The first of Saturday’s Super Rugby Round 10 matches sees the Highlanders host the Blues in Dunedin and the visitors are looking to snap a lengthy losing streak when travelling in New Zealand Conference derby matches
Highlanders v Blues, Saturday 20th April, Dunedin, KO 09:35 (South African time)
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant Refs: Mike Fraser, James Doleman
TMO: Shane McDermott
Weather Forecast – N/A Indoor Stadium
The Highlanders were 10-7 up at half time away to the Crusaders last week but any thoughts of a surprise were extinguished in the second period and the Saders powered their way to a 43-17 victory.
That defeat left the Highlanders at the bottom of the New Zealand Conference, 2 points shy of the fourth placed Chiefs and 6 behind the third placed Blues. The Landers have won just twice this season alongside 1 “draw” (from the cancelled home fixture against the Crusaders) and 5 defeats. They are without a victory since starting the campaign with back to back wins away to the Chiefs (30-27) and at home to the Reds (36-31).
Six of the Highlanders matches this season have been settled by 7 points or less including their only NZ derby fixture in Dunedin which saw them go down 31-28 to the Canes in Round 8. They now set about taking revenge on the Blues who beat them 33-26 in Auckland in Round 6.
The Blues 4 match winning streak came to an end away to the Chiefs last week when they went down 33-29. Their 4 wins this season all came in home fixtures; against the Waratahs (32-29), Sunwolves (28-20), Highlanders (33-26) and the Stormers (24-9). That victory over the Highlanders ended a run of 20 winless New Zealand derby matches (any venue) and one other meeting with local opposition this season saw them edged out 24-22 by the Crusaders in a another home fixture back in Round 1.
The Blues now bid for a first NZ derby win away from home since they beat the Hurricanes in Wellington in Round 2 of the 2013 campaign. Since then they have lost all 22 of their derby matches on the road and their last win over the Highlanders in Dunedin came back in 2011.
In the NZ Conference the Blues come into Round 10 trailing the table topping Crusaders by 14 points and the Hurricanes by 3.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (co-captain), 14 Matt Faddes, 13 Sio Tomkinson, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Kayne Hammington, 8 Elliot Dixon, 7 James Lentjes, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Jackson Hemopo, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown
Substitutes: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Ayden Johnstone, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Josh Dickson, 20 Luke Whitelock (co-captain), 21 Aaron Smith, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Thomas Umaga-Jensen
Blues: 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Caleb Clarke, 13 TJ Faiane, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Otere Black, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 James Parsons, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe
Substitutes: 16 Leni Apisa, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Josh Goodhue, 20 Jed Brown, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Matt Duffie
Recent Head to Head (any venue)
2019 Auckland Blues 33-26 Highlanders (Tries 4-2)
2018 Auckland Blues 16-34 Highlanders (Tries 2-5)
2018 Dunedin Highlanders 41-34 Blues (Tries 5-4)
2017 Dunedin Highlanders 26-20 Blues (Tries 2-2)
2017 Auckland Blues 12-16 Highlanders (Tries 0-1)
2016 Auckland Blues 33-31 Highlanders (Tries 3-4)
2015 Auckland Blues 7-44 Highlanders (Tries 1-7)
2015 Dunedin Highlanders 30-24 Blues (Tries 3-4)
2014 Auckland Blues 30-12 Highlanders (Tries 3-0)
2014 Dunedin Highlanders 29-21 Blues (Tries 4-3)
Note, odds quoted are available at the time of writing but are subject to change.
The Highlanders will be desperate to get themselves back in the winners enclosure for the first time since Round 2. This is only their third home fixture (discounting the postponed game against the Saders) so the current standings could be a little misleading.
The Blues may have snapped their NZ derby hoodoo with the home win over the Highlanders earlier in the season but you have to go back an awful long way for their last away victory against local rivals.
We have seen many closely contested NZ derby matches this season and whilst this certainly has the capacity to be another one, I fancy the Highlanders can cover this handicap.
Bet: 3 units Highlanders -2.5 points 0.93/1 Betway
(Unit Scale 1 to 5)
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