Check out the teams and predictions for Round 4 of Super Rugby Pacific
Blues vs Highlanders - Friday 11th March - 7:05pm
With 10 All Blacks in the Blues squad this week (including Beauden Barrett starting at 10), they are looking to build some momentum after last weeks win over the Chiefs. The absence of RTS opens the way for Bryce Heem at 12. Coach Leon MacDonald said he is looking for a much-improved performance from his side. “We played quite well against the Hurricanes and lost but we played indifferently last week and got the win. It shows that you can’t control the outcome, but you can control performance,” he said. “We are looking for quantum improvement across the board – better quality possession, better handling, more consistent defensive effort and better decision-making. Most of all, we are looking for a more aggressive, physical and quality performance.” With the Gordon Hunter Memorial Trophy on the line, the Highlanders will be looking to take advantage of a wobbly Blues considering the final 10 mins of the Blues last couple of games. Gordon Hunter coached both the Highlanders and the Blues before passing away in 2002 and the teams have been playing for the trophy since then. Aaron Smith returns to the team as captain and starting halfback, Scott Gregory comes into the midfield and Ngatungane Punivai comes onto the bench for the first time this season in the midfield. Coach Tony Brown said about the results so far, “everyone is trying really hard and is frustrated that we are not executing the way we should, but it’s not from lack of effort or lack of intent, so we are focusing on making sure that when we get the opportunities, we are patient and calm and that we execute under pressure.”
NZ Rugby World prediction: Blues by 12 and under
TAB odds: $1.22 Blues $4.00 Highlanders
Teams named for the match up at North Harbour Stadium:
Hurricanes vs Moana Pasifika - Sat 12th March- 4:35pm
Round 4 puts Moana Pasifika up against the Hurricanes in their second official Super Rugby match, after last weeks gallant effort against the Crusaders this match will be another tough test for MP. The Hurricanes have won their last two matches against the Blues and Highlanders and will want to retain their top 4 standing on the leaderboard ahead of next weeks game against the Chiefs. However, members of the Hurricanes squad have tested positive for COVID-19, with assistant coach Chris Gibbes confirming an undisclosed number of players have contracted the virus. There has not been an update on if the game will go ahead.
Crusaders vs Chiefs - Sat 12th March 7:05pm
The Crusaders will return to Orangetheory Stadium for the first time in 2022, when they host the Chiefs on Saturday night. 10 All Blacks will line up in the starting side this week with another couple on the bench for good measure. Head Coach Scott Robertson has restored several All Blacks to the tight five for what promises to be a tough battle up front, including Joe Moody, Vice-Captain Codie Taylor, regular Captain Scott Barrett and Sam Whitelock. The backline is all-new to face the Chiefs, with Bryn Hall and Richie Mo'unga both moving to the starting side. Vice-Captain David Havili edges closer to becoming a Super Rugby centurion when he lines up in the midfield for his 99th Crusaders game, alongside Braydon Ennor. Sevu Reece and in-form fullback Will Jordan complete the starting lineup. The Gallagher Chiefs team to face the Crusaders at Orangetheory Stadium this Saturday has been named in what will be the first occasion the two sides have faced each other since the 2021 Super Rugby Aotearoa Final. The fixture will feature an impressive milestone for prop Angus Ta’avao who will bring up 50 matches as a Gallagher Chief. Ta’avao currently has 121 Super Rugby matches to his name, including 49 matches for the Blues and 23 for the Waratahs. McMillan said the team is excited for the fixture and that it all starts up front when facing a team like the Crusaders. “We are excited about playing the Crusaders who have quickly established themselves as the benchmark team again. There were a lot of positives to take from the Blues match, and if we can be a little more clinical and ruthless with our possession, we have the ability to stress any team. That said - it all starts up front. The Crusaders try and squeeze you through their set piece, we learned that the hard way around this time last year. We know what’s coming and the onus is on our big boys to front up, plain and simple. If we do that we will give ourselves a chance to play in a manner our sponsors and fans will be proud of. ” said McMillan.
NZ Rugby World prediction: Crusaders 13+
TAB odds: $1.33 Crusaders $3.20 Chiefs
Teams named for the match up at Orangetheory Stadium: