Super Rugby reaches its sharp end for 2021 Down Under with the final round of the Aotearoa competition and the AU semi-final all taking place.
With the mighty Crusaders already having top spot sewn up in New Zealand, it’s left to the Blues and Chiefs to battle it out below them on Saturday after the Hurricanes put down their wooden spoon to host the Highlanders on Friday.
Over in Australia, the Western Force set out to pull off another upset when they travel to take on the Brumbies in the knockout game, having stunned the table-topping Queensland Reds last weekend.
Super Rugby Aotearoa & AU 2021: Predictions for 30 April – 1 May
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: Hurricanes vs Highlanders
The Hurricanes and Highlanders complete their Super Rugby Aotearoa seasons at the Sky Stadium on Friday. Both are looking to chalk up a final round victory to round off difficult campaigns in the rebooted New Zealand competition.
The visitors, who could still pip the Blues for third place in the standings, bring Ethan de Groot into the front row for a final hurrah. Julian Savea and Billy Proctor both come in for the home side in Wellington, with the ‘Canes guaranteed to finish bottom of the log.
Hurricanes Starting XV: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Julian Savea, 13 Billy Proctor, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Salesi Rayasi, 10 Ruben Love, 9 Luke Campbell, 8 Devan Flanders, 7 Du?Plessis Kirifi, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Dane Coles (captain), 1 Xavier Numia.
Replacements: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Fraser Armstrong, 18 Alex Fidow, 19 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 20 Braydon Iose, 21 Cam Roigard, 22 Peter Umaga-Jensen, 23 Pepesano Patafilo.
Highlanders Starting XV: 15 Josh Ioane, 14 Sam Gilbert, 13 Patelesio Tomkinson, 12 Scott Gregory, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith (co-captain), 8 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Billy Harmon, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Josh Dickson, 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 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 20 Hugh Renton, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Michael Collins, 23 James Lentjes.
Super Rugby Aotearoa: Blues vs Chiefs
The Blues and Chiefs collide at Eden Park on Saturday in the final round of Super Rugby Aotearoa action.
Second place is guaranteed for the Chiefs even if the Blues muster a bonus point victory, with the Crusaders away and clear at the top of the table as they take a final round bye.
Captain Tom Robinson returns at flank for the hosts, who also include scrum-half Finlay Christie and outside backs Bryce Heem and Zarn Sullivan.
Ollie Norris and Sione Mafileo come in at either side of the front row for the away side, who also bring in Rameka Poihipi at centre among a host of changes.
Blues Starting XV: 15 Zarn Sullivan, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Rieko Ioane (co-captain), 12 Tanielu Tele?a, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Otere Black, 9 Finlay Christie; 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Adrian Choat, 6 Tom Robinson (co-captain), 5 Sam Darry, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Karl Tu?inukuafe.
Replacements: 16 Soane Vikena, 17 Ofa Tuungafasi, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Josh Goodhue/Taine Plumtree, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 AJ Lam.
Chiefs Starting XV: 15 Kaleb Trask, 14 Bailyn Sullivan, 13 Sean Wainui (captain), 12 Rameka Poihipi, 11 Shaun Stevenson, 10 Bryn Gatland, 9 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 8 Pita Gus Sowakula, 7 Zane Kapeli, 6 Viliami Taulani, 5 Josh Lord, 4 Samipeni Finau, 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 Bradley Slater, 1 Ollie Norris.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Ezekiel Lindenmuth, 18 Joe Apikotoa, 19 Liam Messam, 20 Tom Florence, 21 Xavier Roe, 22 Rivez Reihana, 23 Gideon Wrampling.
Super Rugby AU: Brumbies vs Western Force
Super Rugby AU reaches semi-final time on Saturday, as the Brumbies host the Western Force at the GIO Stadium.
It’s a battle between the hosts, who pushed the Queensland Reds all the way at the top of the standings, and the foreign legion-inspired men from Perth who have defied expectations on their return to the Australian competition.
A host of Wallabies return for the home side for the knockout clash, with James Slipper, Nic White, Pete Samu and Irae Simone all included.
The Force bring in Santiago Medrano up front and Jake Strachan at full-back as they bid to repeat the heroics that saw them inflict a first defeat on the Reds last week.
Brumbies Starting XV: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Andy Muirhead, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Tom Wright, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Nic White, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Rory Scott, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Allan Alaalatoa (captain), 2 Folau Fainga?a, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Lachlan Lonergan, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Tom Ross, 19 Nick Frost, 20 Luke Reimer, 21 Ryan Lonergan, 22 Reesjan Pasitoa, 23 Mack Hansen.
Western Force Starting XV: 15 Jake Strachan, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Kyle Godwin (captain), 11 Jordan Olowofela, 10 Domingo Miotti, 9 Tom?s Cubelli, 8 Brynard Stander, 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Fergus Lee-Warner, 5 Sitaleki Timani, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Feleti Kaitu?u, 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Angus Wagner, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Ryan McCauley, 20 Tim Anstee, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Henry Taefu, 23 Jack McGregor.