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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