Round 7 of Super Rugby Aotearoa is upon us and the matches this week see the CHighlanders hosting the Chiefs in Dunedin and the Hurricanes taking on the Crusaders in Wellington. This means the Blues have the week off.
Here is a look at the two games in Round 7:
Highlanders vs. Chiefs
Saturday, April 10 – Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
A pair of winners last time out face in Dunedin on Saturday as the Chiefs – who beat the Blues 15-12 prior to their bye week – face the Highlanders – who produced one of the biggest shocks in Super Rugby in years as they upended the Crusaders on their own park 33-12 last weekend.
The Highlanders could have been expected to name the same side as they did in Christchurch, but Tony Brown has averaged seven swaps this week per season and he is at it again with six changed to the team to take on the Chiefs. One player to retain his spot is Janese international No. 8 Kazuki Himeno after his energetic and industrious work against the Crusaders. Aaron Smith is back at No. 9 and he will be backed up by Kayne Hammington after Folau Fakatava was ruled out for months with an ACL tear. Sio Tomkinson is the only one of the six players that were unavailable for selection last weekend to be back in the starting side.
The Chiefs will be without injured co-captain Sam Cane for the rest of the season and his place in the side will be taken by Kaylum Boshier. Older brother Lachlan – who is fit again after a foot problem – will sit this one out and make his comeback in the Taranaki club comp instead. Tupou Vaa’i, Etene Nani-Seturo, and Jonah Lowe are all back in the fold, though backs Sean Wainui and Chase Tiatia are sidelined.
Hurricanes vs. Crusaders
Sunday, April 11 – Sky Stadium, Wellington
The Hurricanes and the Crusaders face-off here in a match where both are coming off of defeats last weekend. The Highlanders topped the Crusaders, while the Hurricanes hopes of making the Super Rugby Aotearoa Final was dealt a big blow in a 27-17 loss against the Blues.
The ‘Canes will have to show more discipline than they did against the Blues when a penalty try and a pair of yellow cards really cost them the game. The mental toughness they showed when playing with 14 men for 20 minutes was impressive, but the likes of Du’Plessis Kirifi and Ardie Savea will have to stay on the pitch if the Hurricanes are going to compete with a Crusaders team that will look to put on a big performance here.
It will be interesting to see what changes the Crusaders make after their defeat last time out. Their back row of Ethan Blackadder, Sione Havili Talitui, and Cullen Grace worked hard but were outplayed for large stretches of the contest. The halves pairing of Mitchell Drummond and Richie Mo’unga was also below par. Don’t be shocked to see Bryn Hall start at No. 9 here.