The highflying Auckland Blues are red-hot favourites to keep their winning streak going when they host the Highlanders on the weekend. The overall Super Rugby predictions are very much in their favour – but they have a solid record against the Highlanders to boot. Kick-off for this Super Rugby fixture is at 9:05 SAST (which is GMT+2).
On the back of two straight wins, coach Leon MacDonald has resisted any change to his starting line-up for the third round of the Super Rugby Aotearoa. The only switch is in the reserves.
where England international Joe Marchant is included in what will be his final match for the Blues before returning to his Harlequins club in London.
“The whole squad are training hard, and our current starters are getting tested at every training session, which is what we want,” said MacDonald.
“This group of 23 continue to do the business. They are developing well to the style of game we want to play and adapting positively to the new rule emphasis, which will lead to a more exciting and fluid game.
“It is the last game before our first bye which will give us the opportunity to reset for the next block of games.
For the Highlanders, coach Aaron Mauger has put his faith in 21 year-old Scott Gregory to get his first start – he’ll go toe-to-toe with Beauden Barrett when the two sides meet on Saturday.
The tourists shouldn’t be underestimated, though. They clinched a thrilling win over the Chiefs in the opening weekend and head into this match against the Blues off a bye. The hosts have played for three weeks straight.
While the overall Super Rugby Aotearoa predictions suggest the Blues should cruise home, fixtures between these two sides have been close historically. While the Blues have the superior win record, only a few points have seperated the two sides in the past.
Buckle up, we could be in for another humdinger.
Blues: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Mark Telea, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Otere Black, 9 Sam Nock; 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 James Parsons, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Reserves: 16 Kurt Eklund, 17 Marcel Renata, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Tony Lamborn, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Joe Marchant.
Highlanders: 15 Scott Gregory, 14 Sam Gilbert, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Sio Tomkinson, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Marino Mikaele Tu’u, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Ayden Johnstone.
Reserves: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Jeff Thwaites, 19 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 20 Teariki Ben-Nicholas, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Ngane Punivai.