Litmus Test For Australian Super Rugby Sides

Litmus Test For Australian Super Rugby Sides

Super Rugby heads into its third round of fixtures this weekend with a particularly intriguing set of fixtures which will see three Trans Tasman clashes. The Brumbies face the Hurricanes at Westpac Stadium while the Rebels host the Highlanders before the Reds welcome the Champions to Suncorp Stadium. 

With the Waratahs running the Hurricanes close in round one, the Highlanders edging the Reds in Round two and the Brumbies thumping the Chiefs this weekend's action could give an even clearer indication of how Rugby Australia is starting to turn things around. 

Australian Super Rugby sides have struggled to pick up results against New Zealand sides in recent Super Rugby seasons but their early form in the first two rounds suggests that this weekend's fixtures are far from foregone conclusions. 

The Brumbies certainly laid down a marker with a massive win over the Chiefs and could make an even bigger statement with a win over the Hurricanes at Westpac Stadium.

The Hurricanes have named a strong team with playmaker Beauden Barrett returning to the starting line up after missing the opening two rounds of the competition due to NZ Rugby's resting policies. He links up with his All Black teammate TJ Perenara while Ardie Savea moves into the no.8 jersey. 

The Brumbies also have their own returnees with David Pocock returning from injury while Pete Samu starts for the first time. 

The clash in Wellington is also the perfect platform for Christian Leali'ifano to catapult his claim for test recall. The Brumbies first five has shown glimpses of brilliance against the Rebels and Chiefs and has been one of the more accurate Australian place kickers in the opening rounds of the competition. 

The Rebels, on the other hand, host a Highlanders side that scrapped two wins in the first two rounds of the competition needing late tries in both games to secure victories. The Rebels had a bye in round two and will be eager continue their winning ways after downing the Brumbies in Canberra in round one. 

With Genia and Cooper running the show at 9 & 10 and the return of Reece Hodge via the bench, the Rebels will feel confident considering the fact that the Highlanders are resting a number of All Blacks including Aaron and Ben Smith. 

The Reds have the toughest test this weekend with the Crusaders coming to Queensland. The Crusaders are on an impressive run of 17 consecutive victories but Scott Robertson's side will be cautious of the threat Brad Thorn's side possesses. 

Thorn has been ruthless in his approach to turning things around at the Reds allowing the likes of Quade Cooper, Karmichael Hunt and James Slipper leave the club. His side has started to produce strong performances without getting the desired results and with Samu Kerevi and Jordan Petaia staring against the Highlanders and strength of the Reds' pack the Crusaders will be made to work hard for a result. 

The Crusaders have named a packed that can dominate in Queensland but it's their backs where Scott Robertson has thrown the proverbial curveball by handing a first start to Will Jordan. The young fullback has been tipped to have a bright future in New Zealand rugby being likened to Ben Smith. He links up with Braydon Ennor and George Bridge in a relatively inexperienced by extremely dangerous back three. Robertson has also rested Ryan Crotty with Tim Bateman and Jack Goodhue starting in the midfield. 

All in all, a strong showing by all three Australian Super Rugby sides could indicate a change in fortunes for the national side later this year. A victory for the Brumbies in Dunedin would be particularly significant as the most recent wins for Australian Super Rugby sides against Kiwi opposition have come at home. 

A win in the land of the long white cloud inspire the rest of Australia Rugby and could lead to stronger performances in the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship.

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