Its been three long long, oh so long, months since we have had any rugby on the park, but now finally New Zealand’s Super Rugby sides return with, believe it or not, crowds allowed to return to stadiums. Its live! With fans! Its rugby, celebrate!
With just the five New Zealand sides taking part in Super Rugby Aotearoa we will see two matches this weekend with the one of the first live sports to return with fans following the COVID-19 outbreak. But there will be no talk about that on here, only the action and it will all kick off in the Southern franchise home of Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin where the Highlanders will host the Chiefs at 7:05pm on Saturday night. Afternoon rugby returns on Sunday at Eden Park in Auckland where the Blues will welcome the Hurricanes in a tasty affair at 3:35. The Crusaders will sit the weekend out, why not add a sixth team?
HIGHLANDERS vs CHIEFS – Forsyth Barr Stadium
Before looking into how this match may play out, lets take a moment for how big this occasion will be for global and local sport. Ticket sales, as expected, are already proving to be massive in the first couple of days and will only grow closer to kickoff. I think anyone reading this would love to attend this opening weekend of game which promise to have an outstanding atmosphere! I know I would love to be in Dunedin this weekend for it.
On the field, I feel this match promises to be much closer than many are expecting. Early talk about the Highlanders has been the usual write off’s and underestimation that we have come far too accustom with in the build up to new seasons. If any team has learnt over the brief start to the season earlier this year, it was the Highlanders. They risked, tested and experimented a lot more than they should have and we can only expect that has created a lot of learning’s. We will see very quickly if those lessons will have effect, but if any coaches can use it well, Aaron Mauger and Tony Brown are the guys. Add in a packed zoo and its plenty of reason to be excited for Highlanders fans.
The reason to worry for the Chiefs is the usual hospital ward that has VERY quickly started to fill up in the week leading to opening weekend. Sam Cane will be sitting out the round and that followed by new of Atu Moli joining his on the sidelines and out for the whole season. With Michael Allardice and Laghlan McWhannell already in the injury ward, the second row has already taken a hammering and leaves and soft belly of the pack. Winger Sam McNicol completes a ward of injured players for the Chiefs, leaving them in a similar spot to their opponents, shaky and relying heavily of a couple of star players.
For me, the home field advantage of a charged up full crowd screaming out for live sport will give a significant boost for the home team and although the Chiefs have the better squad, round one is always a massive unknown. Can we back an upset to kick us off? Why not?!
PREDICTION – Highlanders by 2
BLUES vs HURRICANES – EDEN PARK
Oh boy. Oh yes. In the weeks leading into this game, the stakes have raised higher and higher and higher. There is a number of factors I cant wait to see in this match, but three are real highlights. No surprises here.
Firstly, the one we have known about for so long and have waited expectantly to see. Yep, Beauden Barrett at the Blues. He has a part in all of these but just his presence here in a Blues team that has shocked everyone this year is sure to bring them to a new level. All the talk about the Blues never having a fly half since Carlos Spencer maybe over? Or the ironic question, is this the best every setup for the Blues with the other new addition?
Oh yeah, we are going to talk about Dan Carter. The legend of New Zealand rugby is back. The question will be if he is still up to Super Rugby standard, but there is no doubt the modern days greatest ten will still step it up. His addition has somewhat taken the puff out of Barrett’s debut for the Blues but what will be most interesting is what his role will be in the squad. Expect an impact from Carter whether he starts or comes off the bench, but lets remember 2015 and the combination those two had in the black jersey. Barrett to fullback, Carter at fly half. How good does that sound Blues fans?
Lastly is the clash between Beauden Barrett and his former side the Hurricanes. There’s much more at stake here than just competition points. The Canes will not wont to let Beauden run the show against them and will be determined to upset his rhythm and use those years as a team mate against him however they can. The possibility of clashing against his brother seems unlikely to happen with an injury cloud over the utility back. On a side note, how clever does Korbus Van Wyk look now at the Hurricanes? He will actually get to play rugby, well played sir, well played.
All eyes on this game are focus firmly at the Blues with an expectant home crowd with the pressure to perform. The Hurricanes find themselves in a position they wont be used to. Blues to choke? Canes to manipulate? Only this for sure, is this promises to be a mouthwatering match up!
PREDICTION – Blues by 4
Previews and reviews right here Behind The Posts each and every round of Super Rugby Aotearoa! Rugby is back! Let me know your thoughts on the action this weekend in the comments. Thanks for stopping by Behind The Posts. If you would like to have your say here, get in touch on the contact page today!