TODAY |

Super Rugby preview: Hurricanes' winless start set to continue at Eden Park

Forwards firepower brought into the starting lineup in the form of Charlie Faumuina and Akira Ioane to face the Hurricanes at Eden Park. Source: 1 NEWS

The Blues host the Hurricanes, the Highlanders prepare for the Lions and the Chiefs are on the road against the Kings. Which will take the overall lead in the New Zealand standings after three rounds?

FRIDAY, March 11
Blues v Hurricanes at Eden Park, Auckland, 7.35pm
Head to Head: Played 25, Blues 14, Hurricanes 10, drawn 1
In Auckland: Played 13, Blues 8, Hurricanes 5
Last clash: Round 15 2015 - Hurricanes 23 bt Blues 5 at Eden Park
The once-mighty Blues have won only one of their past dozen all-New Zealand battles but get a golden opportunity to restore some order against a winless and injury-hit Hurricanes outfit at home. Last year's beaten grand finalists are without several key players and also have All Blacks Cory Jane, Nehe Milner-Skudder and Dane Coles in doubt as they look to avoid a fourth straight defeat, their longest run of outs since 2014. Blues coach Tana Umaga has made seven changes to his side beaten by the Crusaders, including naming Rene Ranger on the wing outside the returning Male Sa'u.
Tab Sportsbet: Blues $1.72, Hurricanes $2.15
Tip: Blues by six

Western Force v Brumbies at nib Stadium, Perth 10.05pm
Head to Head: Played 15, Force 4, Brumbies 10, drawn 1
In Perth: Played 8, Force 2, Brumbies 5, drawn 1
Last clash: Round 17 - Brumbies 33 bt Force 20 at nib Stadium
The Brumbies loom as the team to beat this year following big wins over the Hurricanes and Waratahs. The Force did the job against Queensland last week, but coach Michael Foley has raised eyebrows after opting to rest five of his starters for Friday's clash with the Brumbies. Scrumhalf Alby Mathewson, hooker Nathan Charles, and lock Steve Mafi are among the players shifted to the bench in a move that could allow the ladder-leading Brumbies to run rampant.
Tab Sportsbet: Force $5, Brumbies $1.18
Tip: Brumbies by 18

SATURDAY, March 12
Highlanders v Lions at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, 7.35pm
Head to Head: Played 9, Highlanders 4, Lions 5
In Dunedin: Played 5, Highlanders 4, Lions 1
Last clash: Round 13 2015 - Lions 28 bt Highlanders 23 at Emirates Airline Park
The Highlanders have won their last six matches on home soil, their longest such streak since they won 13 consecutive home matches from 2000 to 2002. But the reigning champions face a tough task in the form of the undefeated Lions, who have won their last four matches away from home and five of their last eight against the Highlanders. Lions trio Harold Vorster, Lionel Mapoe and Fabian Booysen have all been ruled out, while the Highlanders have also rung the changes, resting Josh Hohneck and Tom Franklin.
Tab Sportsbet: Highlanders $1.25, Lions $4
Tip: Highlanders by 12

Melbourne Rebels v Queensland Reds at AAMI Park, Melbourne 9.40pm
Head to Head: Played 10, Rebels 2, Reds 8
In Melbourne: Played 5, Rebels 1, Reds 4
Last clash: Round 14 2015 - Reds 46 bt Rebels 29 at Suncorp Stadium
Surely the only way is up for the Reds, who hit rock bottom last weekend with a woeful loss to the Force and the inevitable sacking of Richard Graham that followed two days later. Whether interim co-coaches Matt O'Connor and Nick Stiles can inspire a better performance from such a thin squad remains to be seen. The injury-hit Rebels will be minus Reece Hodge, Nic Stirzaker, Scott Fuglistaller, Colby Fainga'a and Mike Harris as they seek a second win of the season.
Tab Sportsbet: Rebels $1.38, Reds $3.10
Tip: Rebels by 8

Sunwolves v Cheetahs at Singapore National Stadium, 11.50pm
Head to Head: first meeting
The Sunwolves were competitive in their 26-13 home defeat to the Lions in round one, and a week off has left them fresh to tackle the Cheetahs. Both sides are expected to struggle this season, making this game vital in the race to avoid the wooden spoon. The Cheetahs have only tasted one victory outside of South Africa in the past three years, but they'll fancy their chances this week despite being in the unfamiliar surrounds of Singapore, which will be hosting a Super Rugby match for the first time.
Tab Sportsbet: Sunwolves $2.90, Cheetahs $1.40
Tip: Cheetahs by 5:

SUNDAY, March 13
Kings v Chiefs at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth, 2am
Head to Head: Played 1, Kings 0, Chiefs 1
In Port Elizabeth: Played 1, Kings 0, Chiefs 1
Last clash: Round 5 2013 - Chiefs 35 bt Kings 24 at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
The Chiefs will be smarting after their upset loss to the Lions last week and that spells trouble for the Kings, who were hammered 43-8 by the Sharks in round one, the newcomers' only 2016 outing so far. It seems merely a matter of by how many. The Kings have made four changes, most notably opting for Louis Fouche over Elgar Watts as five-eighth and playmaker.
Tab Sportsbet: Kings $7, Chiefs $1.10
Tip: Chiefs by 38

Stormers v Sharks at DHL Newlands, Cape Town, 4.05am
Head to Head: Played 25, Stormers 12, Sharks 13
In Cape Town: Played 12, Stormers 7, Sharks 5
Last clash: Round 18 2015 - Sharks 34 bt Stormers 12 at Kings Park Stadium
Only four teams made it out of the first two rounds of undefeated, and two of them meet here. The Stormers, statistically the best-tackling team in the competition after missing an average of only eight tackles per game so far this season, will be hopeful home ground advantage gives them the edge - but the loss of flyhalf Rob du Preez (knee) for the next 12 weeks will sting. The Sharks remain as physical as ever but have noticably picked up their defence as they seek a sixth straight Super Rugby win.
Tab Sportsbet: Stormers $1.45, Sharks $2.75
Tip: Stormers by 12

BYE: NSW Waratahs, Bulls, Crusaders, Jaguares