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 Round 1.
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 opening two matches in Round 1 that will kick off the tournament.
The Highlanders meet the Chiefs in the inaugural Super Rugby Aotearoa match at the Forsyth Barr Stadium. It’s been just about three months since their last competitive match so an attritional affair.
The Highlanders were not enjoying Super Rugby in 2020 with coach Aaron mauger under pressure for his underwhelming side’s displays. Injuries and poor form had cost them with only one victory and a draw from their opening six Super Rugby fixtures. Their last match ended in a 38-13 defeat to the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld but much has changed since then.
The COVID-19 enforced break could be a blessing for the struggling Highlanders as it has given them time to recharge. They also brought the dynamic Nehe Milner-Skudder much to the excitement of rugby fans around the world.
The Chiefs began Super Rugby season like a runaway train but they were slowly been halted in their tracks as the competition progressed. Their last match saw them lose 27-24 to the Hurricanes.
Two weeks before the ‘Canes loss, the Chiefs were surprised by the plucky and youthful Brumbies 27-14 in Canberra. A big 51-14 win over an average Waratahs side in Sydney was in between those two losses.
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 have won three and the Highlanders one of their last five matches. Their last meeting ended 31-31 at the Forsyth Barr Stadium in 2019. History suggests this will be a close match with less than 10 points in it.
Highlanders drew with the Chiefs 31-31 the last time they met at the Forsyth Barr Stadium (2019)
Highlanders have covered the +10 handicap in 11 of their last 12 matches against the Chiefs
Chiefs have lost 2 of their last 3 Super Rugby matches
Prediction: The Chiefs by 8.
Best Bet: Chiefs (-7.5)
Value Bet: Damian McKenzie to score anytime at 2.20
The Blues and Hurricanes face off in Super Rugby Aotearoa at Eden Park in Auckland on Sunday, 14 June. The Blues made a decent start to Super Rugby before it was cancelled due to COVID-19 while the Hurricanes blew hot and cold.
The Blues have reinvigorated Auckland fans with optimism this season after some eye-catching displays under coach Leon MacDonald. They smashed the Lions 43-10 in their last match at Eden Park in Auckland in March. Before the Super Rugby season was cancelled, the Blues looked like genuine play-off contenders, winning five of their seven matches – including a win over the Hurricanes in Wellington. The Blues will walk be a confident heading into the clash considering their form this year, as well as they, are expected to playing front of a 35 000 strong crowd.
The Hurricanes last played on 13 March 2020 when they beat the Chiefs 27-24 in Hamilton. While the Hurricanes have won four of their six Super Rugby matches in 2020 they certainly haven’t been anywhere close to their commanding and assured selves. In years gone by, the ‘Canes could rely on their pack to build a foundation for their dynamic backs to wreak havoc, but that has not been the case this year.
Beauden Barrett is expected to make his Blues debut against his former side, while Rieko Ioane scored a brace in his last run-out. Dan Carter has become a shock signing for the Blues during the COVID-19 break but is likely to sit on the bench as rugby gets back underway.
Ardie Savea is back for the Hurricanes in what is a massive boost for the Wellington-based outfit. He will provide plenty of danger to the Blues in the wide channels.
The Blues beat the Hurricanes 24-15 at the Sky Stadium in Wellington in their last encounter on 7 March 2020. The Hurricanes have had the better of these meetings in the last 10, winning eight, but the last clash between the sides could indicate a turning of tides with a resurgent Blues.
Blues beat Hurricanes 24-15 in their last encounter (March 2020).
Blues have covered the -2 handicap in 4 of their 5 victories in 2020.
Blues have won their last three matches by 8, 33 and 21 points respectively.
Blues’ Rieko Ioane scored two tries in his last match against the Lions.
Prediction: The Blues to win five.
Best Bet: TBC
Value Bet: TBC