Watch round two of Super Rugby Aotearoa live on RugbyPass
Super Rugby Aotearoa returns to RugbyPass this weekend as the second round of action gets underway across New Zealand.
Fans from 100 territories across the United Kingdom, Ireland, Europe, Asia and the Middle East can watch on as the Chiefs host the Highlanders in Hamilton on Friday before the Crusaders face the Hurricanes in Christchurch on Sunday [both NZT].
Fans within those territories who hold a tournament pass will be able to watch both matches live and 0n-demand as all four teams look to build on the opening weekend of the competition.
Friday’s match acts as the first competitive game of the season for the Chiefs, who are under the tutelage of interim head coach Clayton McMillan, the temporary replacement for British and Irish Lions boss Warren Gatland.
Equipped with star men such as Sam Cane, Damian McKenzie, Anton Lienert-Brown, Brad Weber and Luke Jacobson, there is plenty of room for optimism within the Chiefs faithful as they look to bounce back from their winless season last year. Gatland’s son, Bryn, will wear No 10 in his first match for the Chiefs.
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Standing in their way is a Highlanders side that fought valiantly, but ultimately unsuccessfully, against the Crusaders in last Friday’s season-opener, going down 26-13 to the reigning champions in Dunedin.
Head coach Tony Brown has only made a few alterations to his starting side, though, with the biggest selection switch coming at halfback as co-captain Aaron Smith has been benched in favour of exciting young halfback Folau Fakatava.
The 21-year-old will pair up with one-test All Blacks pivot Josh Ioane, who also returns to the starting side, in what could be a glimpse of what the Highlanders’ future halves combination will look like over the coming years.
In the weekend’s other encounter, the Crusaders will look to go two from two to start their campaign as they seek revenge for the defeat the Hurricanes inflicted on them in front of their home fans in 2020.
The Wellington franchise’s 34-32 win at Orangetheory Stadium last July snapped the Crusaders’ undefeated streak at home that dated back to the beginning of the 2017 season.
While Scott Robertson’s men went on to clinch their fourth consecutive title, there is little doubt that loss left a sour taste in the mouths of all those involved, so expect the titleholders to come out swinging this weekend.
Far from their best against the Highlanders, the Crusaders still prevailed by a comfortable margin, with their strong defence constantly repelling their South Island neighbours time and time again.
The returns of Will Jordan and David Havili will only bolster their side, which last week consisted of the likes of Richie Mo’unga, Sam Whitelock, Codie Taylor, Scott Barrett, Jack Goodhue, Sevu Reece, Joe Moody and Cullen Grace.
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As for the Hurricanes, they head into this match as underdogs after having fallen 31-16 to the Blues at Sky Stadium last Saturday.
That isn’t to say they should be ruled out of contention entirely, though, as they still possess considerable firepower in the form of Ardie Savea, Jordie Barrett, Ngani Laumape and Asafo Aumua, all of whom played a big role in last week’s match.
Kick-off for the Chiefs v Highlanders match is at 7:05pm on Friday [NZT] while the Crusaders and Hurricanes match will kick-off at 4:35pm on Sunday [NZT].
Weekly passes, featuring two live games every weekend, will be available at www.rugbypass.com/live-super-rugby/ for USD 9.99, EUR 7.99 or GBP 6.99, whilst fans can get a season-long pass for USD 49.99, EUR 39.99 or GBP 34.99.
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