Super Rugby Aotearoa throws up two mouth-watering fixtures this weekend as the Highlanders host the Blues and the Crusaders travel to the resurgent Chiefs.
Last weekend’s games both required extra time to settle things. Will we again be in for a couple of nail-biters this weekend?
Highlanders vs Blues
Friday 16 April
To Win (80 Mins)
Highlanders (+5.5) 9/10
Blues (-5.5) 9/10
The Highlanders and Blues will get things underway in what is shaping up to be a very interesting game.
The visitors have lost a bit of momentum over the past month or so losing to the Crusaders and Chiefs before bouncing back with a win over the Hurricanes.
This weekend’s hosts, on the other hand, have upped their game somewhat, beating the Crusaders and then taking the Chiefs to extra time this past weekend, where they went down 23-26 through a Damien McKenzie penalty as the Waikato outfit won a golden point thriller.
When the two sides met earlier this year, the Blues had a great time of it with the men from Auckland running out 39-17 victors at Eden Park. They are likely to endure a much tougher time of it this weekend, however, as the Highlanders have improved greatly since that defeat.
Verdict: Highlanders (+5.5) 9/10
I’m expecting this one to be extremely tight. The Blues have gone off the boil a bit and I reckon this Highlanders team is definitely on the up. With that in mind, I’ll be backing the hosts on the plus.
Chiefs vs Crusaders
Saturday 17 April
To Win (80 Mins)
Chiefs (+6.5) 9/10
Crusaders (-6.5) 9/10
We head down to Waikato for our next and instalment of the round which will see the Chiefs do battle with the Crusaders.
The hosts managed were pushed to the wire by the ‘Landers, who managed to claw back the Chiefs ten-point late lead through Josh Ioane’s converted try and penalty. The men from Waikato would hold their nerve, however, and a long-range penalty would secure them their third win of the season and move them within two points of the second-placed Auckland Blues.
Lightning would strike again in Wellington this past weekend as the Crusaders were held to a 27-27 regular time draw but ultimately took the spoils as David Havilli banged over a drop goal from right in front of the posts and only 22 metres out. The extra time win has seen the reigning champions move eight points clear of the Blues, and a win here would guarantee them a spot in the Grand Final.
Verdict: Chiefs (+6.5) 9/10
I reckon this is going to be a very close run thing. The Crusaders have not been at their best over the past few weeks while the Chiefs, like the Highlanders, have started to find a bit of form. I fully expect the hosts to run the men from Canterbury close this Saturday.