Super Rugby cracks on in New Zealand and Australia this weekend, with heavy duty fixtures in both the Aotearoa and AU competitions.
The Crusaders collide with the Chiefs in Christchurch on Saturday as the action on the Land of The Long White Cloud reaches the third round stage.
Sunday’s match sees the Blues return to home turf at Eden Park to take on the Highlanders.
Perth provides the Friday focus Down Under with a tussle between the Western Force and the Melbourne Rebels at HBF Park.
The Brumbies host the Queensland Reds on Saturday at Canberra’s GIO Stadium.
Super Rugby Aotearoa & AU 2021: Predictions for 12-14 March
Prediction methodology explained: The expected win percentage is based off publicly available odds. For example, if a team’s odds are 2.30, the expected chance of winning is 43%. If the odds are 1.62 the expected chance of winning is 62% and so on. These are accurate at the time of writing but are subject to change. Where there is no value listed, the odds were not available at the time of writing. Score margins use the methodology developed by Rugby Vision.
Super Rugby AU: Western Force vs Melbourne Rebels
Super Rugby AU reaches the fourth round of action on Friday with a clash between the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels at the Perth Oval.
HBF Park is the venue for the pair who are battling for a rise up into the top two of the standings as the competition Down Under gathers momentum.
The hosts pulled off their first win of the campaign last weekend when they extended the Waratahs’ 2021 misery with a 20-16 success at the Bankwest Stadium.
Coach Tim Sampson has resisted the urge to tinker too much with his side, as Fergus Lee-Warner moves to blindside flank and Ryan McCauley lines up for his starting debut.
The Rebels were pipped 27-24 away to the Brumbies in their second outing of the campaign – making it back-to-back agonizing defeats so far.
Coach Dave Wessels has kept faith with his starting XV, though, with the welcome news that prop Pone Fa’amausili has recovered in time from a hefty knock.
Western Force Starting XV: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Byron Ralston, 13 Tevita Kuridrani. 12 Richard Kahui, 11 Marcel Brache, 10 Jake McIntyre, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Brynard Stander (captain), 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Fergus Lee-Warner, 5 Ryan McCauley, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Feleti Kaitu’u, 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Jack Winchester, 17 Angus Wagner, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Sitaleki Timani, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Henry Taefu, 23 Jack McGregor.
Melbourne Rebels Starting XV: 15 Tom Pincus, 14 Lachlan Anderson, 13 Stacey Ili, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Matt To’omua (captain), 9 Joe Powell, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Joshua Kemeny, 5 Trevor Hosea, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Pone Faamausili, 2 James Hanson, 1 Cabous Eloff.
Replacements: 16 Ed Craig, 17 Isaac Aedo Kailea, 18 Lucio Sordoni, 19 Steve Cummins, 20 Robert Leota, 21 Brad Wilkin/Tom Nowlan, 22 James Tuttle, 23 Frank Lomani/Carter Gordon.
Super Rugby Aotearoa: Crusaders vs Chiefs
Serial Super Rugby champions the Crusaders are on the hunt for back-to-back home wins when they face the Chiefs at Orangetheory Stadium on Saturday.
Scott Robertson’s side boast a 100% record from their opening brace of Aotearoa fixtures, with last Sunday’s bonus point win over the Hurricanes backing up their opening weekend win away to the Highlanders.
David Havili switches to inside centre for this one, making way for Will Jordan at full-back, while George Bower comes in for Joe Moody at loosehead prop.
The Chiefs made their 2021 entrance last Friday and want to move on sharpish, after the Highlanders came away from Waikato with a booming 39-23 victory.
A pair of debutants are set to feature, as Josh Lord comes in at lock and Kaylum Boshier makes it as far as the bench.
Boshier is in esteemed company among the replacements, with All Black Anton Lienert-Brown also lurking in reserve.
Crusaders Starting XV: 15 Will Jordan, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 David Havili, 11 Leicester Fainga’anuku, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Sione Havili Talitui, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Scott Barrett (captain), 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 George Bower.
Replacements: 16 Brodie McAlister, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Fletcher Newell, 19 Mitchell Dunshea, 20 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Fergus Burke, 23 Dallas McLeod.
Chiefs Starting XV: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Shaun Stevenson, 13 Sean Wainui, 12 Quinn Tupaea, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Bryn Gatland, 9 Brad Weber (co-captain), 8 Luke Jacobson, 7 Sam Cane (co-captain), 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Josh Lord, 4 Tupou Vaa’i, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1 Reuben O’Neill.
Replacements: 16 Bradley Slater, 17 Aidan Ross, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 20 Kaylum Boshier, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Anton Lienert-Brown, 23 Chase Tiatia.
Super Rugby AU: Brumbies vs Queensland Reds
The Brumbies and Queensland Reds contest a top-of-the-table clash in Super Rugby AU on Saturday at GIO Stadium.
It’s been a perfect start to the Australian competition for the pair, with the hosts having won three from three and the visitors two out of two so far.
Three points was the slender margain as the Canberra side edged out the Melbourne Rebels 27-24 on home turf last weekend.
Allan Alaalatoa’s absence means Tom Cusack will captain the side, with youngster Tom Ross replacing the regular skipper in the front row.
The Reds took a bye last week, having also nudged past the luckless Rebels by a two-point margain the previous weekend.
They make two changes as Suliasi Vunivalu comes on to the wing for his full debut, while Lukhan Salakaia-Loto returns from suspension at lock.
Brumbies Starting XV: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Andy Muirhead, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Mack Hansen, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Nic White, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Tom Cusack (captain), 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Tom Ross, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Lachlan Lonergan, 17 Harry Lloyd, 18 Archer Holz, 19 Nick Frost, 20 Jahrome Brown, 21 Ryan Lonergan, 22 Reesjan Pasitoa, 23 Issak Fines-Leleiwasa.
Reds Starting XV: 15 Jock Campbell, 14 Suliasi Vunivalu, 13 Jordan Petaia, 12 Hunter Paisami, 11 Filipo Daugunu, 10 James O’Connor (captain), 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Angus Scott-Young, 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4 Angus Blyth, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Alex Mafi, 1 Dane Zander.
Replacements: 16 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 17 Harry Hoopert, 18 Zane Nonggorr, 19 Ryan Smith, 20 Seru Uru, 21 Moses Sorovi, 22 Bryce Hegarty, 23 Josh Flook.
Super Rugby Aotearoa: Blues vs Highlanders
It’s a battle to keep pace with the Crusaders in the early Super Rugby Aotearoa standings, as the Blues host the Highlanders on Sunday.
Eden Park is the venue as the home side set out to make it two wins from two, after their handsome opening weekend win at the Hurricanes was followed with a bye.
The visitors, meanwhile, responded excellently from their curtain-raising defeat at home to the men from Canterbury, thumping the Chiefs in their own back yard a week ago.
All Black Karl Tu’inukuafe and Ofa Tuungafasi come in as fresh props for the Blues, joined in the front row by hooker Luteru Tolai.
Seven changes have been made by coach Tony Brown, including hooker Liam Coltman and co-captain Aaron Smith at Scrum-half.
Blues Starting XV: 15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 Mark Telea, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Harry Plummer, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Otere Black, 9 Jonathan Ruru; 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Akira Ioane, 5Sam Darry, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 Luteru Tolai, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Replacements: 16 Kurt Eklund, 17 James Lay, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Tom Robinson, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Tanielu Tele’a, 23 Emoni Narawa.
Highlanders Starting XV: 15 Connor Garden-Bachop, 14 Ngatugnane Punivai, 13 Michael Collins, 12 Patelesio Tomkinson, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Aaron Smith (co-captain), 8 Hugh Renton, 7 James Lentjes, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 4 Josh Dickson, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ethan De Groot.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon (co-captain), 17 Josh Hohneck, 18 Jeff Thwaites, 19 Bryn Evans, 20 Marino Mikaele Tu’u, 21 Folau Fakatava, 22 Mitch Hunt, 23 Billy Harmon.
Antoinette is a recovering journalist, having written for Sports Illustrated, The Guardian, Daily Maverick and others. She has won multiple SAB Journalist of the Year awards, across a variety of categories. She thinks it’s strange writing about herself in the third person, unless she’s playing as herself in The Sims…which she’s been doing for over 20 years.