Super Rugby continues in its brave new world this weekend, with four fixtures in New Zealand and Australia on Friday and Saturday.
It’s round one of Super Rugby Aotearoa, with the Crusaders visiting the Highlanders and the Hurricanes hosting the Blues.
Super Rugby AU, meanwhile, reaches the second round of fixtures, with the Reds welcoming the Rebels to Brisbane while the Brumbies are at home to the Waratahs.
Super Rugby Aotearoa & AU 2021: Predictions for 26-27 February
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 Aotearoa: Highlanders vs Crusaders
Super Rugby Aotearoa kicks off this Friday with the opening fixture between the Highlanders and Crusaders at the Forsyth Barr Stadium, as New Zealand continues as a post-Covid-19 sporting oasis.
The stands will be packed in Dunedin as the serial Super Rugby champions visit the south-east coast of Otago.
Nine All Blacks bejewel the visitors’ line up including Joe Moody and Codie Taylor in the front row, while Scott Barrett skippers the side alongside Sam Whitelock in the lock pairing.
Richie Mo’unga will dictate play from fly-half, with Sevu Reece and Will Jordan the first-choice outside back duo.
The home side have gone for Mitch Hunt at fly-half, opting to leave Josh Ioane among the replacements.
Liam Squire will start for the first time since 2019, with Aaron Smith and Ash Dixon selected as co-captains for the hosts.
Highlanders Starting XV: 15 Solomon Alaimalo, 14 Connor Garden-Bachop, 13 Ngatungane Punivai, 12 Patelesio Tomkinson, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Marino Mikaele-Tu?u, 7 Billy Harmon, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Jack Regan, 4 Josh Dickson, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Josh Hohneck, 18 Jeff Thwaites, 19 Bryn Evans, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Folau Fakatava, 22 Josh Ioane, 23 Hugh Renton
Crusaders Starting XV: 15 Will Jordan, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Dallas McLeod, 11 Leicester Fainga?anuku, 10 Richie Mo?unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Ethan Blackadder, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Scott Barrett (captain), 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Brodie McAlister, 17 George Bower, 18 Fletcher Newell, 19 Quinten Strange, 20 Sione Havili, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Fergus Burke, 23 Chay Fihaki
Super Rugby AU: Reds vs Rebels
Super Rugby AU reaches its second round on Friday with a clash between the Queensland Reds and the Melbourne Rebels at the Suncorp Stadium.
The hosts kicked off the all-Australian season with a booming 41-7 home win over the New South Wales Waratahs.
Suliasi Vunivalu has been given the nod to join the replacements’ bench by coach Brad Thorn, with the new signing having served his playing ban for an alleged late-night scuffle that will see him up in court in April.
Taniela Tupou at tighthead prop is the only change to the starting line up, as the Brisbane side look to go two from two on home turf.
The Rebels make their first impression on the Aussie competition after receiving a bye on the first weekend of fixtures.
And they will do so looking to put a Covid-19 restriction nightmare in the rear-view mirror, with their Melbourne home in particular going in and out of lockdown during the tournament build up.
Dane Haylett-Petty continues his long recovery from concussion, leaving Matt To’omua to captain the side for the foreseeable future.
Isi Naisarani also misses out at eighth man, while new scrum-half Joe Powell will make his first Rebels appearance.
Reds Starting XI: 15 Jock Campbell, 14 Jordan Petaia, 13 Hunter Paisami, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Filipo Daugunu, 10 James O?Connor (captain), 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Angus Scott-Young, 5 Seru Uru, 4 Angus Blyth, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Alex Mafi, 1 Dane Zander.
Replacements: 16 Josh Nasser, 17 Harry Hoopert, 18 Feao Fotuaika, 19 Ryan Smith, 20 Sam Wallis, 21 Moses Sorovi, 22 Bryce Hegarty, 23 Suliasi Vunivalu.
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 Brad Wilkin, 5 Trevor Hosea, 4 Steve Cummins, 3 Pone Faamausili, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Cabous Eloff.
Replacements: 16 Ed Craig, 17 Isaac Aedo Kailea, 18 Rhys van Nek, 19 Rob Leota, 20 Josh Kemeny, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Glen Vaihu, 23 Frank Lomani.
Super Rugby Aotearoa: Hurricanes vs Blues
Super Rugby Aotearoa concludes its first round with a battle between the Hurricanes and Blues at the Sky Stadium on Saturday.
Wellington is the venue for the North Island derby, as both sides seek to make an immediate mark on the New Zealand competition.
It’s a Savea story for the hosts with Ardie captaining the side on his 100th appearance, while brother Julian makes a start on the wing for the first time since 2018.
From the old to the new, the Blues will hand debuts to three players for the competition opener including both props, Nepo Laulala and James Lay.
Hurricanes Starting XV: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Billy Proctor, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 Jonathan Taumateine, 8 Devan Flanders, 7 Ardie Savea (captain), 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Asafo Aumua, 1 Fraser Armstrong.
Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Xavier Numia, 18 Alex Fidow, 19 Reed Prinsep, 20 Du?Plessis Kirifi, 21 Luke Campbell, 22 Peter Umaga-Jensen, 23 Salesi Rayasi.
Blues Starting XV: 15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 Mark Telea, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Harry Plummer, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Otere Black, 9 Sam Nock; 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 James Lay.
Replacements: 16 Luteru Tolai, 17 Karl Tu?inukuafe, 18 Ofa Tuungafasi, 19 Josh Goodhue, 20 Tom Robinson, 21 Adrian Choat, 22 Jonathan Ruru, 23 Tanielu Tele?a.
Super Rugby AU: Brumbies vs NSW Waratahs
Super Rugby AU completes its second round with a game between the Brumbies and the New South Wales Waratahs at the GIO Stadium.
The pair had contrasting starts to the rebooted Australian competition during last Friday’s first round.
A 27-11 victory away to the Western Force represented a decent first outing for this weekend’s home side, while the Waratahs were thrashed 41-7 away to the Reds.
The Tahs make four changes as Australian international Lachie Swinton comes in to bolster the pack.
Captain Jake Gordon’s injury-enforced absence means Jack Grant will make his starting debut in the half-backs, while Tepai Moeroa comes in at centre.
The home side make one change for the rival clash, with Connal McInerney coming in to bolster the front row.
Brumbies Starting XV: 15 Tom Banks, 4 Andy Muirhead, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Mack Hansen, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Nic White, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Jahrome Brown, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Allan Alaalatoa (captain), 2 Connal McInerney, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Lachlan Lonergan, 17 Harry Lloyd, 18 Tom Ross, 19 Nick Frost, 20 Tom Cusack, 21 Ryan Lonergan, 22 Reesjan Pasitoa, 23 Issak Fines-Leleiwasa.
NSW Waratahs Starting XV: 15 Jack Maddocks, 14 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 13 Alex Newsome (captain), 12 Tepai Moeroa, 11 James Ramm, 10 Will Harrison, 9 Jack Grant, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Carlo Tizzano, 6 Lachlan Swinton, 5 Jack Whetton, 4 Sam Caird, 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 Tom Horton, 1 Angus Bell.
Replacements: 16 David Porecki, 17 Te Tera Faulkner, 18 Sio Tatola, 19 Jeremy Williams, 20 Hugh Sinclair, 21 Henry Robertson, 22 Tane Edmed, 23 Triston Reilly.