Thu 29 Apr 2021 | 10:03

Super Rugby Aotearoa, Round 10 - Teams and Predictions

Super Rugby Aotearoa, Round 10 - Teams and Predictions
Thu 29 Apr 2021 | 10:03
Super Rugby Aotearoa, Round 10 - Teams and Predictions
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PENULTIMATE SHOWDOWN: Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan is taking this weekend’s clash with the Blues as an opportunity to freshen up his squad ahead of next weekend’s grand final in Christchurch.

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The Chiefs are five points clear of the Blues on the Super Rugby Aotearoa table and are guaranteed a spot in the final due to the competition’s tie-break rules. As such, McMillan has made 21 changes to his matchday squad – which must come close to a Super Rugby record.

Just two players remain from last weekend’s win over the Hurricanes, No.8 Pita Gus Sowakula and first five-eighth Bryn Gatland.

Altogether, the squad features 12 players who have made or will make their first appearances for the Chiefs this year.

The 21 changes somewhat contrast to the message delivered by assistant coach David Hill earlier this week.

“I don’t think we’re willing to rest anyone,” he said.

“We had a pile of players come in Monday morning ready to play again. So they’re obviously enjoying their rugby, they’re always keen to play and pull on the Chiefs jersey. And, I think playing the Blues, that rivalry has got a few of them pretty excited.

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“Our best preparation for a final is actually having a good week this week and putting in a performance we are proud of on the weekend.

“So it’s just a matter of finding the mix for this game. They’re on a four or five-day turnaround having played Sunday afternoon, they’ll be banged up, so we’re looking at putting out a team that can beat them.”

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With many of the Chiefs players carrying a heavy load this year after the side suffered two defeats in their opening two matches, Saturday’s clash looms as the first real chance that McMillan has to rest his charges.

Naturally, the top side will be fielded next weekend in the final and the bulk of that team will likely be retained for when the Chiefs take on the three best sides in Australia – the Western Force, Brumbies and Reds – in the three weeks following.

In terms of the Blues, coach Leon MacDonald is already refocussing on the Super Trans-Tasman competition which begins in two weeks, with each Super side taking on their five rivals from across the Tasman.

“The last two weeks have been tough for sure. We’ve worked so hard and to a high level in training but not been able to replicate in recent games,” said MacDonald.

“Our focus remains on doing the simple things well and being more accurate so we can take advantage of the chances we continue to create.

“We are definitely focussing on the basics but we also want the players to express themselves and take chances”

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On Friday, the Hurricanes host the Highlanders in Wellington.

For the Highlanders, they have the joy of welcoming back former All Black Milner-Skudder in his Super Rugby first match since 2018.

The former All Black made his Super Rugby debut in 2015. On the back of one outstanding campaign with the Hurricanes, it was elevated into the national side for their successful World Cup defence, starting on the right wing in the grand final.

Shoulder injuries have plagued the fleet-footed outside back’s career since 2017 when he first dislocated his right shoulder against the Springboks in Cape Town. Re-injuries effectively prevented Milner-Skudder from being able to mount a challenge for a spot at the 2019 World Cup after announcing himself to the world at the 2015 tournament.

Milner-Skudder had originally signed for French powerhouse Toulon in 2019 but was never able to make the trip to Europe, instead of rehabilitating his shoulder in New Zealand after undergoing surgery in the middle of that same season.

He signed for the Highlanders for last year’s Aotearoa competition but never took the field for his new side and has instead had to wait until this weekend for his first real taste of action after chalking up some minutes in the pre-season.

Milner-Skudder will this weekend combine with Jona Nareki and Sam Gilbert to form a potent back three for the Highlanders. Gilbert has also spent considerable time on the sideline, with his last professional match coming in the 2020 Super Rugby Aotearoa competition be suffering an ACL injury.

Both he and Milner-Skudder will have plenty of opportunities to test their bodies on Friday night with clear skies forecast for the game in Wellington.

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We take a closer look at Round Ten’s matches!

Friday, April 30:

Hurricanes v Highlanders
(Sky Stadium, Wellington – Kick-off: 19.05; 07.05 GMT)

The Hurricanes have won seven of their last nine Super Rugby games against the Highlanders including a 30-19 win when they met last in Round 5 of the 2021 Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign.

The Hurricanes have lost seven of their last eight Super Rugby games; a win in this match would make it their second victory in the 2021 Super Rugby Aotearoa season – still their fewest ever in a single Super Rugby campaign.

The Highlanders have won three of their last five away games in Super Rugby, more than they had won in their 13 away games prior. The Highlanders have had an average of 15 minutes and 52 seconds of time in
possession this Super Rugby Aotearoa season, the most of any team and more than a minute and a half more than the last-ranked Hurricanes.

Josh Ioane (Highlanders) has scored a try in each of his last two Super Rugby games after having scored just one try across his 16 previous games.

Super Rugby Aotearoa, Round 10 - Teams and Predictions

Super Rugby Aotearoa, Round 10 - Teams and Predictions

 

Prediction

@rugby365com:  Hurricanes by seven points

Teams: 

Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Julian Savea, 13 Billy Proctor, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Salesi Rayasi, 10 Ruben Love, 9 Luke Campbell, 8 Devan Flanders, 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Dane Coles (captain), 1 Xavier Numia.
Replacements: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Fraser Armstrong, 18 Alex Fidow, 19 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 20 Braydon Iose, 21 Cam Roigard, 22 Peter Umaga-Jensen, 23 Pepesano Patafilo.

Highlanders: 15 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 14 Sam Gilbert, 13 Patelesio Tomkinson, 12 Scott Gregory, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith (co-captain), 8 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Billy Harmon, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Ash Dixon (co-captain), 1 Ayden Johnstone.
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Ethan De Groot, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 20 Hugh Renton, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Michael Collins, 23 James Lentjes.

Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant referees: James Doleman, Paul Williams
TMO: Brendon Pickerill

Saturday, May 1

Blues v Chiefs
(Eden Park, Auckland – Kick-off: 19.05; 07.05 GMT)

The Blues have won three of their last five Super Rugby games against the Chiefs after having been winless in their 15 meetings prior.

The Chiefs have won their last five Super Rugby games on the bounce, each by a margin of fewer than seven points on the day; the last time they won more in succession was a seven-game streak from March to April in 2016.

The Blues have scored six tries this Super Rugby Aotearoa season after having won a turnover, twice as many as any other team in the competition and three times as many as the Chiefs

Dalton Papali’i (Blues) has hit 65 defensive rucks in the 2021 Super Rugby Aotearoa season, 20 more than any other player in the competition.

Damian McKenzie (Chiefs) has made 12 break passes so far this Super Rugby Aotearoa season, three more than any other player in the competition.

Super Rugby Aotearoa, Round 10 - Teams and Predictions

Super Rugby Aotearoa, Round 10 - Teams and Predictions

Prediction

@rugby365com:  Blues by ten points

Blues: 15 Zarn Sullivan, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Rieko Ioane (co-captain), 12 Tanielu Tele’a, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Otere Black, 9 Finlay Christie; 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Adrian Choat, 6 Tom Robinson (co-captain), 5 Sam Darry, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Replacements: 16 Soane Vikena, 17 Ofa Tuungafasi, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Josh Goodhue/Taine Plumtree, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 AJ Lam.

Chiefs: 15 Kaleb Trask, 14 Bailyn Sullivan, 13 Sean Wainui (captain), 12 Rameka Poihipi, 11 Shaun Stevenson, 10 Bryn Gatland, 9 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 8 Pita Gus Sowakula, 7 Zane Kapeli, 6 Viliami Taulani, 5 Josh Lord, 4 Samipeni Finau, 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 Bradley Slater, 1 Ollie Norris.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Ezekiel Lindenmuth, 18 Joe Apikotoa, 19 Liam Messam, 20 Tom Florence, 21 Xavier Roe, 22 Rivez Reihana, 23 Gideon Wrampling.

Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant referees: James Doleman, Paul Williams
TMO: Brendon Pickerill

Source: Tom Vinicombe (@RugbyPass) & SANZAAR

*Statistical information provided by Stats Perform

 

 

 

PV: 6
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Super Rugby Aotearoa, Round 10 - Teams and Predictions | Rugby365