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Super Rugby preview: Mouth-watering Chiefs and Hurricanes encounter ahead as four NZ teams battle it out for semi-final spots

Four New Zealand teams battle it out this weekend as they look to cement their spots in next week's semi-finals, 1 NEWS NOW's rugby expert Campbell Burnes breaks down this weekend's action.

Hurricanes v Chiefs: Hurricanes by 2

Time for the Hurricanes’ pack and the Barrett boys to stand up and show that recent form was just an aberration. Time for Ben Lam to score another try. Time for the Hurricanes to show they do not rely that heavily on Ardie Savea to get them going.

Time to give Jeff Toomaga-Allen a nice gift for his 100th outing. As for the Chiefs, all the form pointers are in their favour. Moreover, they have two fetchers in their loose trio, while the Canes have opted for muscular ball carriers in the loose. D Mac versus Beauden Barrett should be decisive and instructive. But if the latter fires, the home side will get up… just.

Crusaders v Sharks: Crusaders by 27

The Sharks are being accorded a lot of respect for a side that has virtually no chance. If they win, it will rank as just about the biggest upset in Super Rugby since the 2008 Highlanders beat the Crusaders in Christchurch, regardless of the TAB odds.

The Crusaders have some key men back from rest and just look irrepressible and nigh on unbeatable. The Sharks will target the scrum (over to you, Beast) but they will need more breadth to their game to trouble the home team.

Lima Sopoaga of the Highlanders in action during the Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Lions played at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand, Saturday 12 May 2018. Copyright Image: Joe Allison / www.photosport.nz
Lima Sopoaga of the Highlanders in action during the Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Lions played at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin. Source: Photosport

Waratahs v Highlanders: Highlanders by 7

If rugby were that simple, you might say this clash in Sydney boils down to the Highlanders pack against the Waratahs backs, where Taqele Naiyaravoro is poised on 15 tries for the season. In truth, the Highlanders backs can strike from anywhere.

As long as they do not overdo the kicking, we should see a far different chain of events that occurred when the Waratahs ended the trans-Tasman hoodoo with a 41-12 victory some time ago. The aerial battle between Israel Folau and Ben Smith, if they are allowed to contest, will be worth the price of admission alone. But it will not be the deciding factor as the Highlanders will win the collision and the loose ball.

Chiefs flanker Mitchell Karpik is tackled by Hurricanes winger Ben Lam during the Super 15 Rugby match - Chiefs v Hurricanes played at FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand on Friday 13 July 2018.

Copyright photo: © Bruce Lim / www.photosport.nz
Chiefs flanker Mitchell Karpik is tackled by Hurricanes winger Ben Lam. Source: Photosport