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Super charged: All Blacks duel and the Force awakens –

Making its return, we bring you Super charged, in which we preview the main talking points ahead of the Super Rugby Aotearoa and AU action.



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Making its return, we bring you Super charged, in which we preview the main talking points ahead of the Super Rugby Aotearoa and AU action.
Super Rugby AU game to watch Rebels v Reds
Dave Wessels’ Rebels aim to get their campaign back on track following their disappointing defeat to the Brumbies when they take on the Reds in Sydney on Friday.
Nominally a ‘home’ game for the Melbourne-based outfit, the encounter has been moved due to a spike in coronavirus cases in the city. That may well play into the hands of Brad Thorn’s men, who opened their tournament in fine style by defeating the Waratahs 32-26.
It was their first victory over the Tahs in seven years ending an 11-match losing streak and it rather shows where the respective sides are heading. While Rob Penney’s charges are a shadow of the team that were once the standard-bearers in Australian rugby, the Queenslanders are stacked with young talent and are beginning to show their quality on a more regular basis.
In Taniela Tupou they have one of the most exciting forwards in the game and he is joined in the pack by former age-grade stars Harry Wilson and Fraser McReight, who are highly-regarded back-rowers. On his first start, McReight was outstanding in Round One of Super Rugby AU and the Rebels will have to be wary of his turnover ability.
Wessels’ men fought hard versus the Brumbies, albeit in a match that was low on quality, and they have the ability to cause significant problems for this weekend’s ‘visitors.’ The scrum was much improved and the backline can be dangerous should the forwards provide a platform, both in the set-piece and on the carrying front. As a result, it should be a tight contest between two ambitious sides that appear to be the closest challengers to the men from the capital, who have been the dominant force in the country.
Super Rugby Aotearoa game to watch Crusaders v Blues
Expect fireworks when these giants of the New Zealand game go head-to-head in what should be a thrilling top-of-the table clash between two highly entertaining teams in Christchurch.
Both sides head into this fixture with unbeaten records after winning all three of their respective Super Rugby Aotearoa matches. That means one of these teams will relinquish their unbeaten record as the rule changes for the competition states that should a match be tied after 80 minutes of regular time, the result will be decided by golden point.
That sets the scene for a fascinating encounter as these sides are high on confidence after several excellent performances.
As the home side, the Crusaders will be favourites as they head into this encounter in excellent form after notching an impressive 40-20 triumph over the Highlanders in Dunedin last weekend.
That followed an away victory over the Hurricanes (39-25) in the tournament opener and a win against the Chiefs (18-13) a fortnight ago. The latter result means the Crusaders stretch their unbeaten home record to 35 matches.
The 10-time Super Rugby champions know a win this weekend will consolidate their position at the top of the Super Rugby Aotearoa standings. Although both teams have won all their matches, Scott Robertson’s charges have 14 points from their three games – after securing bonus-points in their wins against the Hurricanes and Highlanders – while the Blues are two adrift as they are yet to claim a bonus-point in the competition.
Despite being underdogs against their more fancied opponents, the Blues have been the tournament’s surprise package and they have made tremendous strides under the guidance of their head coach Leon MacDonald.
The men from Auckland notched an impressive 30-20 victory over the Hurricanes in their first game before beating the Chiefs (24-12) and the Highlanders (27-24) in their other matches.
A Blues victory would be a momentous one as they head into this weekend’s clash having lost their last 11 matches against the Crusaders, with their last triumph a 35-24 win at Eden Park. Their overall record against the home side is not good as they have won just 11 out of 35 games in this fixture.
This Saturday, the rivalry is back ON!
Are you with @CrusadersRugby or @BluesRugbyTeam?
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) July 8, 2020
Player to watch David Havili (Crusaders)
Although there will be several brilliant attacking players on display when the Crusaders and Blues do battle in Christchurch on Saturday, keep a close eye on the All Blacks full-back, who has showed signs of regaining the form which saw him being rewarded with his Test debut in 2017.
The 25-year-old is a man on a mission. After missing the latter stages of this year’s curtailed Super Rugby tournament through injury, Havili returned to action in Super Rugby Aotearoa and has given a good account of himself in the Crusaders’ three previous matches.
Much has been said and written about the excellent performances of the young Will Jordan, who has shone when lining up at full-back or on the wing for the Crusaders, but it must not be forgotten that Havili was also in sublime form before being injured.
At that time, Havili was amongst the leaders in most of Super Rugby’s attacking statistics. He had made the most offloads (14) in the competition, accumulated an impressive 258 metres with ball in hand, which included six clean breaks and 14 defenders beaten in just four games.
Havili will be determined to build on those statistics against the Blues this weekend.
72 – @crusadersrugby’s David Havili beat the most defenders of any player in @SuperRugby in 2019 (72), while he topped the charts for offloads in the 2020 campaign (14). Electric.
— OptaJonny (@OptaJonny) June 19, 2020
One-v-one battle to watch TJ Perenara (Hurricanes) v Aaron Smith (Highlanders)
Two of the best scrum-halves in the world are set to go head-to-head on Sunday when the Hurricanes face the Highlanders in Wellington.
For years, this duo have dovetailed superbly. Smith, with his greater control and slightly more accurate service from the base, usually starts before Perenara comes on to inject more pace and tempo.
It is a formula which has helped New Zealand to dominate the international game the 2019 World Cup the exception and this weekend’s contest should prove to be a thrilling battle. Despite the Canes’ struggles in the opening two games, they will be favourites, but the hosts will no doubt be wary of Smith.
The Landers half-back was utterly brilliant against the Crusaders, keeping his side in the match with a series of excellent decisions. His kicking was accurate while the 31-year-old still showed that he has searing pace by creating the team’s second try with a wonderful break.
Perenara is also excellent around the fringes and his competitiveness often sets the tone for Jason Holland’s men. With the Hurricanes player never truly usurping Smith at international level, this is another opportunity for the 64-times capped playmaker to prove to new All Blacks head coach Ian Foster that he is ready to take over from the New Zealand legend during this World Cup cycle.
Aaron Smith leading from the front with absolutely electric pace and passing in the build up to the Highlanders’ second try – via our Sky Sport Player Cam
— Sky Sport NZ (@skysportnz) July 4, 2020
Subplot to watch The Force set to return to Australian top-tier
It is a big weekend for rugby union in Western Australia as the Force makes its Super Rugby AU bow when they take on the Waratahs.
Three years ago, they were unceremoniously dumped by Rugby Australia, who decided to axe them from Super Rugby.
The decision was unpopular and the way it was handled particularly irked supporters around the country. Since then, they have played in Global Rapid Rugby, taking on teams from several different nations in Asia and the Pacific Islands, but this is a big step up for the Force.
A number of their players are unknown, although there is plenty of experience in the shape of Jono Lance, Jeremy Thrush, Ian Prior and Kieran Longbottom. Those individuals will need to step up if they are to cause an upset, even if the Waratahs have struggled for form throughout the year.
The main thing, however, is that the Perth-based outfit are back at Australia’s top table and the franchise and their fans will no doubt enjoy the occasion.
The Force Awakens.
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) July 6, 2020

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