Round 2 of the 2021 Super Rugby Aotearoa season throws up two fascinating fixtures this weekend with the action getting underway on Friday, 05 March.
Image Copyright – Steve Haag Sports
This week sees a change in the fixtures list with the Hurricanes game being pushed back to Sunday due to COVID concerns in New Zealand. Despite the change in date, this game should be an absolute cracker.
While Sunday’s fixture is the headline game of the weekend, the opening fixture should be a fare spectacle as well with the Chiefs getting their campaign underway against what will be a determined Highlanders outfit.
Chiefs v Highlanders
Friday 5 March
FMG Stadium Waikato
To Win (80 Mins)
Chiefs 9/10 (-2.5)
Highlanders 9/10 (+2.5)
Waikato get its first taste of Super Rugby for the year with hometown heroes, the Chiefs, taking on Tony Brown’s Highlanders.
The visitors got their campaign off to a rather disappointing start as they were beaten 13-26 by the Crusaders. The scoreline was a rather flattering one for the ‘Saders as the Highlanders let themselves down with some poor execution in the second-stanza which would have made the scoreline a lot tighter.
As noted earlier, this will be the Chiefs’ first taste of Super Rugby action this year as they had a bye in Round 1. They will be eager to hit the ground running, however, as they struggled last term finishing the inaugural Super Rugby season in at the foot of the log with no wins two their names, with two of their eight defeats coming at the hands of the Highlanders who beat them 28-27 in Dunedin and 31-33 in Waikato.
Verdict: Highlanders 9/10 (+2.5)
Last year’s two matches were extremely tight affairs and I reckon we’re in for more of the same this coming weekend. As such, I’m all over the visitors on the plus handicap.
Crusaders v Hurricanes
Sunday 7 March
To Win (80 Mins)
Crusaders 9/10 (-11.5)
Hurricanes 9/10 (+11.5)
We’re off to Canterbury next with the Crusaders and Hurricanes going head to head at the Orangetheory Stadium.
The hosts got their Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign off to a positive start as they beat the Highlanders by 13-26 last Friday. As noted earlier, the scoreline rather flattered the Crusaders here were surprisingly ill-disciplined and far less clinical on attack than they usually are.
While the Crusaders managed to bag a win last weekend, the Hurricanes were unable to as they went down 16-31 to the Blues. Again, the scoreline rather flattered the victors as the ‘Canes were in with a shout of winning the game right up until the final 10 minutes. While they will be bitterly disappointed with the defeat, they will take some solace from the performance of Jordie Barrett, who was absolutely immense with ball in hand and with the boot.
In terms of last year’s meetings between the sides, the ‘Canes were one of the only two teams to get one over the ‘Saders atoning for a 25-39 loss to this weekend’s opponents by beating them 32-34 in Round 7.
Verdict: Crusaders (+11.5)
The ‘Canes really struggled at set-piece last weekend and I expect they’ll have further woes here against a dominant Crusaders pack. My money is on the hosts’ heavies laying the platform for a big win this Sunday.