Round 6 of Super Rugby Aotearoa is upon us and the matches this week see the Crusaders hosting the Highlanders in Christchurch and the Blues taking on the Hurricanes in Auckland. This means the Chiefs have the week off.
Here is a look at the two games in Round 6:
Crusaders vs. Highlanders
Friday, April 2 – Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch
Japanese back row Kazuki Himeno starred off of the bench last week as the Highlanders lost to the Hurricanes and his impressive performance has seen him promoted to the starting side for this one. He will start for the Highlanders at No. 8 in this South Island derby and will look to have the same level of impact against a starting pack as he did against the tiring ‘Canes a week ago. He replaces Marino Mikalele-Tu’u.
Mikaele-Tu’u is one of six players to have been dropped from the squad entirely this week due to breaching the team’s code. Also on that list is fly-half Josh Ioane and Sio Tomkinson, a pair of players that have been important to the Highlanders this season. The likes of Scott Gregory and Thomas Umaga-Jensen are pulled in as cover.
The Crusaders welcome back George Bridge on the right wing with Sevu Reece being named on the bench. Leicester Fainga’anuku is on the left-wing and Will Jordan remains at fullback. The Crusaders are four from four and that won’t change against an understrength ‘Landers outfit. The bigger question is can they cover the massive 21.5 point spread, and I don’t quite see that happening to play the visitors +21.5 at 0.90 with BetXChange in this market.
Blues vs. Hurricanes
Saturday, April 3 – Eden Park, Auckland
The Blues look like the second-best team in the comp and they won the reverse of this fixture in the First Round 31-16. They will need to rebound after a sloppy loss against the Chiefs, while the ‘Canes picked up their first win of the season last time out against the Highlanders.
Veteran TJ Faiane gets his first start of an injury delayed season, while young lock Sam Darry is also back in the starting side. Darry is in for club captain Patrick Tuipulotu who is out with a shoulder injury picked up against the Chiefs. The abrasive Tom Robinson – who was a threat every time he touched the ball against the Chiefs last weekend off of the bench – will start and has been named as captain for the day.
The Hurricanes have made three changes to a winning team with the most newsworthy being former All Black Julian Savea entering the team ahead of Wes Goosen on the right win. Fraser Armstrong is the starter at loosehead prop, while James Blackwell makes his return to the second row. Rotating players is a big part of Super Rugby Aotearoa and the ‘Canes will be hoping their squad depth is good enough here.
I like the Blues to win this one as they can’t let their outstanding start to the season slip with a third defeat on the bounce. It will, however, be close and I like the Hurricanes to cover the 7.5 point spread at 0.90 with BetXChange.