Super Rugby Aotearoa - predictions and teams: Round Four
BACK TO THE FUTURE: New Zealand was the envy of the world for three weeks, as they became the first professional competition to restart with spectators.
Fans from all over the globe were glued to their television screens and the fans flocked to the stadium in numbers not seen for almost a decade.
Now that Super Rugby AU is kicking off across the ditch, the comparisons will begin.
Also, given the ongoing uncertainty over global travel, there are discussions about the future of Super Rugby.
Despite the initial success, even in New Zealand, there is uncertainty over the sustainability of Super Rugby Aotearoa.
The hot-button Trans-Tasman option raised its head again in conversations this past week.
“We’ve got to be open to all sorts of options,” New Zealand Rugby Chairman Brent Impey said in an interview with Stuff.
“One of the issues you get into if you just extend out New Zealand teams is the question of high performance.
“Even though Super Rugby has been criticised there have been 24 Super Rugby titles, and we’ve won 17 of them.
“The risk you are running if you go down that line is that a watering down of high performance.
“It’s a balancing act, but what you are questioning is exactly the work we are doing right now for 2021 and beyond.”
According to the report on stuff.co.nz NZ Rugby’s decision on the future of Super Rugby will be one of its most significant in its recent history.
(Continue reading below … )
This week’s predictions
Saturday, July 4
Highlanders v Crusaders
(Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin – Kick-off: 19.05; 07.05 GMT)
The Crusaders have won seven of their last eight completed Super Rugby matches against the Highlanders, including their last four on the bounce – across which they have scored 40 points per game.
The Highlanders have won two of their last three completed Super Rugby matches against the Crusaders as hosts on the day, including their most recent meeting in Round Five, 2018.
They haven’t enjoyed back-to-back wins in such fixtures since 1997-1999.
The Crusaders have won 11 of their last 12 Super Rugby matches, conceding just 7.2 first-half points per game in that stretch.
The Highlanders (27/28 – 96.4 percent) are the only team in Super Rugby Aotearoa with a line-out success rate above 90 percent.
No team has won fewer on their own throw than the Crusaders (23).
Crusaders’ pair Jack Goodhue (22/22) and Whetu Douglas (19/19) have made the most and second most tackles respectively of all players yet to miss a single attempt in Super Rugby Aotearoa.
@rugby365com: Crusaders by 15 points
Highlanders: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Ngane Punivai, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Sio Tomkinson, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Marino Mikaele Tu’u, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 3 Jeff Thwaites, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Ayden Johnstone, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Jack Whetton, 20 Teariki Ben-Nicholas, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Vilimoni Koroi.
Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 Leicester Faingaanuku, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Ethan Blackadder, 5 Mitchell Dunshea, 4 Samuel Whitelock, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor (captain), 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 George Bower, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Quinten Strange, 20 Sione Havili, 21 Ere Enari, 22 Fetuli Paea, 23 Sevu Reece.
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant referees: Brendon Pickerill, Paul Williams
TMO: Chris Hart
Sunday, July 5
Chiefs v Hurricanes
(Waikato Stadium, Hamilton – Kick-off: 15.35; 03.35 GMT)
The Hurricanes are undefeated in their last four Super Rugby matches against the Chiefs.
However, neither side has been on a longer unbeaten run in the history of this fixture.
In the last five Super Rugby matches where the Chiefs have hosted the Hurricanes, each side has picked up two wins apiece (one draw), with each of those results decided by a single-figure margin.
The Hurricanes have lost their opening two games of Super Rugby Aotearoa, the last time the Wellington-based side endured a longer losing run was a three-match span from May to June in 2018.
The Chiefs have averaged the most time in possession per game (17 minutes and 52 seconds) of any team in Super Rugby Aotearoa so far.
Indeed, they have also averaged the fewest missed tackles per game (15.7) of any side in the campaign.
Ben Lam (Hurricanes) has had a try involvement in each of his previous four Super Rugby matches against the Chiefs (three tries, one try assist).
@rugby365com: Chiefs by 10 points
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Tumua Manu , 12 Quinn Tupaea, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Pita Gus Sowakula, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Lachlan Boshier, 5 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 4 Mitchell Brown, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Bradley Slater, 1 Aidan Ross.
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Reuben O’Neill, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Tupou Vaa’i, 20 Dylan Nel, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi , 22 Kaleb Trask, 23 Solomon Alaimalo.
Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Kobus Van Wyk, 13 Peter Umaga-Jensen, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 Thomas Perenara (co-captain), 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Dane Coles (co-captain), 1 Fraser Armstrong.
Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Ben May, 18 Alex Fidow, 19 Vaea Fifita, 20 Devan Flanders/Liam Mitchell, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Billy Proctor, 23 Wes Goosen.
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant referees: James Doleman, Angus Mabey
TMO: Glenn Newman
* Stats provided by Opta Sports