Round 5 of Super Rugby Aotearoa is upon us and the matches this week see the Highlanders hosting the Hurricanes in Dunedin and the Chiefs taking on the Blues in Hamilton. This means the Crusaders have the week off.
Here is a look at the two games in Round 5:
Highlanders vs Hurricanes
Friday, March 26 – Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Aaron Smith will become the most capped Highlander of all time on Friday night as he passes Ben Smith to rack up cap No. 154 for the side. His value to the team is as high as it has ever been – you can make a case he has been the best scrum-half in the world for at least half a decade now – and he shows no signs of slowing down either in his passing velocity/accuracy or his ability to get around the park. The ‘Landers are set to give debuts to right-wing Freedom Vahaakolo from the start and loose forward Japanese international Kazuki Himeno from the bench.
The Hurricanes are countering Smith’s milestone with a return of a centurian of their own, with Dane Coles set to make his first start of the campaign. He is a player that has been sorely missed to this point of the season. At the other end of the experience scale, the Hurricanes are set to give a debut from the bench to fly-half Ruben Love. Love – a schoolboy star – has been pushed into this role far quicker than anyone would have anticipated thanks to injuries ruling Jackson Garden-Bachop and Simon Hickey out for the season. Love can also provide cover in the midfield and he is a player they have high hopes for at the ‘Canes.
The Highlanders will do everything they can to win this for Smith and home advantage will see them through. Look for the home side to win and cover the -3 spread at 0.90 with BetXChange.
Chiefs vs Blues
Saturday, March 27 – FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton
The Blues were victims of their own downfall against the Crusaders last week as poor discipline – along with bad decision-making by players that should know better – cost them any chance at a win. Ofa Tuungafasi will come off of the bench for his 100th appearance for the Blues, while the team will be thrilled to see Mark Telea and – especially – loose-forward Dalton Papalii back in the side after missing last week with injuries. There is yet another change at scrum-half for the Blues as Finley Christie becomes the third player to start at the position this season after overcoming an injury that saw him limited to a bench role thus far.
The Chiefs may have finally stopped a horrific losing run, but it will be tough for them to go back-to-back here, even at home. The win over the ‘Canes came at a cost, with both starting wings – Etene Nanai-Seturo and Jonah Lowe – along with All Blacks lock Rupou Vaa’i unable to suit up for this contest. The Chiefs are now down an insane 10 players that would find their way into the 23, but at least the hard-running Pita Gus-Sowakula is back on the bench.
The Chiefs have way too many injuries in their pack to beat this Blues’ team. As long as the Auckland side doesn’t cost themselves the contest with indiscipline – always a valid question – then they will win and cover the spread of -6.5 at 0.90 with BetXChange.