It feels like an age since we have had live rugby to watch but it’s back this weekend. Super Rugby Aotearoa will be kicking off with 2 games this weekend and we’ll be getting that for the next 10 weeks!
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I’m testing my Super Rugby picks against the TAB in my series DrivingMaul v The Bookie. Check out how I did in the last Round of Super Rugby when it stopped. FYI I’m up so far this season
Highlanders v Chiefs – Chiefs by 7
Will 13 weeks off have helped the Highlanders? One thing is for certain that they will be better off from a resource point of view. Mitre 10 Cup try scoring sensation Vilimoni Koroi and experienced Nehe Milner-Skudder will bring much needed depth to the back 3 positions. Injuries had meant we were seeing centres playing on the wing.
Also the Highlanders are apparently dropping the experiment of playing Josh Ioane in the 12 jersey. However if you listen to Aaron Mauger he blames the platform from the forwards rather than backline issues for their poor results earlier this year.
From a Chiefs point of view it’s more of the same that they are looking for. A side that has been plagued by injuries over the last couple of years looked to have fixed that. Reports are that Warren Gatland brought in shorter but more intense training sessions to help with that and the players responded.
Loose forward Simon Parker is the only addition since the lockdown. With the loose forwards already fighting it out for game time I can’t see him making much of an impact.
Let’s be honest this is an easy pick and the only real question is about margin. Prior to lockdown the Highlanders were losing by an average of over 10 points a game and Chiefs winning by just over 10 points a game. Maybe a winning margin of 7 is a little on the low side but we have to wait and see how all the teams come out of this break.
Blues v Hurricanes – Blues by 3
This is looking like an absolute cracker of a game. It’s one that people have been looking forward to since last year when Beauden Barrett signed for the Blues from the Hurricanes. Add into that some good form from the Blues in the early season and fans are starting to believe.
Clearly there’s been a lot of coverage of Dan Carter joining the Blues but I can’t see him playing for a few weeks. He needs to get his body back into contact condition and as he said that’s going to take a few weeks. Tamati Tua has also joined the squad and Caleb Clarke won’t be distracted by 7s commitments meaning even more competition for those backs jerseys.
The Hurricanes are the only side that haven’t added players to their squad. They are a side that a lot of us thought would struggle this season. No Beauden and Ardie Savea injured takes out 2 of their key players from the last couple of seasons. A 27-0 loss over in South Africa in the opening round also got us all down on them.
To be fair they came back from that and their only other loss was to the Blues 15-24 down in Wellington. That will be used as motivation for the men in yellow (well as long as they aren’t wearing those horrible away jerseys). The Canes are a side that I think have been overachieving, but are a side that don’t go well in the opening round.
The real question for the Blues is going to be can the forwards provide the platform? So in someways this is the perfect matchup for them as the Hurricanes aren’t known for dominating up-front. Let’s just hope that the game lives up to the hype.
Bye – Crusaders
As if they haven’t had enough time off already the Crusaders will have to wait another week before they get a game. In someways this actually might be a good thing for them.
It means that they will have had 1 more week preparation time before playing to sort out their structures. Also the return of Sam Whitelock is only going to strengthen the squad!
Record So Far
It’s a brand new start! In Super Rugby I was 33 from 46 or 72% correct when the tournament stopped.
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