Super Rugby Aotearoa is racing towards its conclusion as the Crusaders host the Hurricanes and the Chiefs travel to Auckland to face the Blues. There are just four weeks of the season remaining and it is going to take a big effort from any one of the Blues, ‘Canes, or the idle Highlanders to run down the Crusaders at the top of the table.
Here is a look ahead to Week 7 of Super Rugby Aotearoa.
Crusaders vs. Hurricanes
Saturday, July 25 – Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch
The Crusaders remained undefeated after they won their clash of the teams with 100% records against the Blues two weeks ago. They then got to sit at home during their bye week and watch the Hurricanes knock off the Blues to give the Christchurch based team some breathing room at the top of the table.
The Crusaders sit on 18 points after four games, with the Blues on 13 points and the ‘Cans on 12. This feels like a game that the Hurricanes must win if any team other than the Crusaders is going to win the Aotearoa competition this year.
The Crusaders have lost two from the game against the Blues and both are All Blacks. Fullback David Havili is out for the season after fracturing his right thumb, but the depth of the Crusaders means that he is replaced by the form player of the competition in Will Jordan. The other change sees Braydon Ennor ruled out with Fetuli Paea coming into the side.
The Hurricanes will also be down an All Black with hooker Dan Coles struggling with a back problem. The other change to their starting XV sees South African wing Kobus van Wyk out of the side and Wes Goosen coming in out wide.
Blues vs. Chiefs
Sunday, July 26 – Eden Park, Auckland
Two teams that need wins for different reasons face off on Sunday as the Blues host the Chiefs. The Blues had been riding high until back to back losses have put them in reach of the Hurricanes in second place in the table and looks like old doubts and issues with confidence have crept into their play. The Chiefs have a point differential of -27 and just four points with 0 wins and five losses, including a pair of heartbreakers against the Highlanders. They simply aren’t as bad as their record shows but they can have zero confidence themselves at this point in the season.
It seems like this clash with the Chiefs may still be a week early for All Black legend Dan Carter to step onto the pitch for the Blues. His calf issue is still causing problems and he is unlikely to be risked in the lineup just yet. One thing to note is that while starting five-eighth Otere Black seems to have recovered from his issue that knocked him out of the Hurricanes game, it was Beauden Barrett – the best fly-half in the world by many metrics – who has spent the most time practicing in the role of the No. 10 this week.
Chiefs Head coach Warren Gatland will be looking to his veterans and All Blacks – players like Brad Weber and Damian McKenzie – to provide enough spark to give the Chiefs a chance at a win here. This isn’t a team that will panic – they have lost four games by less than a score – and they will be looking to turn things around and upset the Blues on their own turf in this derby match.
The Chiefs just haven’t shown enough to make them a worthy play even with odds of 2.30 with BetXChange. We like the Blues to win in a close one, perhaps by 1-5 points (4.75) or 5-10 points (4.25).