There are two massive games in the Super Rugby calendar this weekend, as the Chiefs host the Highlanders, while the Hurricanes travel to the Rebels. Evan O’Connor previews.
Chiefs vs Highlanders
The Highlanders suffered their first loss of the campaign against the Hurricanes last week, who showed some excellent finishing. They have impressed so far this year under Aaron Mauger, with a lot of variety in their attack.
It will be interesting to see how Matt Faddes gets on at 13 coming in for Teihorangi Walden who has been impressive so far this year, despite being caught defensively for Vince Aso’s try last week.
It is harder to get a handle on the Chiefs. They were impressive when decimated by injury against the Blues, but less so in their first game against the Crusaders.
Damian McKenzie showed what he could do at 10 last week against the Sunwolves, but he was afforded a lot more space than he will get in this match.
Prediction: The Chiefs to win an entertaining game by 4.
Rebels vs Hurricanes
The Rebels have been impressive all season except for their second half against the Waratahs, when Director of Rugby Dave Wessels took the blame. Out of all the Rebels new recruits, their excellent Director of Rugby is probably the best.
Not that the likes of Amanaki Mafi, Will Genia, Jack Maddocks and Dane Haylett-Petty haven’t helped but Wessels has gelled a team that brought in 19 players, and lost even more, from last season.
In their last game against the Sharks they impressed when bouncing back from that defeat to the Waratahs.
The Hurricanes were shocking in their opening round loss away to the Bulls, but since then they’ve beaten the Jaguares, Crusaders and Highlanders. The back-to-back New Zealand derby victories were particularly impressive.
The Barrett brothers were particularly impressive last week and Ben Lam and Vince Aso’s finishing was top class. What is scary about the Canes backline is that Wes Goosen doesn’t start and Nehe Milner-Skudder could be back before the end of the season.
Prediction: Canes winning a high-scoring affair in Melbourne by 12.