The Super Rugby Aotearoa crown is still up for grabs with two rounds left. The Hurricanes and Crusaders start as warm favourites in a pair of Round 9 derbies.
History: Played 38: Hurricanes 20 V Chiefs 15 (3 Draws)
Last meeting: July 5, 2020: Hurricanes 25 d Chiefs 18 at FMG Stadium Waikato
Final Thoughts: Eight points adrift with two rounds remaining, the Hurricanes can keep the ladder-leading Crusaders honest with a win here. The Wellington-based outfit has won four straight, including an epic 34-32 upset of the Crusaders before their Round 8 bye. But that momentous result cost them barnstorming midfield Ngani Laumape with injury. Dane Coles and Tyrel Lomax return this week, while Kobus Van Wyk replaces France-bound Ben Lam with Julian Savea missing out.
The Chiefs slumped to 0-7 via a 32-19 defeat to the Crusaders in Round 8. It was their first 13+ defeat of the Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign and only their second by more than seven points. The side has been bolstered by All Black flanker Luke Jacobson, who comes in for Lachlan Boshier.
The North Island rivals’ Round 4 encounter was effectively over by the hour mark, when van Wyk’s second try gave the Hurricanes 19-point lead. Two late Chiefs tries added some respectability to a 25-18 scoreboard. The Hurricanes boast a 12-5 home record against the Chiefs, who were thrashed 47-19 when they visited Wellington last season.
The Hurricanes are in great touch and should ensure the Chiefs’ torturous campaign ends in fitting fashion.
13:35 (AEST), Sun 9th Aug @ Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch
History: Played 39: Crusaders 28 V Highlanders 11
Last meeting: July 4, 2020: Crusaders 40 d Highlanders 20 at Forsyth Barr Stadium
Final Thoughts: The Crusaders will wrap up the Super Rugby Aotearoa title with a win on Sunday afternoon. The three-time defending Super Rugby champs bounced back from their first defeat – a 34-32 thriller to the Hurricanes – with a comfortable 32-19 win over the Chiefs, scoring five tries to one. Joe Moody and Brayden Ennor are on track to return to the line-up this week.
The 2-4 Highlanders – with easily the least heralded squad in the competition – have been plucky. But ultimately their only two wins came against the battling Chiefs, while last week saw a 32-21 home loss to the Blues. It was arguably their most disappointing performance of the campaign.
The Highlanders led the Crusaders at halftime of their Round 4 clash and trailed by just six with five minutes left. But Tom Christie and Will Jordan completed late doubles for a 40-20 final scoreline – comfortably the biggest winning margin of Super Rugby Aotearoa’s maiden season.
The Crusaders have won 14 of the last 17 clashes between the archrivals. The Highlanders’ last win in Christchurch came back in 2015, while they were spanked 33-13 at Orangetheory Stadium in February this year.
Only one of the competition’s 16 games to date was decided by more than 14 points. But it was between these teams. The signs are pointing to a similar result on a dry track with the Highlanders playing only for pride and the Crusaders eager to seal the title with a week to go.