This Saturday, we are set for another epic New Zealander rivalry. The Waikato Chiefs take a trip to Wellington with a victory on their minds, as this is their last game of the inaugural Super Rugby Aotearoa tournament and they remain winless in the tournament so far. It begs the question; can The Chiefs end their series of defeats this Saturday?
The Hurricanes go into this encounter as heavy favourites, with every rugby enthusiast backing the home side to easily overcome Warren Gatland’s Chiefs. What may seem like a simple task ahead could potentially lead to a mountain climb, as the side from Waikato has all but pride to play for.
Match Day Milestones:
Wellington’s faithful home crowd will welcome one of their key backline players, Wes Goosen, as the South Africa-born speedster is set to earn his 50th cap in front of a packed Sky Stadium. Goosen is renowned for his exciting running flair and will be looking to make his night a memorable one; seeking to put his name on the scoresheet for his Hurricane jersey.
While the visitors have made a few changes from last weekend’s defeat against the table-topping Crusaders, Warren Gatland has turned to his youth for this game. Two debutants will be receiving their first Super Rugby caps off the bench this Saturday; Rob Cobb will be eager to make an impact in the front row, as the 21-year-old, loose-head prop is highly rated in the Waikato youth set up.
On the other hand, the second debutant, Kini Naholo, comes from a family with existing rugby success. The Fijian-born brings plenty of excitement off the bench, following in the footsteps of his elder brother, Waisake Naholo, who scored 16 times for The All Blacks between the years of 2015 and 2018.
The Last Encounter:
The last time these two giants locked horns was on July 5th 2020 at the Waikato Stadium where John Plumtree’s Hurricanes dug deep for their away win. Back then, The Hurricanes had to endure a mammoth final quarter, as their lock Scott Scrafton received a second yellow card and the referee awarded The Chiefs a penalty try. Despite this, The Hurricanes kept their rivals at bay only conceding one additional try, ultimately walking away as 25-18 victors.
The Teams’ Forwards:
As all eyes focus on Wellington this weekend, a few key battles in the forwards and backs are due to bring around plenty of debate. The New Zealand squad selectors will seek out which players will be their respective favourites in the national squad.
The Chiefs eighth-man, Pita Gus Sowakula, will strongly contest against All Blacks favourite, Ardie Savea, for team selection. Sowakula, who aside from rugby, has also achieved success in Fijian colours on the basketball court. He has yet to be capped in professional rugby at national level, though he may have a career boost if he makes a great impression against his opponent. Many rugby enthusiasts are thoroughly impressed with the over-six-foot Fijian for his mobility and ball-carrying ability.
Can Sowukula get the upper hand over Savea?
The Teams’ Backline:
The other key matchup in the backline we eagerly await is at fullback, between Jordie Barrett and Damian McKenzie. McKenzie’s Rugby World Cup 2019 dreams were shattered due to a severe ACL injury, yet the current form of the Waikato favourite has received plenty of high praise upon his return in 2020.
Meanwhile, opposing Barrett knows that camaraderie is more than just a weekend rugby fixture, and will want to prove himself once again, as selectors will measure which No. 15 is due to be favoured, following this weekend’s encounter.
Asides from the unfortunate performances of the Waikato Chiefs this season, Damian McKenzie’s form should prove him a clear favourite between the two. However, we all know Jordie is seeking to make a huge impression and not play in the shadow of his older brother, Beuden, so this remains to be seen.
Does Jordie Barrett have that big match temperament to outclass arch-rival Damian McKenzie in front of his home crowd?
With a few individuals from the visiting side carrying a heavy workload for The Chiefs, Warren Gatland’s side has simply not found their stride in the inaugural Super Rugby Aotearoa tournament. Whereas their opponents, The Hurricanes, will have fresh legs following their bye last weekend, heading into Saturday as heavy favourites.
The Hurricanes will make full use of their home advantage, and I predict: The Hurricanes to be victorious by 10 points.
What are your predictions for this up and coming match this weekend? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to follow us on @worldinsport for more rugby-related news!
Image Credit: Rugby Addict