The Best of the Day preview piles into the ruck with Super Rugby Aoteaora tips for a vital Round 2 clash between the Chiefs and Highlanders.
17:05 (AEDT) @ FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton
History: Played 35: Chiefs 18 V Highlanders 16 (1 Draw)
Last meeting: July 19, 2020: Highlanders 33 d Chiefs 31 at FMG Stadium Waikato
Final thoughts: The Best of the Day preview breaks down the Super Rugby Aotearoa Round 2 opener between the Chiefs and Highlanders.
— Speight’s Highlanders (@Highlanders) March 4, 2021
The Chiefs – who went 0-8 in the inaugural edition of the competition – had the Round 1 bye. They have Clayton McMillan in charge as interim head coach with Warren Gatland on British and Irish Lions duty.
The Highlanders showed typical grit and endeavour in an all-too-familiar 26-13 loss to the Crusaders at home last Friday. They trailed by just one early in the second half and had a go-ahead try controversially denied by the TMO before the Crusaders sealed it late.
😓 An absolute beauty from the @Highlanders!
A humdinger of a second half coming up.
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) February 26, 2021
The Chiefs came the closest to a 2020 Super Rugby Aotearoa win in their two clashes with the Highlanders.
They were edged 28-27 in the competition-opener in Dunedin, thwarted by a late Bryn Gatland drop goal for the hosts after Damian McKenzie had slotted a drop goal of his own just a minute earlier.
It was another hard luck story for the Chiefs when the teams met in Hamilton. Sio Tomkinson’s try after the bell and Mitch Hunt’s conversion gave the visitors a nerve-shredding 33-31 triumph.
Gatland has joined the Chiefs for 2021 and will square off opposite Highlanders No.10 Josh Ioane.
Damian McKenzie lines up at fullback in a Chiefs side that boasts fellow All Black guns Anton Lienert-Brown and co-captains Same Cane and Brad Weber.
Here it is #ChiefsWhānau, your first team of 2021 🔥
— Gallagher Chiefs (@ChiefsRugby) March 3, 2021
Aaron Smith will come off the bench for the Highlanders with Folau Fakatava getting the start at halfback.
The Chiefs have the cattle on paper to get the job done against anyone – but that was the case during a winless 2020. The Highlanders present excellent Best of the Day value as underdogs after last week’s solid hit-out.