Round 3 of Super Rugby Aotearoa is upon us and the matches this week see the Crusaders hosting the Chiefs in Christchurch and the Blues taking on the Highlanders in Auckland. This means the Highlanders have the week off.
Here is a look at the two games in Round 2:
Crusaders vs. Chiefs
Saturday, March 13 – Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch
This is a tough draw for a Chiefs side that have lost nine in a row in Super Rugby Aotearoa after going winless last season and dropping their first of the 2021 comp against the Highlanders last time out. They get to face a Crusaders’ side that is once again playing at a championship level and who are the only side to win their first two games of the season.
The Chiefs will be giving a pair of players their Super Rugby debuts, with lock Josh Lord in the starting XV and loose forward Kaylum Boshier set to come off of the bench. There are plenty of changes in their pack, with Angus Ta’avao starting in the front row and Mitchell Brown claiming the No. 6 jumper. Quinn Tupaea will start at second five, with All Black Anton Lienert-Brown coming off of the bench.
The Crusaders look as awesome as always and they have eight All Blacks in their lineup. George Bower replaces Joe Moody in the front row, while Sione Havili Talitui is also in the run-on side. An interesting change in the backline sees Will Jordan shifted to fullback – somewhere he looked outstanding last season – with David Havili moving to the No. 12 spot.
The Crusaders will blast the Chiefs out of the water here. Take the home side and their -15.5 point spread at 0.90 with BetXChange
Blues vs. Highlanders
Sunday, March 14 – Eden Park, Auckland
The Blues got welcome news on Friday when it became clear their game against the ‘Landers at Eden Park could go ahead with fans. The Auckland side looked outstanding in their opening-round win over the Hurricanes and they will want to show their championship pedigree with back-to-back wins to open the season. The Highlanders roared back in the second half last week to beat the Cheifs, setting this one up nicely.
The big change in the Highlanders starting XV is the promotion of Aaron Smith back into the half-back role. Folau Fakatava was excellent in his 50-minute stint last weekend, but Smith is still the best in the world at the position. Other changes see Michael Collins back in the No. 13 jersey and Connot Garden-Bachop playing at fullback.
The Blues will once again look to their huge pack to be the difference here. Their front-row depth is absolutely outstanding – they have no less than four All Blacks props in their squad – and in winger Caleb Clarke they have a lethal finisher who is dangerous from just about anywhere on the pitch. The Blues are the heavy favorites here and their pack alone should be enough to see them home if they can play the game at their own tempo. This isn’t a Highlanders team, however, that feels like it is going to be blown out, so take the visitors +8.5 at 0.80 with BetXChange if you are playing the spread.