Round 3 of Super Rugby Aotearoa kicks off on Saturday with the undefeated Blues hosting the Highlanders in Auckland. The second game of the Round features the Crusaders – a team who won their only game of the season so far last weekend – taking on the Chiefs in Christchurch. This leaves the Hurricanes as the team on their bye this round.
Here is a look at the two contests in Round 3 that each has a heavy favorite per the odds at BetXChange.
Blues vs. Highlanders
Saturday, June 27 – Eden Park, Auckland
The Blues have been the form team of Super Rugby Aotearoa so far as they have won each of their first two games – albeit without claiming a bonus point in either win. The Highlanders are also undefeated having won their first game by a single point over the Chiefs before taking their first bye of the competition last weekend. They sit third on the ladder with four points.
The Highlanders will be without a pair of All Blacks as neither Josh Ioane nor Nehe Milner-Skudder available due to injury. The pair will now be looking to make their Super Rugby Aotearoa debuts in the coming weeks after also missing the 23 for the Highlanders’ opening-round win. Head coach Aaron Mauger has kept faith in Mitch Hunt in the Np. 10 jersey while Northland star Scott Gregory will have a chance to shine as he starts the game at fullback.
The Blues have named an unchanged lineup which means that as of yet there is no room in the starting squad for the legendary Dan Carter. Blake Gibson and Tom Robinson remained sidelined in the loose forwards, with Akira Ioane and Dalton Papalii keeping their places in their stead. Otere Black will get another chance at pivot to continue his outstanding form, even with a pair of World Rugby Player of the Year winners at his position waiting in the wings.
There is no reason to pick against the bang in form Blues here against a highlanders team that doesn’t win too often away from home as of late. Look for the Blues to win by 6-10 (4.50) or 11-15 (4.50) with BetXChange.
Crusaders vs. Chiefs
Sunday, June 28 – Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch
The Crusaders picked up their win with a bonus point over a Hurricanes team that self-destructed at times last weekend to sit second in the competition with five points after just one game. The Chiefs are arguably the biggest disappointment in the competition so far after picking up just a single losing bonus point from their first two rounds of action to sit in fourth place in the table.
The Crusaders looked as efficient as ever first up against the Hurricanes but that win was tempered this week by the news that captain Scotty Barrett is out for the season with a foot injury. The team doesn’t lack for second row depth – Alex Ainsley has joined as cover but he is behind the likes of Same Whitelock, Mitch Dunshea, and Luke Romano in the pecking order – but losing a leader like Barrett is still disappointing for the home side here. The status of centre Brayson Ennor is more positive as what was thought to be a hamstring issue was only a bruise on the quad.
The Chiefs were kept without a try for the first time in 57 games of Super Rugby last weekend and at 0-2 they know they need to win here or their season may as well be over. They will need a better kicking performance in open play from Damian McKenzie than they got last week, but the return to the starting lineup of pivot Aaron Cruden and his combination with the always reliable Anton Lienert-Brown against the Blues will give their fans some hope.
The Crusaders have won 17 of 19 against New Zealand competition with their only two defeats in that stretch being against the Chiefs. It is the Crusaders’ defense that will be the difference here, with their discipline and line speed already looking outstanding and forcing the Hurricanes into bad mistakes seven days ago. Take the Crusaders to win by 6-10 (4.50) or 11-15 (4.00) with BetXChange.