Super Rugby Aotearoa Preview and Predictions

By Carl Lewis

09 June 2020, by: Carl Lewis

Super Rugby Aotearoa Preview and Predictions

It’s been three months since we had live rugby to watch and this weekend the wait will be over – thanks to New Zealand’s handling of the novel Coronavirus we will be watching Super Rugby Aotearoa.

At this stage of no rugby, it’s hard to think anything better than 10 weeks of New Zealand derbies. Below we the preview the five sides competing in Super Rugby Aotearoa and give our predictions.

Blues

The Blues will come into Super Rugby Aotearoa filled with confidence because of their early season form under coach Leon Macdonald. The big news has been the acquisitions of Beauden Barrett and the two-time Rugby World Cup winner Dan Carter. Who could have predicted that these two former World Rugby Player of the years would be playing for Blues… together? It is 2020 after all.

In Auckland, there is renewed optimism that they could become a force again. They demonstrated a great team spirit to win two games in South Africa and made their biggest statement with a dominant win over the Hurricanes in Wellington. However, the Blues struggles in recent years have been the inability to beat any other Kiwis sides on the road. When play was suspended after seven rounds, the Blues had picked five wins and stood in second place on the New Zealand conference.

News I should know?

Dan Carter is back in New Zealand playing rugby at 38. He won the World Rugby Player of Year three times (2005, 2012 and 2015)

Prediction?

Second

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 Chiefs

Warren Gatland confirmed his squad is fully fit for their round one clash against the Highlanders. His coaching staff said they were impressed with players conditioning since the return. The Chiefs got out of the blocks the fastest in Super Rugby 2020 as the pacesetters but they soon ran out of steam.

Besides the last-minute loss to the Hurricanes at home and loss to the Brumbies, the Chiefs were fairly solid with a=four wins and the two defeats. They registered superb wins over the Blues and Crusaders in their local derbies and were sitting in third place in the Kiwi conference. Other news to buoy the Chiefs was the announcement of Sam Cane as the new All Blacks captain. 

News I should know?

Besides the Same Cane news nothing really, they did bring in new players but they did extend Aaron Cruden’s contract.

Prediction?

Fourth

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Crusaders

Ten-time Super Rugby champions are understandably pre-tournament favourites and with a bye in Round One, the Crusaders can watch and learn on how the new rules will be policed, especially those at the breakdown. Despite the loss of several key men, the Crusaders unleashed exciting talent in Tom Christie and Cullen Grace.

Scott Robertson’s side were on top of the New Zealand conference before the break, having lost just one in six games. That one loss came at the hands of the Chiefs in Hamilton and the Reds should probably have beaten them in Christchurch but the Crusaders have once again indicated they are championship material.

 News I should know?

Sam Whitelock is back! The former captain was in Japan with the Panasonic Wild Knights but Covid-19 has allowed to him to go back home after the cancellation of the Japanese league.

Prediction?

First

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Hurricanes

The Hurricanes had a decent start to their season although they were fourth in the New Zealand Conference, before Covid-19, they won four and lost two. However, their 15-24 loss to the Blues will be at the back of their mind ahead of their opener on Sunday. They did pick up some huge wins though, including the Sharks and demolition job of the Stormers at Newlands. 

The potential Blues debut of former Hurricanes icon Beauden Barrett sets up a great side story to this clash. The return to action of star loose forward Ardie Savea for the first time in 2020 will provide a massive boost to the Hurricanes for their Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign.

News I should know?

The return to action of star loose forward Ardie Savea for the first time in 2020 is massive for the Hurricanes. Savea was in sensational form in 2019 before a knee injury in the All Blacks Rugby World Cup semifinal loss ruled out of action for 5-6 months.

Prediction?

Third

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Highlanders

The Highlanders will be grateful for the restart of Super Rugby Aotearoa as they were stone last in the New Zealand conference after registering one win from their opening six games. They really struggled to get any momentum with coach Aaron Mauger coming under real scrutiny for his sides fortunes and lack of impact this year. The Highlanders’ only joy a last-gasp victory over the Brumbies in Canberra in Round Three.

The recruitment of Nehe Milner-Skudder has definitely excited rugby fans and he becomes a much-needed attacking weapon in what can only be described as a lacklustre attack.

News I should know?

Nehe Milner-Skudder is genuinely great news, the winger is just a pleasure to watch with ball in hand. A boost for the Highlanders and a treat for the rest of us.

Mauger’s says Josh Ioane and Mitch Hunt will fight against each other for the number 10 jersey as Ioane won’t move to inside-centre to accommodate the Hunt, as the move did work pre-Covid-19.

Prediction?

Last

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