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.

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - AUGUST 07:  Crusaders coach Scott Robertson gets a hug from super fan Doreen Searle during the Crusaders arrival at Christchurch Airport on August 7, 2017 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The Crusaders beat the Lions to win the 2017 Super Rugby Final on Saturday night in Johannesburg.  (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson gets a hug from super fan Doreen Searle during the Crusaders arrival at Christchurch Airport. Source: Getty

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



Black Ferns to feature on Weet-Bix collector cards for first time

New Zealand's five-time World Cup winning women's rugby team, the Black Ferns, will for the first time have their faces on Weet-Bix's iconic collector cards.

Weet-Bix began featuring All Blacks on their cards from 1999 in the players' series, however this is the first time the Black Ferns will feature on the collector cards with Sanitarium's new sponsorship deal of the team. 

The world champions will be in the 'Play Big' collector card campaign alongside the All Blacks. The cards will have player's stories on how their childhood games helped to develop the skills and attitude to be professional players. 

Sanitarium marketing manager Jessica Manihera said the collector cards "presents an opportunity for young Kiwi kids to be inspired by some of the great sporting heroes that this country has to offer". 

It’s not just about the retainer and match fees for the 28 players selected.
Source: 1 NEWS

"We have a sport where both males and females are playing and they're both world renowned, phenomenally talented players."

"As international champions, the Black Ferns have a big part to play in the future growth of this sport and we are proud to support them this year."

New Zealand Rugby Head of Women's Rugby Development Cate Sexton said it was "an honour for our Black Ferns to be part of a campaign that has included so many iconic New Zealand heroes". 

The Black Ferns will be on the Weet-Bix collector cards from August. 

New Weetbix collector cards feature Black Ferns players as well as All Blacks.
New Weetbix collector cards feature Black Ferns players as well as All Blacks. Source: Supplied


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Highlanders looking to exact revenge on Waratahs after humbling loss earlier this year

Keeping a full contingent on the park will be the first step for the Highlanders if they are to wipe the painful memories of their last Super Rugby trip to Sydney.

Halting big NSW Waratahs ball runners is seen as another fundamental in Saturday's quarter-final.

The Dunedin-based side were humbled 41-12 in round 14 two months ago, a momentous result which ended a 40-match winless streak for Australian franchises against Kiwi teams.

It is best remembered for the red card shown to Highlanders winger Tavita Nabura in the opening quarter.

His kung fu-style kick to the face of opposite Cam Clarke when claiming a high ball handed the Waratahs a virtual free pass, exacerbated when halfback Aaron Smith was shown a yellow card soon afterwards.

However, Highlanders assistant coach Clarke Dermody said the danger signs had become obvious prior to their numerical disadvantage.

"We played a lot of that game down on men, which is not ideal, but even in that first 15 minutes the Waratahs were playing awesome," Dermody told AAP.

"They were creating heaps of momentum with their big runners so I guess that's probably the bit of that game which we've been reviewing - how to stop that.

"I'm predicting they'll probably do that again."

Big outside backs Taqele Naiyaravoro and Israel Folau both bagged doubles while Curtis Rona also ran amok, ending the Waratahs' four-match losing trot to the Highlanders.

The Kiwis are close to full strength and refreshed after welcoming back two influential All Blacks, Ben Smith and Aaron Smith.

There are six starting changes from the makeshift side which finished the regular season with a 43-37 home win over the Melbourne Rebels.

Key figures who have endured a heavy workload were rested to prepare them for the Australian conference champions.

Veteran fullback and co-captain Ben Smith is a leading light in their counter- attacking style while halfback Aaron Smith dictates the speed of their game and is a lethal tactical kicker.

Also back is outside centre Rob Thompson, one of their big improvers this season, along with regular first-choice forwards Luke Whitelock, Tom Franklin and Daniel Lienert-Brown.

Dermody believes his returning players have benefited from a break.

"You can tell straight away. Monday morning when those boys came back in they had a spring in their step and were ready to go," he said.

"Partly because it's knockout rugby but partly because they had that whole week off."

Tevita Nabura gets a red card against the Waratahs
Tevita Nabura gets a red card against the Waratahs Source: Photosport


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