The Best of the Day preview piles into the ruck with Super Rugby Aotearoa tips for a crunch Friday night showdown between the Highlanders and Blues under the roof in Dunners. 

Super Rugby Aotearoa Tips – Highlanders V Blues

17:05 (AEST) @ Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin

History: Played 35: Blues 20 V Highlanders 15

Last meeting: March 14, 2021: Blues 39 d Highlanders 17 at Eden Park

Final thoughts: The Best of the Day preview breaks down the Super Rugby Round 8 opener between the Highlanders and Blues as the race for the final heats up.

With three rounds to play, the 3-2 Blues are clinging to second spot while the 2-4 Highlanders are in must-win territory.

The Highlanders’ bid to reach the final received a harsh blow last Saturday, beaten by a golden point penalty goal from the Chiefs’ Damian McKenzie.

The 26-23 home heart-breaker came on the back of their stunning 33-12 away win over previously undefeated defending champs the Crusaders.

The Blues enjoyed the bye last week after carving out a convincing 27-17 home win over the Hurricanes in Round 6.

The Aucklanders scored the first three tries of the match before finally conceded a five-pointer inside the last five minutes.

The Highlanders’ luckless run with injuries has been compounded with rookie standout Connor Garden-Bachop ruled out due to broken wrist. Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Folau Fakatava, Liam Squire and Freedom Vahaakolo were already on the unavailable list. Josh Ioane returns to the starting line-up at fullback as Mitch Hunt continues to star in the No.10.

Flanker Tom Robinson will captain the Blues with Patrick Tuipolotu still sidelined by a neck injury.

Blues shoot for four straight against Highlanders

The Blues have won all three Super Rugby Aotearoa clashes with the Highlanders. They prevailed in a 27-24 thriller at Eden Park and 32-22 on the road in 2020.

The latter was the Blues’ maiden victory at Forsyth Barr Stadium and their first in Dunedin since 2011.

The Blues were far too strong in Auckland in Round 3 last month, powering to a 39-17 bonus-point win. They had four tries on the board before the Highlanders belatedly breached their line.

The Blues have been the better of these sides in 2021 and boast the superior line-up on paper. But the Highlanders are only a fortnight removed from dominating the Crusaders and they were unlucky last week. The hosts are solid Best of the Day value as underdogs here.

Tip: Handicap – Highlanders +5.5 @ $1.90