Hollywoodbets Sports Blog: Super Rugby Aotearoa Five Players to Watch

Super Rugby Aotearoa Five Players to Watch

New Zealand’s Super Rugby franchises get back into the swing of things this weekend through Super Rugby Aotearoa, a revamped version of the competition solely featuring the five Kiwi sides.

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After what has genuinely felt like an age, live rugby finally returns to our screens – though residents of the Republic should be warned that some games kick-off as early as 5am! Best to stock up on some Jacob’s, folks.

Here are five players to keep an eye on.

Blues: Beauden Barrett

With some bloke called Dan Carter only set to debut in blue several rounds into the tournament after linking up with Leon MacDonald’s squad just last week, Beaudy is unquestionably the man to watch over the coming few months. The 29-year-old was expected to turn out for his new side in April following an extended post-World Cup break, but the coronavirus put paid to those plans.

After (unsurprisingly?) breaking the Blues’ fitness record during the lockdown period, the 83-capped All Black is the man Aucklanders will be hoping can restore some pride to the once-mighty franchise. With flyhalves Carter, Otere Black and the injured Stephen Perofeta still on the books, we may see Barrett get a run at No 15 on more than one occasion as the competition progresses.

Considering the Blues have won just three NZ derbies over the past three years, the freakish Barrett will be looking to turn it around and create a new legacy in a different part of the North Island.
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Chiefs: Aaron Cruden

The Chiefs were enjoying a pretty handy run in Super Rugby before its grinding halt, picking up four wins from six and looking likely to challenge for a home playoff berth. General Cruden was linking up well with his backs earlier in the year and there’s no reason he shouldn’t be at the forefront of their quest for glory here.

While the 2011 World Cup winner initially only signed on until June, he has now extended his deal and is expected to see out the entirety of Super Rugby Aotearoa. With the Chiefs unable to lock down Brodie Retallick’s signature ahead of the local tournament, Cruden will again be a key senior figure in the squad.

Crusaders: Sevu Reece

The Fijian-born flyer enjoyed an exhilarating start to his Super Rugby career last season as his competition-high 15 tries helped guide the Crusaders to a third successive title. He also went on to claim a starting position at the All Blacks and, considering his early-season form, doesn’t look set to relinquish the national No 14 jersey anytime soon.

Alongside fellow winger George Bridge (three tries), Reece’s scoring stats have continued to impress in 2020, bagging four meat pies in six outings. Considering the Saders’ record against opposing Kiwi teams over the past three seasons includes 17 victories (the next most is the Hurricanes’ 12), Reece will expect to add to his tally.

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Highlanders: Nehe Milner-Skudder

Arguably one of the most talented players of his generation, Milner-Skudder’s injury troubles over the past five years have robbed him of more appearances in all black - the 29-year-old has been capped just 13 times despite debuting as far back as 2015.

After plans to play for Toulon in the south of France fell through following a knock to the shoulder, the former Hurricane signed for the Highlanders ahead of SR Aotearoa and will be looking to complete a return to form.

His presence is a massive coup for Aaron Mauger’s side, with his experience sure to be invaluable for the men from Dunedin. A fully fit Milner-Skudder will cause any team trouble.

Hurricanes: Ardie Savea

The 2019 New Zealand Player of the Year looks set to make a return to the pitch in the weeks ahead after recovering from knee surgery following the All Black’s World Cup campaign. The dynamic loose forward is one of the most destructive players in world rugby and will be a welcome boost for the Wellington-based side.

While coach Jason Holland hasn’t specified just when Savea will be back, all indications are that his return is imminent; a scary prospect indeed for the rest of the Kiwi sides. 

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