Round 3 of Super Rugby Pacific in 2023 is upon us. The top-of-the-log Chiefs are taking on the Highlanders, while the Blues looking to rebound from their first regular season defeat in 15 rounds as they travel to take on the Hurricanes.
Here is a look at those games with odds from BetXchange.
Chiefs VS Highlanders – FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton
The log-leading Chiefs look to continue their strong start to the season on Friday against the hapless Highlanders. The Chiefs – the only team to pick up bonus point wins in both of the first two rounds – will fancy their chances against a Highlanders squad with zero points and a point differential of -77 points after a couple of heavy defeats.
There are four changes to the side that won against Moana Pasifika, with Aidan Ross, John Ryan, and Naitoa Ah Kuoi all rotated into the pack. There is also a welcome returnee in the backline, with Emono Narawa coming in for Liam Coombe-Fabling, a non-contract player who was excellent in fill-in duty over the first two rounds.
The Highlanders finally get some stars in their lineup, with the All-Black trio of Ethan de Groot, Shannon Frizell, and Aaron Smith all back for this one. They are down on back three options to the point that Freddie Burns will be wearing 15, with players missing, including Jona Nareki, Sam Gilbert, and Jonah Lowe.
There is no real reason to back the Highlanders even to cover here. Frizell and Smith will give them a boost, but their strike power in the backline and ability to defend has been brutal in 2023. Take the Chiefs.
Hurricanes VS Blues – Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington
The Hurricanes are another undefeated team, yet they are underdogs at home against a Blues team that saw their long run of regular season wins fall by the wayside last week as the Brumbies beat them in Melbourne in what was a massive upset.
The ‘Canes will be without the suspended Ardie Savea after his throat slash gesture saw him banned for a week, with Peter Lakai – a player tipped to be a future star – filling in at No. 8. Devan Flanders and Brett Cameron are also in the starting XV.
Leon McDonald has resisted the urge to make changes after the Blues’ Magic Round defeat. Momentum is huge in the short Super Rugby season, so the only alteration is injury enforced with AJ Lam on the wing for the injured Mark Telea.
The Hurricanes won the last time these two met, the Blues’ last regular season defeat before the Brumbies turned them over. I like the Blues to get back on the horse, winning and covering here.
Brumbies VS Reds – GIO Stadium, Canberra
The Brumbies’ win over the Blues means they are two from two as they host the Reds in an Aussie derby this weekend. The Reds were torn apart by the Hurricanes (at home) in the season opener, but they bounce back in a big way with an emphatic 71-20 win over the Force in Round 2.
Their starting XV is unchanged from the win in Perth, with the addition of Connor Vest – an aggressive forward – being the only change in the entire matchday 23. That means the impressive Tom Lynagh retains his place at No. 10 ahead of James O’Connor. The Brumbies have been unafraid to change a winning team, and they will see the first starts of the season for Nic White and Noah Lolesio.
The Reds have owned this series recently. They have won four of their last five against the Brumbies, and these games are always close. I would play the spread here and take the Reds to cover.