We’re right in the heart of the Super Rugby Aotearoa and AU competitions, as the action continues in New Zealand and Australia this weekend.
The Highlanders host the winless Hurricanes in Dunedin on Friday, ahead of the Western Force’s trip across the country to play the Brumbies.
Saturday sees the Chiefs meet the Blues in the Kiwi tournament, while the New South Wales Waratahs are at home to the Queensland Reds.
Super Rugby Aotearoa & AU 2021: Predictions for 26-27 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 or StatsChat.
Super Rugby Aotearoa: Highlanders vs Hurricanes
Super Rugby Aotearoa pits two sides in need of a win against each other on Friday, as the Highlanders host the Chiefs.
The visitors have lost all three of their fixtures so far, while the home side have won just once to leave them both scratching around for form in the New Zealand table.
Mitch Hunt moves to fly-half for Tony Brown’s side, with Josh Ioane switched to full-back in the search for an attacking edge.
Dane Coles’ return is a huge front row boost for the men from Wellington, with Scott Scrafton also fit to return at lock.
Highlanders Starting XV: 15 Josh Ioane, 14 Freedom Vahaakolo, 13 Michael Collins, 12 Patelesio Tomkinson, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith (co-captain), 8 Marino Mikaele-Tu?u, 7 Billy Harmon, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Pari Pari Parkinson, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Ash Dixon (co-captain), 1 Ethan de Groot.
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Ayden Johnstone, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Josh Dickson, 20 Kazuki Himeno, 21 Folau Fakatava, 22 Thomas Umaga-Jensen, 23 Connor Garden-Bachop.
Hurricanes Starting XV: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Billy Proctor, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Salesi Rayasi, 10 Orbyn Leger, 9 Luke Campbell, 8 Ardie Savea (captain), 7 Du?Plessis Kirifi, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 4 Scott Scrafton, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Xavier Numia.
Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Pouri Rakete-Stones, 18 Tevita Mafileo, 19 Liam Mitchell, 20 Devan Flanders, 21 Jonathan Taumateine, 22 Peter Umaga-Jensen, 23 Ruben Love.
Super Rugby AU: Brumbies vs Western Force
The Brumbies go up against the Western Force on Friday in Canberra as Super Rugby AU continues.
It’s a fixture that will see the home side go top of the table with victory, at least until the Queensland Reds play bottom side the Waratahs on Saturday.
Australian international James Slipper comes in at prop to bolster the hosts at GIO Stadium.
Jack McGregor and Marcel Brache are selected for the visitors in the absence of Rob Kearney and Richard Kahui.
Brumbies Starting XV: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Andy Muirhead, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Mack Hansen, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Nic White (captain), 8 Pete Samu, 7 Jahrome Brown, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 James Slipper, 2 Folau Fainga?a, 1 Harry Lloyd.
Replacements: 16 Lachlan Lonergan, 17 Fred Kaihea, 18 Sefo Kautai, 19 James Tucker, 20 Rory Scott, 21 Ryan Lonergan, 22 Reesjan Pasitoa, 23 Issak Fines-Leleiwasa.
Western Force Starting XV: 15 Jack McGregor, 14 Byron Ralston, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Henry Taefu, 11 Marcel Brache, 10 Jake McIntyre, 9 Tom?s Cubelli, 8 Brynard Stander (captain), 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Fergus Lee-Warner, 5 Sitaleki Timani, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Feleti Kaitu?u, 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Jack Winchester, 17 Angus Wagner, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19. Ryan McCauley, 20. Tim Anstee, 21. Ian Prior, 22. Jono Lance, 23. Jordan Olowofela.
Super Rugby Aotearoa: Chiefs vs Blues
Super Rugby Aotearoa continues on Saturday with a battle between the Chiefs and the Blues in Waikato.
The FMG Stadium is the venue as the men from Auckland attempt to close the gap to the Crusaders at the top of the table, while the hosts seek a second win of a slow-burning campaign so far.
Sean Wainui returns on the wing for his 50th Chiefs appearance, while there are also places for Shaun Stevenson and young lock Samipeni Finau.
Mark Telea and Dalton Papalii?are recalled for the visitors following their respective concussions, with Finlay Christie featuring for the first time this campaign at scrum-half.
Chiefs Starting XV: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Shaun Stevenson, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Quinn Tupaea, 11 Sean Wainui, 10 Kaleb Trask, 9 Brad Weber (co-captain), 8 Luke Jacobson, 7 Sam Cane (co-captain), 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 4 Samipeni Finau, 3 Angus Ta?avao, 2 Samisoni Taukei?aho, 1 Aidan Ross.
Replacements: 16 Bradley Slater, 17 Ollie Norris, 18 Reuben O?Neill, 19 Simon Parker, 20 Pita Gus Sowakula, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Alex Nankivell, 23 Chase Tiatia.
Blues Starting XV: 15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 Mark Telea, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Harry Plummer, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Otere Black, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (captain, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Luteru Tolai, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Replacements: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Karl Tu?inukuafe, 18 Ofa Tuungafasi, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Tom Robinson, 21 Adrian Choat, 22 Jonathan Ruru, 23 TJ Faiane.
Super Rugby AU: New South Wales Waratahs vs Queensland Reds
It’s bottom versus top Down Under as the New South Wales Waratahs face the daunting prospect of the Queensland Reds on Saturday.
You can hold up a mirror to show their respective performances so far, with the visitors winning four from four and the hosts losing their opening quartet of fixtures.
The Reds have made four changes to their starting side for the trip to Stadium Australia, including a debut at lock for Ryan Smith.
Coach Rob Penney’s increasingly forlorn search for the winning formula sees seven Waratahs changes, with centre Izaia Perese among them following his three-match ban.
Waratahs Starting XV: 15 Jack Maddocks, 14 Alex Newsome (captain), 13 Lalakai Foketi, 12 Izaia Perese, 11 James Ramm, 10 Will Harrison, 9 Jack Grant, 8 Will Harris, 7 Carlo Tizzano, 6 Hugh Sinclair, 5 Sam Caird, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Te Tera Faulkner, 2 David Porecki, 1 Harry Johnson-Holmes.
Replacements: 16 Tom Horton, 17 Angus Bell, 18 Darcy Breen, 19 Jeremy Williams, 20 Max Douglas, 21 Henry Robertson, 22 Tane Edmed, 23 Mark Nawaqanitawase.
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 Seru Uru, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Angus Scott-Young, 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4 Ryan Smith, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Dane Zander.
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Richie Asiata, 18 Zane Nonggorr, 19 Harry Wilson, 20 Sam Wallis, 21 Kalani Thomas, 22 Hamish Stewart, 23 Bryce Hegarty.