Just two rounds of Super Rugby Aotearoa remain and this weekend we could potentially see our seasons champion crowned if results go the way of the Crusaders. The Blues are Hurricanes will be hoping they can keep things alive for another week. Saturday night opens up with the high flying Hurricanes back at home taking on the poor winless Chiefs. On Sunday is the South Island Derby between the Crusaders and the Highlanders in the game that could decide if the final round is needed for a victor. The Blues have the weekend off and will hope they have something to fight the Crusaders for in the final round clash at Eden Park. Lets take a look at the weekends action…..
HURRICANES vs CHIEFS – Sky Stadium
The Hurricanes have taken Super Rugby Aotearoa by storm in the last few weeks and have become real contenders as we reach the final couple of weeks. They need a big win this weekend and a favour from the Highlanders in the south to keep their hopes and dreams alive and then rest fate with the Blues the week after, a tall ask.
The turnaround of the Hurricanes season has been brilliant since the return of Jordie Barrett and again his presence is going to be vital. They currently sit on sixteen points and third on the table, six behind the Blues and eight behind the Crusaders, if only they didn’t have such a poor start to their season.
One week at a time for the Hurricanes though, but to win at home against the Chiefs should be a very achievable task. Each week that goes by sinks the Chiefs deeper and deeper into their own misery. The woes or Warren Gatland just keep growing, it makes next season when hes away from the Chiefs an extremely interesting prospect if they can not pick up a win this season.
There is a lot to look forward to in this opener, the Chiefs as you expect will go in again with a nothing to lose attitude which is always a danger. The back row battle is one I will be keeping a keen eye on, Lachlan Boshier has been at a new level in recent weeks and his battle with Du’Plessis Kirifi and Ardie Savea will be determine how much possession the Chiefs can maintain.
With all the talk over the All Blacks midfield options, this could be a little taster of whats on offer towards the black jersey. Ngani Laumape has stood up again, particularly against the Blues, but now lining up against a player like Anton Lienert-Brown, this is a real test of the two players. Are they fighting over the same thirteen black jumper? This could go a long way to settle the debate, Laumape needs consistency which hes lacked and hes only got two more weeks to prove it, where as Anton Lienert-Brown has been a standout since moving back out to thirteen for the Chiefs.
RESULT – Hurricanes by 9
CRUSADERS vs HIGHLANDERS – Orangetheory Stadium
Well, this is it. We could crown the first, and possibly only, Super Rugby Aotearoa crown this weekend. A victory will give them a unobtainable six point lead over the second placed Blues, who only have one match remaining after the bye this weekend. That’s what this match is all about, the Highlanders season is cashed in but don’t for a second think they will lay down in this match.
We know all to well what to expect from this Crusaders outfit, we have seen it all season yet only the Hurricanes have shown with the smallest of margins, how to beat it. Committed, eighty minutes, let no chances pass you by, rugby. When it comes to that final fifteen to twenty minutes, that’s when the real step up comes for their opponents. Richie Mo’unga has shown week on week just how he lifts the side during that period.
I can sit here talking about how the Crusaders will play, but that’s not what will decide this game. How do the Highlanders beat it!?
I think they had the game plan working pretty well for the most part against the Blues last weekend. They accumulated points well when on offer from the tee, but struggled massively to defend those points often quickly conceding after scoring some. That must be cut out this weekend.
The second part its a little harsh but the Highlanders dominated the second half against the Blues and spent nearly half an hour inside their twenty two to only score right at the bitter end of the half. Much like the Blues, the Crusaders will be happy to defend on a lead and give the “bring it” to the Highlanders attack to try get through.
The Crusaders are always happy to take a penalty on the chin as opposed to conceding the try, decision making has to be on to make the right call on when to take points and when to plug the corners and use that dangerous maul to good effect.
The maul is a tasty option, but the scrum is something they may want to stay well away from once again.
In a nutshell for the Highlanders, play the game of your life, never let your standard slip and hope the Crusaders have an off day… Is that too much to ask?!
RESULT – Crusaders by 6
Previews and reviews are right here Behind The Posts for each and every round of Super Rugby Aotearoa! Rugby is back! Let me know your thoughts on the action this weekend in the comments and thanks for stopping by Behind The Posts. If you would like to have your say here, get in touch on the contact page today!