Round 9 of Super Rugby Aotearoa sees the Hurricanes host the Chiefs and the Crusaders welcome the Highlanders to Christchurch. The Crusaders will win the inaugural Super Rugby Aotearoa title with a win of any kind here, while both the Blues and the Hurricanes (assuming the ‘Canes take care of business against the Chiefs) will go into the final round of matches with a chance at the crown if the Highlanders can knock off the competition leaders in their own backyard.
Here is a look ahead to Week 9 of Super Rugby Aotearoa.
Hurricanes vs. Chiefs
Saturday, August 8 – Sky Stadium, Wellington
The Hurricanes need a lot of things to go right for them to win the title but it all begins with a bonus-point win here. They sit third in the table and are eight points behind the Crusaders with two games to play. The Chiefs – on the other hand – are simply looking to finally get a win in the competition. They have zero wins and seven defeats on the season and this is their last chance to pick up a victory and regain any kind of credibility as they are on a bye from Round 10.
The Hurricanes get Dane Coles back in the starting lineup after a back issue which means that the dangerous Asafo Aumua will be brining his impact off of the bench. Tyrel Lomax will also be back on the pitch after an injury last time out. Their biggest changes are in the backline as Ngani Laumape – arguably the best player in the entire comp – will miss the last two games with a broken arm. Ben Lam has left for France, so both Kobus van Wyk and Vince Aso return to the starting lineup.
The Chiefs get a boost with flanker Luke Jacobson returning much more quickly than expected to take his place in the pack for their final game of the season. It is a double-edged sword, however, as Jacobson replaces flanker Lachlan Boshier who has been the Chiefs’ form player over the duration of Super Rugby Aotearoa. There are also changes in the tight five with Ollie Norris, Samisoni Taukei’aho, and Naitoa Ah Koi all back in the run-on XV.
The Chiefs will throw everything at this but the ‘Canes have been an in-form bunch over the last month. the Laumape injury is huge, but the likes of Jordie Barrett will do enough to see the ‘Canes cover at -5.5 (paying 0.95) with BetXChange.
Crusaders vs. Highlanders
Sunday, August 9 – Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch
The Highlanders feel like the nearly men of the competition as they have 10 points and two wins from six games. The Crusaders have been the class of the field in 2020, with five wins and one defeat – plus four crucial bonus points – giving them 24 points and allowing them to lock up the trophy with a win here.
The Crusaders won the reverse fixture by 20 points in a game that was close until the final 10 minutes. There might be some issues in the front row with Jody Moody’s status unclear after a family bereavement and Michael Alaalatoa working to recover from a knee injury sustained last week. There is better news in the backs with Braydon Ennor set to return to the starting XV.
If the Highlanders are to spring what would be a major surprise it will likely be on the back of world-class No. 9 Aaron Smith. Smith has been in imperious form in a comp full of talent at scrum-half and he will be looking to lift his teammates for a big performance here.
The Crusaders are very, very good, but this feels like it could be a cagey affair as they try to seal the title. Take the Highlanders +16.5 (0.90) with BetXChange if you are playing the points.