TWO UNBEATENS REMAIN: Super Rugby Aotearoa Round 4 Preview

Richie Mo'unga, Crusaders

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Through three rounds of Super Rugby Aotearoa, it's the Blues and the Crusaders who still remain unbeaten, while the Chiefs and the Hurricanes are still in search of a first victory on the season. The Highlanders, meanwhile, sit at 1-1 after two heart-stopping fixtures against the Chiefs and the Blues. 

The Blues, who sit at 3-0, will be off in Round 4, while the Crusaders (2-0) visit the Highlanders and then the Chiefs (0-3) host the Hurricanes (0-2). Here's your quick rundown of the fixtures this weekend:

Highlanders vs Crusaders | 7/4 | 3:05 am (ET)

The Highlanders were oh-so-close to knocking the Blues off their perch last week in Auckland, but a heroic effort at the end from the Blues' Hoskins Sotutu kept the men from Otago on the wrong side of things, losing 24-27. They'll look to build upon that performance this week against the Crusaders in front of a packed home crowd in Dunedin. 

The Highlanders make three changes to the starting forward pack, all in the front row, as Daniel Leinert-Brown replaces Ayden Johnstone at loosehead, Liam Coltman replaces Ash Dixon at hooker, and Jeff Thwaites replaces Siate Tokolahi at tighthead. In the backline, Michael Collins has been called in to add some stability in the #15 shirt while Ngatungane Punivai gets the start on the wing in place of Sam Gilbert. 

The Crusaders enjoyed a comfortable 39-25 win in Round 2 over the Hurricanes, before grinding out a tough 18-13 win against the Chiefs last week in rainy Christchurch. They'll be happy to be playing indoors against an exciting Highlanders outfit this week as they aim for a 3-0 start. 

The Crusaders also make five changes to the lineup this week, three of which will be in the backline. Up front, Tom Christie and Ethan Blackadder replace Cullen Grace and Billy Harmon in the loose forwards, while in the backline Mitch Drummond gets the start in place of the rested Bryn Hall and Leicester Faingaanuku takes the place of George Bridge on the wing, who is also being rested. Sevu Reece starts this one on the bench, as David Havili makes his first start since undergoing surgery, moving Will Jordan from fullback over to wing. 

Prediction: Highlanders 30-33 Crusaders

Chiefs vs Hurricanes | 7/4 | 11:35 PM (ET)

The Chiefs are still looking for a first win on the year, but through their first three games they've been awfully close on two occasions. They lost on a last second drop kick in Round 1 to the Highlanders and dropped a tight one to the Crusaders, but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. They know they can up their game and take better advantage of moments to score moving forward. 

(Chiefs Lineup To Be Announced Shortly)

The Hurricanes too are looking for a first win on the season, after beginning Super Rugby Aotearoa with two double-digit losses to the Blues and the Crusaders in Rounds 1 & 2. After a week off to recuperate, the Canes will be itching to notch their first win of the campaign in Hamilton against the Chiefs. 

(Hurricanes Lineup To Be Announced Shortly)

Prediction: Chiefs 20-18 Hurricanes

Round 4: Super Rugby Aotearoa/AU Team of the Week

Codie Taylor, Crusaders

With the Australian Super Rugby teams entering the fold this week, the Super Rugby Team of the Week selection just got a whole lot tougher. There were plenty of great performances over the weekend, and a few names on the sheet that continue to show up week in and week out. 

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MLR Nationality Breakdown By Position: New England Freejacks

New England Free Jacks

The other day I was thinking about fly-halves in the MLR -- since that is my position -- and I got to thinking how few American players there are playing fly-half in Major League Rugby. The only ones I could think of off the top of my head were Ben Cima (SEA), Scott Dean (SEA), Tadgh Leader (NE) and Zinzan Elan-Puttick (AUS) -- and it's worth noting that both Leader and Elan-Puttick grew up playing rugby in Ireland and South Africa respectively. 

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10 Monday Notes: Hot Seats In NZ, Super Rugby Kicks Off In AUS

Reds, Harry Wilson

The gifts keep on coming, as Super Rugby AU's new season just got underway this past weekend with two scintillating matchups, while Super Rugby Aotearoa once again dazzled fans. 

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MLR Nationality Breakdown By Position: Houston Sabercats

Houston Sabercats

The other day I was thinking about fly-halves in the MLR -- since that is my position -- and I got to thinking how few American players there are playing fly-half in Major League Rugby. The only ones I could think of off the top of my head were Ben Cima (SEA), Scott Dean (SEA), Tadgh Leader (NE) and Zinzan Elan-Puttick (AUS) -- and it's worth noting that both Leader and Elan-Puttick grew up playing rugby in Ireland and South Africa respectively. 

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More Rugby! Super Rugby Australia Kicks Off With Reds vs Waratahs

Waratahs

Much to the delight of many rugby fans all around the world, Super Rugby began a New Zealand-only competition three weeks ago, giving spectators something great to feast their eyes on after a long rugby layoff since the start of the pandemic. Well, starting this weekend the rugby universe will be treated to another great competition, as Super Rugby now begins its Australian-only league. 

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Date Set For New Zealand's North vs South Island Battle

Ardie Savea, All Blacks, New Zealand.jpg

For the first time since the mid 1980's, New Zealand is set to reintroduce the famous North vs South Island match on August 29th, pitting players from each of the two parts of New Zealand against one another to settle where the best rugby players in the country truly come from. 

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MLR Nationality Breakdown By Position: Colorado Raptors

Colorado Raptors

The other day I was thinking about fly-halves in the MLR -- since that is my position -- and I got to thinking how few American players there are playing fly-half in Major League Rugby. The only ones I could think of off the top of my head were Ben Cima (SEA), Scott Dean (SEA), Tadgh Leader (NE) and Zinzan Elan-Puttick (AUS) -- and it's worth noting that both Leader and Elan-Puttick grew up playing rugby in Ireland and South Africa respectively. 

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Could New Zealand Be Hosting The Entire 2020 Rugby Championship?

New Zealand v South Africa - Rugby World Cup 2019_ Pool B Warren Little Getty Images For World Rugby.jpeg

With much of the world shut down still thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, rumors are swirling that New Zealand could be home to the entire 2020 Rugby Championship. The past three weeks have seen the beginning of the Super Rugby Aotearoa, a competition involving just the four New Zealand Super Rugby franchises. 

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MLR Nationality Breakdown By Position: Austin Gilgronis

Gilgronis vs Toronto Arrows

The other day I was thinking about fly-halves in the MLR -- since that is my position -- and I got to thinking how few American players there are playing fly-half in Major League Rugby. The only ones I could think of off the top of my head were Ben Cima (SEA), Scott Dean (SEA), Tadgh Leader (NE) and Zinzan Elan-Puttick (AUS) -- and it's worth noting that both Leader and Elan-Puttick grew up playing rugby in Ireland and South Africa respectively. 

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