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After two rounds, the Blues, the Highlanders, and the Crusaders remain unbeaten, while the Chiefs and the Hurricanes stay winless. The Blues have been the most impressive side thus far, ringing in two double-digit victories over the Hurricanes and the Chiefs, while the Highlanders picked up a last-gasp win against the Chiefs in Round 1 before getting a bye in Round 2. The Crusaders were off in Week 1 but came out firing in Round 2 against the Hurricanes to win their one contest of the campaign.
The Chiefs and the Canes are both still in search of their first wins of the season, but the Hurricanes will have to wait another week as they're on a bye week in Round 3.
Here is a quick rundown on the Week 3 matchups a pair of predictions:
Blues vs Highlanders | 6/27 | 3:05 am (ET)
The Blues made it six wins on the trot last week with a gritty 26-12 win over the Chiefs on a rainy night in Hamilton. The Blues managed to keep the Chiefs out of the try-zone while also looking sharp in attack. They have power, speed, and now, most importantly, quality decision making.
The Blues make just a single change to the 23, with utility back Joe Marchant filling in for Matt Duffie on the bench in the #23 shirt. The rest of the squad is unchanged, meaning we'll see Beauden Barrett once again line up at full back with Otere Black taking the reins at first receiver. The Blues back row of Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii, and Hoskins Sotutu looks to repeat a stellar performance from a week ago at Eden Park.
The Highlanders had a rough go of things before the pandemic shut things down, but came out of the break with an impressive one-point win over the Chiefs in Round 1. After a week off, they head to Auckland looking to be the first side to take down the Blues since February.
The Highlanders name an almost identical first XV to the one that ran out against the Chiefs in Dunedin a couple weeks ago. The only change is Scott Gregory coming in at fullback for Vilimoni Koroi. No. 8 Marino Mikaele Tu'u looks to repeat his outstanding Round 1 performance, as does flanker Dillon Hunt and halfback Aaron Smith.
Prediction: Blues 27-20 Highlanders
Crusaders vs Chiefs | 6/27 | 11:35 pm (ET)
It was business as usual for the Crusaders in their return to Super Rugby action a week ago, as it took them just 59 seconds to get their first try of season against the Hurricanes in their 39-25 win. The Crusaders have now won 17 of their past 19 games against New Zealand opposition, but it's worth noting that both of those losses came at the hands of their opponents in Round 3, the Chiefs.
The Crusaders will run out the same lineup that started against the Hurricanes in Wellington last weekend. Codie Taylor captains the side from hooker once again, and will likely do so for the foreseeable future after club captain Scott Barrett was ruled out for the rest of the season with a foot injury.
The Chiefs have fallen on hard times lately, as Warren Gatland's men have now lost four out of their last five contests after beginning his tenure with three straight wins. Injuries to the forward pack have hit the Chiefs really hard, but they won't be looking for any excuses. They beat the Crusaders at the start of the season and are poised to be able to pull off another upset tomorrow.
The huge news out of Waikato is that skipper Sam Cane returns to the lineup for the first time in the Super Rugby Aotearoa. The 69-cap All Black is one of the world's best flankers and will add some much-needed experience and power to the Chiefs lineup. Cane is one of four changes to the lineup from last week's loss, which sees the exciting Solomon Alaimano replace Shaun Stevenson on the wing, and the injured Mitchell Brown come back into the squad.
Prediction: Crusaders 28-24 Chiefs