. Six of Super Rugby NZ’s 14 games have been decided by four points or less.